'They should keep on walking' – Paula Bennett calls time on Ihumātao protest

Nationals' Paula Bennett said it's time for Ihumātao protestors to move on so a housing development at the site can go ahead.

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Protestors are walking to Jacinda Ardern’s Mt Albert electorate office today demanding she take action to stop the proposed development. Source: Breakfast

Hundreds of protestors are walking to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Mt Albert electorate office today with a petition of more than 23,000 signatures demanding she visit the site.

The sacred piece of Māori land, taken by the Crown in 1865, was eventually sold to Fletcher Building, which wants to develop almost 500 houses on it.

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“We will remain here until a positive resolution is found,” Pania Newton said. “The land was confiscated and it should be returned.” Source: Breakfast

With a housing crisis in New Zealand, Ms Bennett told Breakfast today it's time the houses be built.

"We talk a lot about housing ... and here we have a piece of land, it's gone through all the right courts even, it's been tested, it's council, it's government, it's been through everything and it's sitting there," she said. 

For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"They're walking off today in their protest, I think they should keep walking. Honestly, I think it's time actually that it went back to being what it is, which is it's got opportunity for housing, for Māori in this city."

She said she agrees with the right to protest, but added there are people sitting at the site away from their families and work.

"Come on, let's get to a resolution, let's move on," she said. "There is progress to be made and people will benefit from it, as will Māori, as will some of those people there."

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They intend to deliver a petition with more than 25,000 signatures demanding she visits the occupation site. Source: Breakfast

NZ First MP Shane Jones told Breakfast he agreed with Ms Bennett.

"I did feel that a mixture of heritage protection and housing for the next generation spoke of common sense," he said.

Mr Jones also told protestors walking to Ms Ardern's office today to conduct themselves with dignity and not repeat what happened with Helen Clark’s electorate office where an axe was lodged in a window. 

"That was very frightening," he said.

But Pania Newton - an organiser for SOUL, the group running the protest - explained during a different segment on Breakfast today that those occupying the site are in for the long haul.

"We're hoping the sooner it's resolved the better, that we can begin to heal the heartache that lays across this whenua, but we will remain here until a positive resolution is found," she said. 

"The land was confiscated and so it should be returned."

Ms Ardern has said she believes a visit to the site won't help find a solution and she would rather continue with talks around the table, but Ms Newton said a visit wouldn't jeopardise that.

Ms Ardern has halted development at the site while talks are ongoing.