High Court judge orders Smiths to stay off farm

Parents, daughters arrested as wrangle over Ruakituri land continues.

Parents, daughters arrested as wrangle over Ruakituri land continues.

Members of a family arrested for refusing to leave a Ruakituri farm have been released at large but warned they could face criminal charges if they return to the property.

Bruce Smith, 60, his wife Ruby, 62, and their two adult daughters Kreslea Smith and Jarna Smith, aged 32 and 35, appeared via AV-links from the Gisborne and Hastings courthouses before Justice Christine Grice, in the High Court at Wellington yesterday.

The 790-hectare block known as Waipaoa 5A2, has been the subject of wrangling between Bruce Smith, four of his siblings and Te Tumu Paeroa the Maori Trustee for the past five years.

Justice Grice has been dealing with the case after it was transferred to the High Court by the Maori Land Court for enforcement about two years ago.

Justice Grice has granted Bruce Smith and his family at least two reprieves and recently a month’s grace to exit the land in an orderly way.

Yesterday, she stepped back from imposing bail conditions, releasing them at large but warning them not to return to the property, or risk being charged with contempt of court and jailed for up to three months. She urged them to take the warning seriously and to get legal advice if they wanted to pursue their case any further.

The women were represented by duty lawyer Leo Lafferty, who said he was instructed to seek name suppression for them. Justice Grice refused to grant it saying their identities were already published.

Kreslea Smith asked to speak directly to the court and did so for several minutes. She expressed her concern that her family’s belongings, including farm machinery and livestock, were still at the homestead.

She said the family had proof they owned the homestead outright.

Further, they had now filed a charging document relative to the proceedings, in the District Court at Napier and intended to file another.

They should be allowed to remain in their home at least until the outcome of those charges.

Justice Grice said the Maori Trustee had made arrangements for safe return of the family’s property to them.

Ms Smith had previously raised the same concerns about claimed ownership and those matters had been well-traversed, she said. The family had been given opportunities to pursue a course of action available to them through the Maori Land Court, but had failed to do so.

The family was entitled to file the charges it had, but that did not require or entitle them to remain on the land. The judge said she did not know the detail of the Smith’s allegations but assumed they must be of a criminal nature.

Others with an interest in the land were affected by the delays. The Maori Trustee had a right to vacant possession.

Bruce Smith has farmed Waipaoa 5A2 since 1997. The land, worth about $2 million, was bequeathed in the 1950s to him and six siblings, who have a 60 percent shareholding.

The other 40 percent is spread between about 500 other shareholders and has been controlled by Te Tumu Paeroa the Maori Trustee, since 1993.

In November, 2016, the Maori Land Court issued an injunction ordering Bruce Smith and members of his immediate family off the land following a case brought against him by four of his brothers and a decision by Te Tumu Paeroa, to put the lease out for tender.

(One of Bruce’s four brothers Tim Smith has since been awarded the lease.)

The family refused to go, saying the land and homestead on it were rightfully theirs to occupy. The matter was transferred for enforcement to the High Court in 2017.

The Smiths have continued the battle in that jurisdiction, previously being granted two temporary stays of proceedings. In May they were refused a permanent stay but Justice Grice gave them a month to leave the property in an orderly way. That did not occur and in June she granted police final go-ahead to enact arrest orders — forcibly if needed, and to tear down any structures that might stand in the way.

(The family previously blocked the only access to the land-locked block and homestead by erecting a gate over the Ngapakira Bridge.)

However, the Smiths’ arrests occurred away from the property. The women were stopped in a car at Whirinaki, near Napier, and remanded overnight in custody for their court appearance via AV-link from the Hastings Court yesterday.

Bruce Smith was arrested separately near Ruakituri and held in custody to appear via AV-link from the Gisborne courthouse. He was represented by duty solicitor Holly Tunstall.

Ruby Smith’s mother, who is in her 80s and in poor health, was believed to be travelling with the women. She was not taken into custody.

Bruce Smith’s son Cole, who lives in Australia, told media his family were in Hawke’s Bay for a meeting about legal action they were pursuing.

He described the arrests as taking place after his family were “pulled up in the middle of the street”, and their cars impounded.

“The main thing is making sure my family is safe and then we will sort this s*** out.”

