An ex-wife and a widow who teamed up against their sister-in-law have lost the latest court battle in a dispute over a prized piece of coastal land.
The disagreement over 4ha of Bethell family land, near the beach named after the family west of Auckland, went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Yesterday, the court ruled in favour of Chrissie Bethell, daughter of the late family patriarch John Bethell.
The judgment closed the latest chapter in the dispute involving members of what Sir Bob Harvey once called the "first family" of West Auckland.
John Bethell died in 1985. He had three daughters - Margaret, Trudy and Christine (Chrissie) - and one son, Ross.
Ross inherited a large block of land at Bethells Beach. This was on condition Chrissie would have a lifetime lease of 4ha, together with shop buildings on the property. She would also be entitled to have those 4ha transferred to her if subdivision was possible.
Under John Bethell's will, Trudy and Margaret were each to receive 2ha. The Supreme Court said there were difficulties in implementing the will in the years after his death.
Under a 1987 deal, Ross agreed Chrissie could call for an allotment of up to 4ha, as long as local authorities consented to subdivision.
The dispute dragged on. In 2006, Chrissie applied for and got subdivision consent for the 4ha. But the Court of Appeal said Ross refused to transfer the land, saying his sister was entitled only to a 2ha block known as the "camping ground" land. Chrissie said this was a breach of trust.
Various counter-claims were made but the High Court upheld Chrissie's claim. An appeal against that decision was dismissed in the Court of Appeal, but Chrissie was deemed responsible for costs of getting subdivision consent.
Ross died in 2008 and his widow, Victoria Bethell, who administered his estate, and his ex-wife, Maria Bethell, appealed these decisions.
But the Supreme Court dismissed their application for leave to appeal and ordered them to pay Chrissie Bethell $2500 in costs.
"Certainly that is the end of the road for the claims about the substantive rights that Chrissie's got," said Richard Thompson, Chrissie's lawyer.
"So the High Court and Court of Appeal judgments, which are consistent, stand. And Chrissie's entitled to the land she sought."
But Mr Thompson said other issues about "the exact size and location" of the land still needed resolution.
These issues were before the High Court.
The Bethell family settled in Te Henga in the 1860s.
The family, including Ross Bethell, have won extensive praise for conserving the land and protecting it from over-development.
Messages seeking comment from the applicants' lawyer, Sandra Grant, and from Victoria Bethell were not responded to.
The Bethell family
• John Bethell, the patriarch. Died in 1985.
• Ross Bethell, his son. Died in 2008.
• Chrissie Bethell, one of John's three daughters.
• Vicky Bethell, Ross' surviving wife.
• Maria Bethell, Ross' first wife.
• Margaret and Trudy Bethell, John's other two daughters.