The application for an injunction filed by Mata-Atua McNair, on behalf of the landowners, was to prevent the development of the netball courts with donor funds. The Court declined to issue the interim injunction.
The Aronga Mana, as registered landowners, filed an application claiming McNair did not represent landowners. The traditional leaders have led the fundraising and development of this part of land over the intervening years without opposition.
McNair stated in her affidavit that there is no recognised aronga mana for Ngatangiia or custom.
The Court recognised: “By right of title, the Mataiapo and Rangatira represent the landowners of the area and they are united in their support for the development here ...This is not a case of a single title holder as against the landowners but a united Aronga Mana in support of development and an unclear number of landowners opposed.”
The facilities have been available to landowners and the people of Ngatangiia for general recreation and community good for some time and their continued use and maintenance is clearly beneficial.
The Court took into account a number of factors: “There is a clear clash here of traditional Maori custom and modern expectations of rights of ownership ... Although the property rights might be up for debate the actual impact of the development on the landowners is minimal ....the development would be beneficial to the community and has the support of community leaders.“
The issue to uphold custom and the role of traditional leaders in decision-making was recognised by the Court; that by right of title the Mataiapo and Rangatira represent the over 700 landowners.
Lynnsay Rongokea Francis