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Ihumātao protest leader Pania Newton courted by several political parties

The leader of the protest at Ihumātao, Pania Newton, has received offers from several political parties ahead of the 2020 election.

The 28-year-old has been the face of the month-long occupation which centres around a piece of South Auckland land protestors say is sacred to Māori and shouldn't be developed into housing by Fletchers.

Many Māori see Pania Newton as a leader for her time. 

She told tonight's Q+A programme she has been approached by "at least four" political parties, but has "had to respectfully decline". 

She said they were "a number of new parties and a number of existing parties as well".

"But I have had to tell them that that is not my intention. My kaupapa is here at Ihumātao and it's here with my whānau and my marae."

Interviewer Jack Tame suggested getting offers from political parties must be flattering.

"I don't know if it is flattering or insulting, yeah. But it is certainly not an interest of mine to become a politician or get involved with politics any time soon," Ms Newton replied. 

Asked is it a case of "never say never" to being an MP, she said, "No, for me, it is a never. it's a never."

She said she has been "really disappointed" to see "how politics has unfolded" on the Ihumātao issue.

"Labour was very supportive of us prior to being in Government. They made all sorts of promises. But now that they're in Government they're nowhere to be seen," she said. 

Ms Newton said this Government has the highest number of Māori MPs in our history, "but yet we're seeing issues, flashpoints across our national landscape around child theft and water rights and land rights which highlight to me that the Māori nation is in a state of emergency."

She said: "We're in a crisis now more than ever before."

Ms Newton also said there are no plans to leave the disputed site at Ihumātao anytime soon.

"For me it's quite plain and simple. The land was confiscated so it should be returned. So the way I see it resolving itself is the Government purchases the land back, return it back to the hou kainga and the marae, and allow them to make decisions for the future of that land," she said.

"If the Government can change gun laws overnight, they can reverse a law which designated Ihumātao a special housing area. The Government has the capacity and resource to change laws all the time. So for me it's as realistic as the Government wants to make it."

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The 28-year-old who has been the face of the land occupation says she's had to "respectfully decline" the offers. Source: Q+A