A group of Tauranga residents are taking their battle against a $7 million proposed powerline relocation in Maungatapu to the High Court.
But they have lost one of the strongest voices for their cause with the death of Tai Taikato, whose dying wish was for the line not to be hung in front of Maungatapu Marae.
National grid operator Transpower wants to move a 3.3km section of 110kv line - one of two supplying power to Mount Maunganui - to align with State Highway 29A.
Twenty new poles would be installed to carry the line, spanning the harbour over the Maungatapu Bridge between 35m and 45m poles dubbed "super poles" by opposers.
The marae sits at the northern tip of the Maungatapu peninsula, near the base of the bridge.
The line is currently strung over private and Māori land in Matapihi and Maungatapu, running over orchards, houses and Te Ariki Park, connecting to a tower in Rangataua Bay. The project would remove the tower and the poles on private sections.
Consent applications to the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and Tauranga City Council were granted in 2018 after a hearing by three independent commissioners .
Fourteen mainly Maungatapu residents who opposed the consents formed the Tauranga Environmental Protection Society Inc and appealed to the Environment Court.
The Maungatapu Marae Trustees were among parties that supported the appeal.
The society supported moving the line from its current position but not replacing it with an aerial line, arguing it would be a blight on views and the natural landscape, among other points.
But Transpower rejected their alternative suggestions - running the cable under the harbour or attaching it to a bridge - as too expensive and impractical .
The case was heard last autumn and the court delivered its decision last month, refusing the appeal.
The court found there were downsides to both leaving the line where it was and moving it, but the relocation was, on balance, better. It did not have the power to force Transpower to switch to a more expensive harbour crossing option.
Society chairman Peter McArthur said the members were "very disappointed" in the Environment Court's decision.
The society filed an appeal in the High Court on May 1. The Maungatapu Marae Trustees lodged a notice to appear in support.
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"The appeal is complex," McArthur said. "It raises seven significant points of law which the society respectfully suggests the Environment Court got wrong, and would like the High Court to review."
Sticking points included the treatment of Transpower's plans as maintenance rather than new or upgraded infrastructure, as well as the court's "bundling" of adverse effects to view benefits of moving the lines as mitigation against adverse effects of the new positioning.
Society secretary Antoon Moonen said residents' costs to fight the consents were now "into six figures".
Ngāti Hē have been fighting to have the line removed from their land since what the hapū considered an illegal installation 60 years ago.
Ngāti Hē kaumatua Tai Taikato inherited the fight from his father.
Taikato spoke against Transpower's proposal at last year's hearing as chairman of the Maungatapu Marae Trust. He said it would "move the lines from our backs and put them back in front of our faces".
Taikato died in March, aged 85. His tangi was held shortly before the Covid-19 lockdown started.
His granddaughter Marcia Taikato-Whauwhau, who was raised by Tai and his wife Carol, is planning to carry on his work.
She said Taikato's dying wish was for the line to be moved but not relocated in front of the marae and the kohanga reo next door, which his mokopuna attended.
"This was his fight since he was young ... He would have loved for it to go his way before he passed, but obviously, that didn't happen.
"Just before he passed away, that was his dying wish, that [the line] was taken away and put underneath the harbour instead of in front of the marae.
"He didn't want it taken from our backyard and put in our front yard."
A spokeswoman for Transpower said the state-owned enterprise was reviewing the appeal documentation and considering its next steps.
"While the matter is before the court, it is difficult for us to comment however, we are continuing to engage with Ngāti Hē hapū and wider mana whenua on the future of the project.
"We look forward to further discussion with Ngāti Hē and the Maungatapu community in the near future."
Both councils were pleased to see the original decision of the independent commissioners upheld by the court. They acknowledged the matter was complicated with "particularly difficult cultural and landscape considerations, along with competing views on the appropriate solution".
Bay of Plenty Regional Council consents manager Reuben Fraser said the regional council intended to be heard in the High Court.
Barbara Dempsey, Tauranga City Council's general manager of regulatory and compliance, said the council respected the society's right to appeal.
"The grounds of the appeal are being reviewed and we will consider council's position on the matter in due course."