A lawyer is describing a dispute over land being returned to Maori as an unusual situation.
As part of a Treaty settlement, three tribes in the upper South Island are to be given the right to buy whenua at Woodbourne airbase in Blenheim.
But a farming family who had the land taken from them by the Crown wants the block back, and is taking legal action at the High Court.
Kensington Swan partner Matthew Ockleston has a specialist knowledge of the Public Works Act. He says a portion of the legislation will be explored in court.
Mr Ockleston says the family will likely argue that it has rights to the land because it's now surplus to government requirements.
He says the Crown may contend that those rights have not come into effect, and therefore the land can be offered to the iwi.
Under the Te Tau Ihu Claims Settlement Bill, Ngati Apa, Ngati Kuia, and Rangitane o Wairau would be given the right to to purchase land at Woodbourne Airbase by way of redress.