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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    High up above and deep down under

    Default 'Gents' deal' stings locals - CHB

    'Gents' deal' stings locals


    Porangahau ratepayers, many already hurting after huge rates hikes, are up for $20,000 because the council failed to obtain a legal agreement to use Maori land 30 years ago.

    Central Hawke's Bay District Council put two water tanks on a hillside and three 800-metre pipes across two lots of Maori land in Te Paerahi in 1976 to supply water to the beach settlement.

    The owners and leaseholder signed a letter of agreement with the council, but the council did not obtain a proper legal agreement, which Mayor Tim Gilbertson said was "just the way things were done then".

    "In theory, it should have been an easement, but in 1970 things were done on a handshake and worked brilliantly."

    Porangahau ratepayers will now be asked to pay the $22,500 compensation awarded to landowners for the council's use of the site, and the cost of removing the tanks and pipes, if necessary.

    In 1996, one of the landowners, Helen McGregor, decided the council should be paying for its "past use and enjoyment" of the land, and filed a claim with the Maori Land Court on behalf of the 20 or so landowners.

    She sought $19,210 compensation and interest of 7 per cent for 30 years, plus legal costs.

    The council's own valuation for back rent came in at $1200.

    After applying for a legal easement with the Maori Land Court in Hastings in 1999, the council abandoned the tanks in 2004, when a storm hit Porangahau and the land around the tank became unstable.

    Their attempt to withdraw the application for an easement in 2006 was rejected by Deputy Chief Judge WW Isaac.

    He declined Mrs McGregor's request for interest, but awarded her $15,000 compensation, plus $5000 exemplary damages and $2500 legal costs, and told the council to remove the pipelines and tanks.

    "This is a case where Maori landowners have been put to a great deal of trouble and have no fault attributable whatsoever," he said.

    Mr Gilbertson said the council accepted the judgment, and would not appeal it.

    However, he disputed the judge's indication the council had engaged in bad process, and said the judge's finding that landowners were put to a great deal of trouble was "weird".

    "It was a couple of tanks on the site for 30 years. There was no problem."

    It also set a dangerous precedent, with "dozens" more arrangements like it in CHB now at risk.

    "Gentleman's agreements have saved heaps of money over the years. Now these relationships between the council, community and individuals are at risk."

    "There's one way to find out if a man is honest-ask him. If he says 'yes,' you know he is a crook." Groucho Marx


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