19 Nov 2019

Ihumātao: Govt told not to 'alienate mana whenua' from talks

7:17 pm on 19 November 2019

While the government moves closer to a resolution at disputed Ihumātao, the long-time protesters and occupiers of the land remain on the sideline.

Sundown at Ihumātao.

File photo of protesters camping at Ihumātao in July. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Bond

Sources have told RNZ the Crown is considering loaning money to the council so it can purchase the land from Fletcher Residential, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fletcher Building.

But there's a question mark over whether the council could even service a loan.

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

Mr Robertson said there's a number of outcomes Fletcher's would be happy with but he wouldn't confirm the $40 million price tag on the land.

He said Fletcher's were part of the talks, as were Kiingitanga, but Mr Robertson was less forthcoming about whether SOUL - the protesters who have been occupying the land for three years - were part of the talks.

"I just don't want to get into the detail of that ... what I'm saying is I'm just not going to get into the details of those discussions," he said.

Read more:

  • Explainer: Why Ihumātao is being occupied by 'protectors'
  • Ihumātao land battle: a timeline
  • Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

    Grant Robertson Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

    Mr Robertson said there would be an appropriate time to bring everyone to the table - he just wouldn't say when exactly that was.

    The Māori King has weighed in and is urging caution to the government to not further alienate mana whenua at Ihumātao.

    Rahui Papa says there are more young people taking on leadership roles at Poukai.

    Rahui Papa Photo: RNZ/Justine Murray

    In September following talks with those with ties to the land, Kiingitanga concluded it needed to be given back to mana whenua.

    Kiingitanga spokesperson Rahui Papa said he was surprised to hear the council might buy the land.

    "We don't want any further step to alienate the mana whenua from the whenua ... and doing these things through council process has the potential to do that.

    "It will be owned by the council and that's not what the mana whenua were asking for," he said.

    Mr Robertson offered this assurance to Kiingitanga.

    "We understand the position of the Kiingitanga and mana whenua. We respect that and we're trying to work towards a solution but clearly, there will be several stages in getting to a solution.

    "So I just want to reassure Kiingitanga we're still fully aware of their concerns,'' he said.

    Green Party MPs Marama Davidson, Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman at Ihumātao on 26 July.

    File photo of Green Party MPs Marama Davidson, Chloe Swarbrick and Golriz Ghahraman at Ihumātao on 26 July. Photo: RNZ / Eden More

    Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson who is a staunch supporter of SOUL has regularly joined them on the picket line.

    "What I'm also very clear about is that they need to be at the table helping those discussions and I'm told they're currently not," Ms Davidson said.

    Labour MP for Tāmaki Makaurau Peeni Henare said it was unclear who represented mana whenua and what consensus, if any, could be reached.

    "We've always been clear that was one of the issues at the outset, well what is the mana whenua position? Are SOUL the representatives of mana whenua? That's not for me to say.

    "Of course SOUL have been quite loud and quite staunch on their views and it will be interesting to see when a solution is offered what their view will be," he said.

    Fletcher Building haven't responded to requests for an interview and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff declined to comment.

    In a statement, a spokesperson for the mayor said the council was "continuing to support the government, mana whenua and other parties throughout this negotiation process and the council will be helpful where possible".

    This is still far from a done deal and the government will have to grapple with how to fund this.

    One question that remains is whether Auckland Council has the financial capacity to even service the loan and whether another option is for the Crown to cover the whole cost.

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