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Court of Appeal Dismisses Waitara Leaseholder’s Claim

Court of Appeal Dismisses Waitara Leaseholder’s Claim

24 August 2011

The Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed Ray Hunt’s appeal against the October 2010 High Court judgment of Her Honour Justice Mallon, striking out his claim against New Plymouth District Council regarding leasehold lands in Waitara.

The dismissal of the appeal also brings to an end 73 other High Court claims brought by Waitara leaseholders (subject to any application by Mr Hunt for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court).

Mr Hunt had claimed that the Council had overstated the prospects of leaseholders being able to freehold their properties in letters dating from 1994 and 1997, and that he had suffered losses as a result.

In its judgment, the Court of Appeal said Mr Hunt could not have reasonably relied upon the letters sent to leaseholders by NPDC as a basis for making financial decisions. The Court also held that the claim was time barred under the Limitation Act 1950; and that the claimed losses were not lawfully recoverable, not properly pleaded, and had little realistic prospect of being established.

Says NPDC Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow: “It has been a long road to get to where we are now, and though I have always been confident that the Court of Appeal would find in favour of the Council it is good to have that confirmation.”

In March 2004, NPDC resolved to sell 146ha of its Waitara lands to the Crown subject to a number of conditions, including that the Crown uses the land in its offer for settlement of Te Atiawa’s historical claims. The Waitara Leaseholders Association sought a declaration from the High Court that the Council’s resolution was unlawful. In March 2007 the Court of Appeal ruled against the association.

In May 2008 the High Court gave judgment for the Council in six test cases brought by leaseholders. Justice Cooper found that none of the cases could have succeeded if they were to go to a full trial. Mr Hunt’s claim was then amended to allege a different cause of action, and it was this claim that was initially struck out in October 2010.

Also in October last year it was announced the Crown and the Council had executed the conditional contract for sale of the Council’s interest in the land at fair market value in the event that it is required as part of the settlement of Te Atiawa’s Treaty of Waitangi claim.

Judgment of the Court of Appeal (28 pages 195KB PDF)


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