28 Nov 2019

Fletcher chair makes first substantive comments on Ihumātao

12:31 pm on 28 November 2019

In the first substantive comments since the beginning of the Ihumātao occupation, the chair of Fletcher Building says the company has acted ethically during the development process.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

At the company's annual general meeting, chair Bruce Hassall said Fletcher had been speaking to government about the Ihumātao land occupation by mana whenua groups, which had stopped all work for months.

Mana whenua and others have remained on site for three years to stop Fletcher Residential from building 480 homes there.

In July, they were served an eviction notice but the occupiers remained on the land with others joining them to create a make-shift camp.

Police and some protesters at the site today.

Police and some protesters at the site today. Photo: RNZ/Matthew Theunissen

Ihumātao is next to the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve in Māngere, home to New Zealand's earliest market gardens and a significant archaeological site on land considered wāhi tapu (sacred) by local hapū and iwi.

Part of the land, 32 hectares, is zoned as a Special Housing Area and is owned by Fletcher Building.

"We have been advised that the government is hopeful of achieving a resolution by the end of the calendar year," said Mr Hassall.

In his first substantive comments on the topic since the protests and occupation broke out, Mr Hassall said the company had bought the land in good faith, consulted with iwi groups, received all the necessary regulatory and court approvals, and committed to a development that was sensitive to the environment, historic sites, as well as providing iwi housing.

"So while we fully understand and respect the fact that there are diverse views on this topic, we have acted both ethically, legally and sensitively during the development process," he said.

In September, mana whenua groups came together under the mantle of Māori King Tuuheitia and made it clear they wanted the land returned to them.

Ihumātao occupation in South Auckland on August 5, 2019

Photo: RNZ / Jordan Bond

Sources have told RNZ the government is proposing to lend the Auckland Council $40m to buy Ihumātao from Fletcher Building.

At the time, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he met with Fletcher Building's chief executive Ross Taylor but neither he nor Mr Taylor brought up a potential Crown loan to Auckland Council.

He said there were a number of outcomes Fletcher's would be happy with but he would not confirm the $40 million price tag on the land.

Mana whenua of Ihumātao said they were disappointed to hear through the grapevine that the Crown was keen to help Auckland Council buy the contested land.

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