Oct 29 – A showdown of sorts has taken place on the shores of Lake Horowhenua, where a long-running dispute between the local rowing club and one of the lake’s Māori owners recently reignited, along with allegations of assaults and vandalism.
One of the lake’s owners, Phil Taueki, who lives at the lake, has been at war with the rowers over the use of club sheds he says were illegally built on Māori land.
The Horowhenua Rowing Club had been permitted to lease the buildings on the lakeside but after being told to leave and given a deadline, they have begun moving out.
The conflict between the two parties is deeply embedded in the management, ownership and administration of the lake, which is the subject of 22 Waitangi Tribunal claims.
Lake Horowhenua is unique. It is owned by Māori but, after a parliamentary act in 1905, its administration and management became the responsibility of a government-appointed board.
The Horowhenua Lake Domain Board is made up of four council representatives and four iwi but at present just three iwi members sit on the board.
In 1950, the government also formed a trust to represent the Māori owners, but not all of the owners support it.
Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said the model was not one that would be used today. He said he had heard the concerns of Māori about the set-up and was willing to work with them to solve the situation.
Mr Taueki, who is one of the lake’s many owners, operates without his wider iwi’s support – but with the belief he has every right to occupy and manage the lake, of which his grandfather was an original owner.
According to a Māori Land Court judgment, the buildings at the heart of the dispute are considered fixtures and, consequently, are the property of the lake’s Māori land owners.
The lake’s board, however, has permitted the rowers to use the club sheds for decades.
Mr Taueki has often been left standing on his own in his opposition to the agreement.
During the long-running dispute, there have been allegations of assaults, claims of death threats and vandalism.
Mr Taueki has had about 40 different charges laid against him but said all of them had been withdrawn or dismissed, with only a couple still pending.
He said the lakeside had been quiet since the rowers left the buildings and he hoped they would not come back.