Six in court over Kaitaia airport occupation

By Dean Nathan

Can one be trespassed from their own land?  That is the question counsel posed at the Kaitaia District Court today with six members of the Ngati Kahu tribe charged for trespass over their occupation of the Kaitaia airport last year. 

Ngati Kahu disputes the Crowns' claim that it has clear title to the Kaitaia airport.

“Whether or not there’s a clear title, the Government know that the land belongs to Ngai Takoto and Ngati Kahu and there is evidence to show they've already acknowledged that,” says Hone Harawira, “So if that's the case then how can they be trespassed from their own land.”

The Court has delayed its decision on an application by counsel for the defence to allow an expert witness to give evidence on the nature of why the land belongs to the respective hapu of Patu Koraha, Ngai Tohianga and Te Paatu.

“Our people, our hapu and our elders involved in the occupation are aggrieved that the Crown now doesn't acknowledge that it’s our land,” says Wikatana Popata.

“It was great to hear lawyer Annette (Sykes) supporting an application for Dr Margaret Mutu to be an expert witness for Ngati Kahu on the lands history,” says Harawira.

Counsel says the case is not an average sovereignty case.  Instead, it’s a unique one where the Crown has given significant rights to a joint owner without any discreet provisions being made for their clients.

“Ngati Kahu have cases in many courts at this time,” says Popata, “We have court appeals for a range of issues to let the crown and the world know that it’s our land.”

The case is set down for the duration of this week.