11 Sep 2019

Ihumātao: As negotiations continue, core occupiers remain

From Checkpoint, 5:25 pm on 11 September 2019

The stand-off at Ihumātao in South Auckland burst into the headlines after an eviction notice was served to those occupying the land but with a resolution yet to be hammered out there's still a few staking out their position. 

It's been dubbed this generation's Bastion Point. A small group of occupiers at Ihumātao have been there for years in an effort to stop a housing development on the land which borders the site of the first Māori market gardens, but the eviction notice in July changed things.

Thousands flocked to the site from all over the country. Politicians and dignitaries - with notable exceptions including Jacinda Ardern - visited, and concerts were held.

More than 50 days after that call to action, Checkpoint reporter Nita Blake-Persen and cameraman Nick Monro paid a visit to Ihumātao, and found dozens of people still remain on the whenua and are not planning on going anywhere.

A morning Karakia and the rising of the Kiingitanga flag welcomes another day on the whenua at Ihumātao.

Tents are soggy and paddocks have become muddy bogs after torrential rain, but standing around the ahi kaa - a fire burning since the start of the occupation - spirits are high as ever.

The thousands of people who gathered here over the past seven weeks have dispersed - yellow patches of grass show where their tents once stood - but for around 50 people, the occupation is far from over.

Occupiers are here day in and day out - building, fixing, painting, teaching - everyone lends a hand and tamariki join wananga to learn from their neighbours

Kahu, 13, says he’s enjoyed the experience.

“Like making a fire by yourself, cooking for yourself, being like a survivalist.”

But he says he’s really missing Fortnite.

All the campers are self-sufficient. The huge catering operations of several weeks ago are gone, and most kai is cooked on fires or gas stoves at campsites.

Portaloos and water tanks are available, most people use showers at nearby marae or with whānau living nearby and there's a big push to reduce waste or upcycle wherever possible.

There are now three police officers on site every day - down from the dozens who arrived seven weeks ago - and several Māori wardens.

Discussions about the land are continuing between mana whenua and the Kiingitanga - those meetings remain confidential with no indication of when they'll be complete - but campers on the frontlines insist they'll be here as long as it takes.