Lake Horowhenua work High Court ap­peal fails

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF REPORTER

Work to im­prove Lake Horowhenua is set to get started af­ter an ap­peal against a court judg­ment green-light­ing the work failed.

The lake, one of the most no­to­ri­ously pol­luted in the coun­try, has been the sub­ject of ex­ten­sive le­gal ac­tion by var­i­ous par­ties over the best course of ac­tion to im­prove it.

Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil pro­posed clean­ing the lake by in­stalling a sed­i­ment trap, fish pass, and weed har­vester, and was granted con­sents to do so in 2015.

But, the Hokio Trusts ap­pealed the de­ci­sion to the En­vi­ron­ment Court, where it lost in 2016, and went on to take its plea to the High Court.

Its ap­peal ques­tioned if the En­vi­ron­ment Court had the ju­ris­dic­tion to ‘‘dis­re­gard the Crown’s Treaty [of Wai­tangi] obli­ga­tions’’.

It al­leged that had been done by grant­ing a re­source con­sent for ac­tiv­ity tak­ing place on an­ces­tral land, that be­longed to peo­ple who were di­rect de­scen­dants of those who signed the treaty.

In her de­ci­sion, Jus­tice Su­san Thomas re­jected the Hokio Trusts’ ap­peal.

The weed har­vest­ing was pro­posed as a key way to ad­dress am­mo­nia and cyanobac­te­ria is­sues with the lake.

While the Muaupoko Tri­bunal Author­ity and the Horowhenua Lake Trust sup­ported the har­vest­ing, the Hokio Trust did not.

‘‘This fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence of opin­ion is at the heart of this ap­peal.’’

Trusts chair­man Philip Taueki be­lieved the trust’s ev­i­dence and views should have been given greater weight, say­ing the trust was the proper way for the own­ers of the lake to be rep­re­sented.

He also said the trustees of the Hokio land were de­scen­dents of Taueki, who signed the Treaty of Wai­tangi on be­half of Muaupoko iwi.

That made their claim to kaiti­aki, or guardian­ship, of the lake as stronger than oth­ers, he said.

The judge said the En­vi­ron­ment Court took the Hokio Trusts’ ev­i­dence on board, but found any al­ter­na­tives for re­mov­ing bad nu­tri­ents from the lake of­fered by the trust lacked specifics.

The other par­ties be­lieved the work on the lake would im­prove things, and help Muaupoko’s re­la­tion­ship with the lake, which it con­sid­ers a taonga, the judge said.

Taueki also brought up ev­i­dence that the lake may go into a permanent state of tox­i­c­ity. It suf­fers from toxic al­gal blooms dur­ing the sum­mer, which sub­side dur­ing the win­ter.

An ex­pert told the En­vi­ron­ment Court weed har­vest­ing could dis­turb sed­i­ment, in­creas­ing the risk of the lake be­com­ing per­ma­nently toxic.

But the judge was happy with the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to hold a trial year, where ex­ten­sive mon­i­tor­ing would be done.


Lake Horowhenua is of­ten con­tam­i­nated with po­ten­tially toxic al­gae.

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