Leaseholders of land at Waitara in Taranaki are planning court action as they bid to freehold their properties.

In November last year, the High Court scuttled New Plymouth District Council plans to sell 179ha of the leasehold land to the Crown to use in a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with Te Atiawa.

The case arose after the Waitara Leaseholders Association challenged the validity of the council's decision. Justice Harrison ruled the council's decision unlawful. The council is to fight the High Court decision in the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, leaseholders association chairman Jonathan Marshall told the Taranaki Daily News that the organisation was aiming to have 400 individual leaseholder claims go to court by August. The court action, expected to cost about $200,000, would be funded by leaseholders, he said.

Leaseholders were meeting last night to discuss the issue.

The association claims that in the past the council had promised Waitara leaseholders the right to freehold.

Mr Marshall believed leaseholders had a rock-solid case that would allow them to freehold the land at the March 2004 value - $8000 to $10,000 per section.

Land at Waitara was confiscated from Maori after the land wars of the 1860s. The council became administrator of the leases in 1989, and in 2004 resolved to sell the land to the Crown, which would then hand it back to Te Atiawa as part of a Treaty settlement.