A Wellington iwi has been dealt a "bitter blow" in its fight to save land from development after Sir Peter Jackson's company pulled funding from a High Court case.
Mau Whenua, a faction of the Taranaki Whānui iwi, are fighting to overturn the sale and subsequent development of Shelly Bay. The land was bought from the iwi by developer Ian Cassells but Mau Whenua stepped in and occupied the land in November.
They filed papers in July 2019 to oppose the sale, and the case was planned for March 2021 - but now Wingnut, Sir Peter's film company, has withdrawn its $2.2 million funding for Mau Whenua, leaving them high and dry.
Sir Peter Jackson has been an outspoken opponent of the plan to develop Shelly Bay.
Spokesperson for Mau Whenua Anaru Mepham told Newshub he was surprised at the decision.
"It was a bit of a shock - Wingnut contacted us a few days ago and said basically due to extenuating circumstances for them they couldn't see how they could continue the funding."
He's disappointed - but hardly surprised.
"It was a bit of a knock but throughout this process we've constantly been buffeted and knocked by the people around us."
Mau Whenua member Dr Catherine Love said in a statement she doesn't begrudge the funding withdrawal and acknowledges the challenges which have plagued the film industry due to COVID-19.
"They have been strong and reliable allies for our kaupapa - to expose and correct injustice, to hold our land, and to uphold environmental principles relating to our land and harbour."
The group is now scrambling to find a way to bankroll its case - if it can't raise the funds, the case will not make it to the High Court.
"We are disgusted that the exorbitant cost to shine a light on the many layers of wrongdoing in the High Court system is prohibitive," said Mepham.
"We will continue to fight for Māori land to remain in Māori hands."
Wingnut has been contacted for comment.