High Court considers sewage pipe decision

By Sam Carran

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Matapihi residents in Tauranga will have to wait until next week to see if the Tauranga City Council will be granted permission to build a sewage pipeline on cultural land.

The judgement was being deliberated on in the High Court in Hamilton yesterday with Justice Christian Whata hearing the arguments from Matapihi trustees lawyer Tio Faulkner and council lawyer Nicky Hall.

The land in question was for the last leg of the pipeline before it was linked into the Te Maunga sewage treatment works.

Tauranga City Council deemed it had the right to the land to build the pipeline on, as it was on a "paper road", therefore it was Crown property.

However, locals argued it was not titled a road and was just a pathway that tangata whenua had used for decades to access fishing areas and other resources.

Lawyer for the trustees Tio Faulkner presented his case saying the council never had lawful authority to name this stretch of land a road.

Mr Faulkner also debunked the Public Works Act 1883, which dealt with land taken for the purpose of a road, as it never applied to this "pathway" used by Maori.

But the real reason behind the delay of judgement was because of the colouring on the most recent maps of the land area.

The colour, known as "burnt sienna", was used as an indicator to show where roads were on land maps.

Tauranga City Council lawyer Nicky Hall brought in former Land Information New Zealand worker John Neil to give his expert opinion as to whether burnt sienna was present on the strip of land in question.

It sounded like a trivial matter, but Justice Whata told Mr Neal he saw no colour other than white, whereas Mr Neal said he saw a "pale" colour that he believed was burnt sienna, indicating it was indeed titled as a road, meaning the council had authority to build on top of Crown land.

As Justice of the court, Mr Whata said he had the right to dispute the information given by an expert witness if he didn't think it was accurate.

While not going so far as to dispute the evidence, enough doubt was expressed, resulting in Justice Whata asking for an independent expert to examine the plans and say what colour he saw.

Justice Whata described the evidence as "being able to provide a lot of clarity to this case" if the colour of the paper road was decided upon. The findings would be presented to Justice Whata next week and his decision would be emailed to the respective lawyers.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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