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Ihumātao protest leader celebrates land deal with Government, but not sold on housing proposals

Ihumātao protest leader Pania Newton is celebrating today's land deal with the Government, but she is not sold on its housing proposals.

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Government officials are keen to see some form of housing on the land after purchasing it for nearly $30 million. Source: 1 NEWS

Government officials are keen to see some form of housing on the land after purchasing it for nearly $30 million.

Newton spoke to media after the announcement of the deal today.

"I'm really proud of our whānau and all those who came to support our kaupapa over many years.

"I’ve been experiencing mixed feelings since getting the news, so I’m still kind of processing. I’m both happy, but sad at the same time that it's took so long. And some of us that started this kaupapa have now passed on, so it’s sad to think about that."

Newton says she is looking forward to celebrating this achievement with her whānau and her marae and is looking forward to the next stage.

When asked about the Government's keen interest in still having some form of housing on the land, she wasn't so enthusiastic.

"We aren’t necessarily interested in housing. Maybe we are interested in improving the existing housing footprints on this whenua, but again our whānau haven’t really had an opportunity to discuss what kind of aspirations they have for the whenua.

"I’m sure we will get that done in the next stages, but for us most of the conversations have been around preserving this cultural heritage landscape."

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The Prime Minister says she heard many different viewpoints about what the land should be used for. Source: 1 NEWS

National MP Michael Woodhouse took aim at the Government after the announcement today, saying Labour had "opened the floodgates by paying off protestors".

“The ramifications of this Crown deal go much further than the lost opportunity of building houses immediately. It will call all full and final treaty settlements into question and set a dangerous precedent for other land occupations, like the one at Wellington’s Shelly Bay.

“More than 20,000 Kiwi families are on the waiting list for a home this Christmas. The Government should not be spending $30 million on stopping 480 much-needed houses from being built right now," Woodhouse says.
 

Background

The Government today announced it will buy the land at Ihumātao from Fletcher Building, in the first step to resolving the standoff for the disputed land in South Auckland.

More than a year after Save Our Unique Landscape — a protest group known by its acronym, SOUL — occupied the land and claimed mana whenua, a binding memorandum of understanding (He Pūmautanga) has been signed by Kīngitanga, the Crown and Auckland Council.

Housing Minister Megan Woods said the land will be bought for $29.9 million under the Land for Housing Programme, with the intent it would avoid issues with the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.

Full video: Ihumātao haukāinga speak after Government deal for disputed South Auckland land

The Government would purchase the land with a proposal that it be used for housing. But a steering committee (rōpū whakahaere) would ultimately decide what the land would be used for.

The group would be made up of three representatives of the ahi kā (the occupiers), a Kīngitanga representative, and two representatives of the Crown. Auckland Council will act as an observer.

Woods said the exact type and number of houses that would be developed would be agreed to by the signatories. This may include housing for mana whenua, public housing and papakāinga housing.

“It will be a sensitive development that recognises the special characteristics of the land,” she said.

“There is a need for housing to support kaumātua and kuia of this place and this agreement recognises that.”

In 2014, Fletcher Building purchased the land with the intention to build 480 homes in partnership with local iwi Te Kawerau ā Maki.

However, a separate group claiming mana whenua of the land occupied Ihumātao and those plans were put on hold in July last year.

Kiingi Tuuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII visited Ihumātao in August last year and raised his manawa as a symbol of peace and unity. He 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.

An outline of the MOU (He Pūmautanga) between the Kīngitanga, the Crown and Auckland Council:

A steering committee, to be known as the rōpū whakahaere, would be formed to decide on the future use of the land. This could include housing and conservation. It would also consider future ownership options of the land.

The Crown will negotiate with Fletcher Building to enter into a sale and purchase agreement to acquire the land at Ihumātao for the purposes of housing. Once acquired, the land would not be transferred to a third party unless agreed to by all parties.

The agreement would not constitute a settlement of historical claims under the Treaty of Waitangi Act, and the land is not intended to be made available to settle any existing or future treaty claims.

The Kīngitanga will act as an intermediary between the three parties