Hikoi disappointed with Government response

A petition calling for Government intervention in a contentious Māori land dispute will be delivered to Parliament on Tuesday, but officials concede little can be done to stop the development of Ihumātao, the oldest human settlement in Auckland.

A protest carrying the petition will leave from Te Papa on Tuesday and arrive at Parliament where a 17,500 signature petition will request the Government to intervene to stop the development. But with resolution carrying a $40 million price tag, it’s widely acknowledged that little can be done.

One of the co-founders of Save Our Unique Landscape, or SOUL told Newsroom the issue cuts to the heart of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s promises to Māori at Waitangi.

Qiane Matata-Sipu, co-founder and spokesperson for SOUL, said it was disappointing Ardern had not yet promised any ministers would greet the Hikoi when it arrived.

“I admire the Prime Minister, but when you go to Waitangi and you talk about how relationships with Māori are set to improve under this Government and that the Labour Government respects Māori views and wants to strengthen those relationships but doesn’t even send a minister to greet the Hikoi and the petition that is coming, it doesn’t really back up the words,” Matata-Sipu said.

“The actions don’t back up the words and it makes me really disappointed because I really expected more of this Labour government,” she said. 

Only Green co-leader Marama Davidson, and first-term MP Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki had been conformed to greet the petition. 

“I’m certainly aware of the issue and the many complications that have been raised there, I’ve heard the iwi’s perceptive as well and as I understand there are a range of different opinions there,” Ardern said.

She said the issue was predominantly one for council and developers. 

The dispute concerns 32 acres of land on which Fletcher Building will build a new subdivision. The land was confiscated in 1865 and farmed by the Wallace family. After a protracted dispute, the land was rezoned from rural to residential and a plan drawn up to build 520 houses — later reduced to 480.

The issue has divided stakeholders in South Auckland with Makaurau Marae, Te Kawerau ā Maki and community group, and SOUL taking differing positions on aspects of the development. 

One of the key splits is between the iwi, Te Kawerau ā Maki who have opted to tentatively support the development in return for mitigation measures, and other stakeholders who maintained their opposition. 

SOUL is the community group currently leading the movement against the Fletcher development. It was founded by mana whenua of Ihumātao, but does not affiliate with a specific iwi or marae. 

The group is concerned that the development will harm the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve, the earliest site of human habitation in Auckland. The current proposal will not build on the historic sites and it will include an 80-metre border wall between the development and the reserve. 

But there are still concerns that developing the land would lead to the harm of the sites, as people move to the area. 

The issue has been taken up by Auckland Council, who has said it would support the Government purchasing the land from Fletchers. 

Mayor Phil Goff has sent a letter to the Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, saying that if the minister wished to purchase the land, the council would be supportive. 

Councellor Penny Hulse, who chairs Auckland Council’s Environment and Community Committee, told Newsroom that she had not received any indication that the Government wanted to get involved.

Potential cost-sharing options between Council and central Government had not yet been explored.

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