Māori King's flag lowered at Ihumātao with resolution to land dispute expected by Waitangi Day

The Māori King's flag has been lowered at the disputed Ihumātao site in South Auckland today amid speculation there will be a resolution soon to the ongoing land protest.

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The Māori King raised his flag in August as a symbol of peace while negotiations were underway.

Kiingi Tuuheitia's office released a statement today saying the flag was lowered "in the expectation of a resolution of the disputed whenua".

Kiingitanga spokesperson Rahui Papa says the King’s work is largely concluded with the expectation of a positive resolution ahead of Waitangi Day.

“There’s still some work to do, but Kiingitanga is satisfied that now is the time to retrieve the flag from Ihumātao.

“In essence, Kiingi Tuuheitia’s work is done. He has successfully interceded on behalf of his people to find a pathway to a resolution that is outside of the Treaty process.”

Kiingitanga acknowledged the patience and hard work of others, particularly Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“It’s been a challenging process and we will be better for it as a people and a nation.”

Yesterday the land's owner Fletcher Building removed fences from the site but said discussions with all parties on the future of the site were "progressing".

Pania Newton of protest group SOUL yesterday said she was pleased Fletchers had removed fencing from the whenua and she was hopeful the details of a resolution could be confirmed and announced in the coming days.

In a statement today Finance Minister Grant Robertson said, "The Government acknowledges the significance of the King’s decision today to lower his flag on the site."

Mr Robertson says he wants to recognise Kiingi Tuuheitia's "expert leadership in a complex situation and commitment to finding a way through that all parties can be happy with.

"We will continue work with all parties to reach a resolution. We are mindful of Fletchers position as the legal owner of the land, and a satisfactory settlement with them is an important part of a resolution,” 

In a statement today Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says: “The discussions between Auckland Council, Government and Kiingitanga, who are acting on behalf of mana whenua, have been positive and have progressed well. There is confidence that a resolution will be reached soon on the ownership and governance of the land.

“Once a draft agreement is reached by all parties, this will then be subject to final approval by all councillors at the Governing Body next month.”

Fletcher Building purchased the land in South Auckland in 2016 and planned to build 480 homes on the site. Those plans were put on hold in July last year when protestors occupied the site to stop the development.

Kiingi Tuuheitia visited lhumaatao on August 3, 2019 and raised his manawa as a symbol of peace and unity and offered to facilitate discussions between mana whenua who agreed that they wanted their land returned.

Ihumātao is a sacred site to Māori. There is archaeological evidence of horticulture, gardening and established community life dating back to the 1500s.

In the 1860s Māori iwere evicted from the land, their homes destroyed, their lands confiscated then subdivided and sold to British immigrants.