16 Dec 2016

'It is trampling on tapu whēnua'

1:24 pm on 16 December 2016

A group has been peacefully occupying the roadside of Ihumātao in Mangere for more than a month now in protest against plans to build homes at the wahi tapu site.

Protesters at Ihumātao, who have been occupying the roadside there for about a month.

Protesters at Ihumātao, who have been occupying the roadside there for about a month. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Ihumātao and Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve is the home to New Zealand's earliest gardens and is a significant archaeological site on land considered wahi tapu, or sacred, by local hapū and iwi.

The land has been earmarked for housing and developer Fletcher Building has been granted approval to build 480 homes on 34 hectares next to the stone fields.

A spokesperson for the protesters, Pania Newton said her tūpuna used to live and work on the land she was now fighting to protect.

"We've been here since the 5th of November, since the Parihaka commemoration day when we launched our noho whenua, our land stay here at Ihumātao."

"This is wahi tapu, there is urupā here, there is puna and stone wall structures which were constructed by Māori, our tūpuna.

"This is where we grew māra kai to feed our people and to feed Auckland, so that's why it is so significant this is where our whakapapa and our identity lies, our maunga, our awa, our moana.

"It is important to maintain these structures and wahi tapu because we come back here and we feel connected to our tūpuna."

Joe Hawke, who led the occupation of Bastion Point/Takaparawhau from January 1977 to May 1978, visited Ihumātao to give his support and some advice to those occuping the land.

He shared his experience of that time, and said the situation at Ihumātao was the same.

"It's very similar, the greed and the atrocious behaviour of authorities who want to encroach on tapu whēnua without confering with the whānau and the kaumatua."

Mr Hawke said those at Ihumātao had his support and told them to be strong and not to give up.

"It is trampling on tapu whēnua and they tried to do it on Takaparawhau but we said no and now it is safe and secure and the marae is built and everything is set and safe for our mokopuna."

Pania Newton said Mr Hawke's visit had re-energised her commitment.

"It was a sign of relief and for me solidified that what we are doing is tika (correct). Having him come and share his kōrero and give us words of encouragement spoke volumes."

Fletcher Building was given the green light for the housing development last week but Heritage New Zealand denied them the ability to build.

The company is able to make another application, and Ms Newton said the protesters would appeal that if granted.