20 Feb 2013

Crown discusses riverbed sale in Supreme Court

7:45 pm on 20 February 2013

A sub tribe's legal claim to a riverbed has gone to the heart of one of its arguments - that the Crown had a duty to tell tangata whenua what they were buying.

Pouakani is asking the Supreme Court to rule that it owns some of the Waikato riverbed near Tokoroa.

The court's being asked to explore whether the Crown had an obligation to advise the hapu that, as well as buying land, the riverbed was part of the late 19th century deal.

A judge on Wednesday said if the inclusion of the riverbed was explained at the time, it would have been documented - but there is no paperwork anywhere, adding that it would not be difficult to infer that it was ever mentioned.

The lawyer representing the Attorney-General, Virginia Hardy, agreed with that suggestion, but said court documents don't detail what happened outside of court - and it's the absence of any such critical information that might well resolve the issue.

She also said documents show 192 Pouakani people signed an agreement for Maori land to be vested in the Crown.

Ms Hardy pointed out there was no allegation of bad faith.

A judge responded by saying it was not necessarily an issue of bad faith - but there could have been a failure to inform.

But Ms Hardy said there was no evidence to support that theory.

The case will run for another day.