Ihumātao campaigners seek to avoid repeat of Ōrākei/Bastion point occupation

5:58 pm on 12 June 2019

Campaigners trying to protect whenua in Auckland are urging the government to intervene to prevent an occupation like Bastion Point.

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

Protesters at Ihumātao occupied the roadside there for about a month in 2016. Photo: RNZ / Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Representatives against a 480-house Fletcher development at Ihumātao, near Auckland Airport, have been in front of the Māori Affairs Select Committee this morning.

The group, Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL), delivered a petition with 20,000 signatures to Parliament this year.

The petition asks Parliament to "urge the government to intervene to either buy the land at Ihumātao - known as Special Housing Area 62 - from Fletcher Building Limited or mandate a process to enable all affected parties to come up with an outcome that everyone can live with."

SOUL co-founder Qiane Matata-Sipu told the committee the fight was relentless and it was about recognising Aotearoa's history and not making the same mistakes again.

"It's too hard to continuously fight, and as Māori and as your treaty partner, we should not have to. This isn't a issue about housing this is an issue about Māori and indigenous rights."

She also urged the committee to view Ihumātao with the same recognition and importance of Rātana Pā.

"Imagine 500 houses put in Rātana Pā, that is all you really need to think about. The government acknowledge that papakainga is something special to this nation's history," Ms Matata-Sipu said.

"They recognise the importance of this whenua as it is a living, breathing papakainga. That is what Ihumātao is, it does just not have the same recognition. If you can imagine what 500 houses will do to the identity of Rātana Pa and its descendents, that is what will happen at Ihumātao, that is what we are looking at."

The submitters also wanted to clarify some of the internal mana whenua discrepancies being reported. Makaurau Marae is in Ihumātao and its trust represents the iwi grouping of Te Ahi Waru, Wai-o-Hua - mana whenua of Ihumātao. Its chair, Te Warena Taua, has previously said that it supported the development.

Kowhai Olsen, who is one of four on the Trust, presented to the committee that there were internal kaupapa at play that she could not disclose as the trustees were trying to handle them internally.

She told the committee a timeline of meetings with hau kāinga and related how chair of the Makaurau Marae Māori trust, Te Warena Taua, had said they were still able to fight but his stance was not to miss out and for mana whenua to benefit from the development.

Mr Taua has been outspoken about his support and his opposition to SOUL.

However, Ms Olsen told the committee earlier this year the majority of people the Trust represented were unhappy with how the development was progressing.

"They turned around and said no more mucking around, they are starting to come in and starting to build things, they are doing everything way too quickly for our liking and you haven't got those deals signed.

"We are not above our people. That was the message I was told to deliver to this Select Committee."

Ms Olsen said she wanted the government to intervene before history repeats itself.

"I am really worried about our people, they are ready to occupy that land and get hurt. That is the consideration here. We don't want that. We don't want a repeat - they are all starting to post on Facebook that Ihumātao is the new Ōrākei/Bastion point," she said.

"I don't think we can control everybody who is prepared to lay across that land, that's the worry here, that's the urgency. It's not about anything else, it's about our whānau getting hurt in a process they are not equipped for."

Ms Matata-Sipu said she did not want for her daughter to have to continue this battle in the future.

"Ihumātao is in my blood. I don't want my daughter sitting here in 20 years' time having this same whawhai, I am sitting here asking you to please not let that happen. I sit here to speak for the whenua and for my descendents in seven generations."

She asked the committee to put politics aside and focus on the future of mokopuna of Ihumātao.

"This isn't about National versus Labour, this isn't about what pōtae you sit here and wear, this is about my whānau and I ask you to try and put that first: put the future of Ihumātao and their people before whatever political pōtae you have to wear in this room."

The Māori Affairs Select Committee will deliberate and present a report with its recommendations.

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