TODAY |

Miss Universe beauty pageant contestants visit Ihumātao occupation in South Auckland

The crowds that marked Ihumātao a month ago may be thinning, but the contentious Auckland land occupation is still drawing a diverse range of visitors.

Today beauty queens made the pilgrimage to the protest site at Mangere.

The visitors are contestants in this year's Miss Universe New Zealand contest.

"The winner will head overseas to represent New Zealand internationally. And we had a group kōrero and we decided basically we needed to know more what this was all about," said Nigel Godfrey, Miss Universe executive director. 

Politics is not usually central to the competition, but that's something the group that visited Ihumātao is trying to change. 

"We are all New Zealanders. This is all our land, so I think it was really important for us to see why and where and how," said Hannah McCabe, one of the contestants.

She's from Blenheim and works as a policewoman, newly minted last year.  

"I've kind of been like eyeing up the police to come and chat, but they have no idea who I am," she said.

She said there was no awkwardness being on the other side of the blue line today.

"I go into every situation with an open mind. I think that's a really good aspect about me being in the police."

While Ms McCabe is keeping an open mind and wants to meet other mana whenua groups who support housing being built on the Ihumātao land, others, like 2017 winner Harlem-Cruz Atarangi Ihaia, disagree.

"If the whānau want houses then go and find some more land that you can build your houses on," she said.

Feminist leaders of the protest hosted the contestants today.

Pania Newton of Save Our Unique Landscapes was asked by 1 NEWS if there was an element of "this is a zoo" and visitors are coming to have a look.

"I feel like everyone is quite genuine in their visit. First and foremost they come here to learn about the issue," Ms Newton replied. 

"And most of the time they leave here having the same sorts of feelings that we have in terms of the significance of the land and the knowledge about why we need to protect and preserve it." 

Protestors welcomed the beauty pageant visitors.

"Having nice looking women here is a bit of a bonus to lift up morale," one man said.

Another said: "Pania is the beauty queen of Ihumātao so I'm not surprised they have come."

As the issue enters its fourth week of being at the forefront of New Zealand politics, leaders of the occupation are more than happy beauty queens are keeping it in the spotlight.

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The contentious occupation is still drawing a diverse range of visitors. Source: 1 NEWS