“I am just trying to get proper legal people to get in and get it sorted,” Cole Smith said.

Members of a family arrested for refusing to leave a Ruakituri farm have been released at large but warned they could face criminal charges if they return to the property.

Bruce Smith, 60, his wife Ruby, 62, and their two adult daughters Kreslea Smith and Jarna Smith, aged 32 and 35, appeared via AV-links from the Gisborne and Hastings courthouses before Justice Christine Grice, in the High Court at Wellington yesterday.

The 790-hectare block known as Waipaoa 5A2, has been the subject of wrangling between Bruce Smith, four of his siblings and Te Tumu Paeroa the Maori Trustee for the past five years.

Justice Grice has been dealing with the case after it was transferred to the High Court by the Maori Land Court for enforcement about two years ago.

Justice Grice has granted Bruce Smith and his family at least two reprieves and recently a month’s grace to exit the land in an orderly way.

Yesterday, she stepped back from imposing bail conditions, releasing them at large but warning them not to return to the property, or risk being charged with contempt of court and jailed for up to three months. She urged them to take the warning seriously and to get legal advice if they wanted to pursue their case any further.

The women were represented by duty lawyer Leo Lafferty, who said he was instructed to seek name suppression for them. Justice Grice refused to grant it saying their identities were already published.

Kreslea Smith asked to speak directly to the court and did so for several minutes. She expressed her concern that her family’s belongings, including farm machinery and livestock, were still at the homestead.

She said the family had proof they owned the homestead outright.

Further, they had now filed a charging document relative to the proceedings, in the District Court at Napier and intended to file another.

They should be allowed to remain in their home at least until the outcome of those charges.

Justice Grice said the Maori Trustee had made arrangements for safe return of the family’s property to them.

Ms Smith had previously raised the same concerns about claimed ownership and those matters had been well-traversed, she said. The family had been given opportunities to pursue a course of action available to them through the Maori Land Court, but had failed to do so.

The family was entitled to file the charges it had, but that did not require or entitle them to remain on the land. The judge said she did not know the detail of the Smith’s allegations but assumed they must be of a criminal nature.

Others with an interest in the land were affected by the delays. The Maori Trustee had a right to vacant possession.

Bruce Smith has farmed Waipaoa 5A2 since 1997. The land, worth about $2 million, was bequeathed in the 1950s to him and six siblings, who have a 60 percent shareholding.

The other 40 percent is spread between about 500 other shareholders and has been controlled by Te Tumu Paeroa the Maori Trustee, since 1993.

In November, 2016, the Maori Land Court issued an injunction ordering Bruce Smith and members of his immediate family off the land following a case brought against him by four of his brothers and a decision by Te Tumu Paeroa, to put the lease out for tender.

(One of Bruce’s four brothers Tim Smith has since been awarded the lease.)

The family refused to go, saying the land and homestead on it were rightfully theirs to occupy. The matter was transferred for enforcement to the High Court in 2017.

The Smiths have continued the battle in that jurisdiction, previously being granted two temporary stays of proceedings. In May they were refused a permanent stay but Justice Grice gave them a month to leave the property in an orderly way. That did not occur and in June she granted police final go-ahead to enact arrest orders — forcibly if needed, and to tear down any structures that might stand in the way.

(The family previously blocked the only access to the land-locked block and homestead by erecting a gate over the Ngapakira Bridge.)

However, the Smiths’ arrests occurred away from the property. The women were stopped in a car at Whirinaki, near Napier, and remanded overnight in custody for their court appearance via AV-link from the Hastings Court yesterday.

Bruce Smith was arrested separately near Ruakituri and held in custody to appear via AV-link from the Gisborne courthouse. He was represented by duty solicitor Holly Tunstall.

Ruby Smith’s mother, who is in her 80s and in poor health, was believed to be travelling with the women. She was not taken into custody.

Bruce Smith’s son Cole, who lives in Australia, told media his family were in Hawke’s Bay for a meeting about legal action they were pursuing.

He described the arrests as taking place after his family were “pulled up in the middle of the street”, and their cars impounded.

“The main thing is making sure my family is safe and then we will sort this s*** out.”

“I am just trying to get proper legal people to get in and get it sorted,” Cole Smith said.

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