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Pakeha land claim begins in court

Published: 3:23PM Thursday August 04, 2005 Source: RNZ

What may be the biggest Pakeha land claim in New Zealand has begun at the high court in Auckland.

The claim involves around 60 hectares of prime land on Te Atatu's waterfront, estimated to be worth around $50 million.

Claimant Charlie Williams' late father Jimmy Williams bought the land in the late 1930s just before he married.

"He married late in life and had the idea of a land bank before anybody else ever had it, and it was the future for any family he had and he lost it," says Williams.

The land was taken under the Public Works Act around 20 years later to develop a port

But the plans fell through and descendants say, by law, the land should have been offered back to its owners, not sold to developers.

"It's not so much a money thing, there is a whole idea that in some way dad was robbed," says Williams.

"It's about us making a stand...for what we would see as being a great miscarriage of justice. I mean, the law was changed so that this could be offered back and it wasn't."

Charlie Williams' family is the first of seven to take action against the Waitakere District Council.

"I would go to the ends of the earth to try and generate the several million to buy it back," he says

"The response we've had through council solicitors hasn't been satisfactory, and we've seen fit to initiate the proceedings," says Lawyer Paul Cassin.

The remaining six land claims will be filed at the Auckland High Court

Lawyers say that, if the claims cannot be settled out of court, a lengthy and complex trial could be underway by the middle of 2006.

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