Go on then, arrest me Maori woodsman

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Firewood merchant defies QLDC’s delta trespass order.

A Shotover Delta firewood merchant is at loggerheads with Queenstown Lakes District Council over a trespass notice – he claims he’s operating on Maori land.

“I’m standing my ground till I’m arrested,” says fired-up Queens­­­­­­­towner Shane Mc­­­Manus.

“We’ll have our day in court.”

McManus insists his Woodstock Firewood is owned by a Maori incorporation he chairs – and the incorporation has customary rights over Shotover Delta’s Crown land.

“Historically, our ances­tors or tupuna did dwell on this area which has been identified as a campsite.

“We can substantiate our ownership with historical records – one of my tupuna was Princess Wakatipu.”

Two months ago McManus himself served a trespass notice on QLDC and other parties including then-Local Government Minister Mark Burton and three Shotover River gravel contractors.

“[QLDC] totally ignored it, as they have ignored our correspondence from day one when they evicted us from the yard two years ago.”

The council evicted Woodstock and other delta operators Superior Firewood and Iron­­wood Timber in September 2006, arguing it needed the land – which it bought off Ironwood two years earlier – for sewage treatment.

QLDC later backed off, allowing all the occupants month-by-month tenancies.

But unlike Superior and Iron­wood, Woodstock wouldn’t sign on.

McManus: “How do you offer a lease if you don’t own the land, isn’t that fraudulent?”

Superior and Ironwood will now leave next month as QLDC progresses plans for sewage-to-land disposal at the delta.

McManus, however, is moving back to live on the site, in defiance of a 14-day trespass notice dated November 10 from QLDC’s property contractor.

“This isn’t a land-grab, this is basically about who is the land owner.”

Recalling a major Maori land battle in Auckland in the 1970s, he says: “This could become another Bastion Point.”

QLDC has told McManus it doesn’t accept that the delta is Maori customary land and he can’t claim QLDC-owned land under the Treaty of Waitangi Act.

A QLDC lawyer wrote to him two months ago: “Your [September 26] trespass notice has no legal basis and therefore will be ignored by the council.”

McManus’s other beef with QLDC is that it’s evicting him without providing an alternative site for his business.
“This leaves the Wakatipu without an established firewood merchant.

“Approximately 15,000 cubic metres of wood is required by the town each winter.

“To [freight the firewood in] from outside could double the price of wood.”