PENRHYN MP IN LAND DISPUTE

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By Florence Syme-Buchanan

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (May 13, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---A major land dispute involving Marine Resources Minister Tepure Tapaitau has erupted on Penrhyn and resulted in applications for interim injunctions being filed against opposing sides.

Neither was heard in the High Court, Rarotonga, yesterday, as injunction papers couldn't be served on either respondent due to a facsimile breakdown in Penrhyn.

The dispute arose after Penrhyn MP Tepure Tapaitau and his extended family began constructing a building to seed pearls on land named Te Ipusunu on Omoka atoll.

Tapaitau's family claims to have lived on that land for 150 years and "regard themselves as the rightful owners of this land," according to the application filed by second cousin Willie John. The respondent cited in John's application is Pau Toka and others residing on the island.

Minister Tapaitau's sworn affidavit states he believes an injunction "is necessary given the respondents' threats to assure the security of my property and personal safety of my family." Noted by the Court is that the land under dispute was partly reclaimed by prison labor.

The second application for an interim injunction has been filed by Uini Ben and Pau Toka, and Tapaitau is named as the respondent. In an affidavit, Ben claims Tapaitau is neither a landowner nor is he related by blood to the landowners.

Ben stated Tapaitau "has entered onto the Land without permission of the landowners and commenced building a pearl seeding house for his own use and benefit."

According to Ben's affidavit, the respondent ignored requests by the landowners and Pau Toka, the island's "senior spokesman," not to enter onto or use the land without consent.

The case has been adjourned to June 6.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands New Online.

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