28 Jul 2019

Ihumātao: Government ministers welcomed to protest site with powerful powhiri

2:00 pm on 28 July 2019

More than 5000 people today showed their support at protests against a proposed housing development in South Auckland, with police happy with the behaviour of attendees with no arrests made.

This evening thousands of people remaining at the Ihumātao site after dark have huddled around a small stage to enjoy a free concert put on by some of new Zealand's biggest stars.

Teeks, Troy Kingi and Stan Walker have taken to the stage so far, each taking a moment to talk about their support for the protests.

Close to 100 tents have been set up on the main paddock next to Ōruarangi Road.

Superintendent Jill Rogers, Counties Manukau District Commander, described the vibe throughout the day as "a generally relaxed atmosphere".

"We welcome the fact that there have been no arrests at the site since Wednesday.

"This is an indication that people are heeding requests from both police and protest organisers for it to be a safe and peaceful protest."

Thousands of people huddle around a small stage at Ihumātao enjoying a free concert.

Thousands of people huddle around a small stage at Ihumātao enjoying a free concert. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

Police are maintaining their presence at the site, and say they will keep open communication with the protest organisers. But despite the swell in the number of protestors, the number of officers there has stayed the same.

RNZ reporters at the scene said it was abuzz with people and activities that include traditional Māori massage, mirimiri.

By Saturday morning at least 50 tents had been erected in the main paddock, which protesters reclaimed from police on Friday.

Government Minister Peeni Henare, the MP for Tāmaki Makaurau, arrived at the site at midday with Minister Willie Jackson.

They were welcomed onto Ihumātao with a roaring powhiri.

Earlier this week both ministers were reluctant to weigh in on the land dispute, saying there was nothing the government could do to resolve it.

A representative of mana whenua, Eru Rakena, spoke directly to Mr Henare, asking him what he would do if Ihumātao was his land and under threat.

He asked the ministers for their support to save the land from a housing development so it could be used by his mokopuna.

He said whānau protesting were mana whenua and had always been mana whenua.

Mana movement leader Hone Harawira said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should stay away from the land dispute at Ihumātao, and allow her Māori ministers to find a resolution.

Yesterday Ms Ardern vowed that no building will take place at Ihumātao while the government and other parties try to broker a solution

Mr Harawira arrived at the site this morning with more than 100 Destiny Church members to pledge his support for protesters.

He said it's disappointing Māori ministers have not taken a lead role in trying to find a solution.

"It would be nice to see the Māori ministers leading here rather than being told what to do by Jacinda.

"I don't think she knows what's going on here. Stay overseas. Leave it to Peeni and the whānau here. Let's get it done."

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Hone Harawira does not want the prime minister to get involved in the dispute. Photo: RNZ

Earlier, one of the Save Our Unique Landscape campaign leaders, Pania Newton, said people were arriving from all over the country to oppose the Fletcher Building development on land considered sacred by iwi.

Ms Newton said there was a free concert later today, with Stan Walker, Ladi6, Troy Kingi, NRG Rising and others performing.

"We just are so grateful for the support that is coming in from the nation.

"We are expecting around 10,000 to 15,000 visitors so we do encourage everybody to come on down and enjoy the event and to come and take a stand on the land with us and with our whānau and our marae to protect it."

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki said Pākehā systems and the government will never be able to help Māori.

He said a solution to the land dispute will come from the ground up.

Ahead of Mr Henare's visit to the site he told Kim Hill on Saturday Morning that there are a range of stakeholders.

"There are mana whenua, there are whānau, there are iwi, there are local supporters, that's the trickiness of this all ... mana whenua have as we know traditional rights in places like this, but we also have other people involved too.

"Mana whenua are Ti Akitai, Te Wai o Hua, Tainui and Te Kawerau ā Maki - those are the mana whenua. Now whether people like it or not, engagement that the Crown has had in the past with those tribes ... for legislation purposes, they are recognised as mana whenua."

There are about a hundred kaimahi (workers) preparing food, making tea and coffee, and handing out water.

Food and drinks have been handed out for those gathered, throughout Saturday. Photo: RNZ

But Mr Henare said no one is denying the whakapapa to the land of people from the group Save Our Unique Landscape.

"There's no doubt it's caused a lightning rod, if you like, for the issue of Māori land rights and that's what's seen so many other iwi and people from across the country make their way to Ihumātao."

Mr Henare said it was a complex issue which has been through many courts and also involved Auckland Council, as well as mana whenua.

"One of the points made to me by mana whenua, who have said many of the people that are going there aren't from there, and that creates a bit of a challenge because they would argue that they're not respecting the rights of mana whenua there.

"While I don't want to belittle the role of mana whenua in this, the fact remains there's many passionate people that made their way to Ihumātao."

Friday July 26

Speeches of support for the action underway at Ihumātao were made overnight, from Friday into Saturday. Photo: Supplied

The government has been considering how to broker a situation for a number of months, Mr Henare said.

He said he and Mr Jackson are going there today primarily to listen and to get a feel for what is going on.

Regardless of what happens mana whenua must be part of the process, he said.

July 26 2019

Many people spoke and listened, during Friday night's kōrero. Photo: Supplied

Despite the prime minister's assurances no houses would be built at Ihumātao until a solution was found between both groups, people still arrived during the night to support those protesting against the development.

Green Party MP and co-leader Mārama Davidson was one of those supporting the SOUL group by sitting with the line of protestors in front of police.

She said the strength of the protest action this week had forced the government to step in and try to resolve the land dispute. She thanked protesters for making that happen.

"It is absolute testament to the strength and the commitment of these people here at Ihumātao who have been watching and protecting this whenua.

"It shows the power of people coming here from all around the country and it has created a situation where the government finally have to listen and take them seriously."

By mid-afternoon Saturday more than 1000 sandwiches had been made, to feed the protectors contining the fight.

About a hundred kaimahi (workers) helped prepare the food, and make tea and coffee, and hand out water.

Hundreds of free hāngi, seafood chowder, sandwiches and sausages continue to be handed out to the masses.

And during the afternoon food and supply trucks have been making deliveries into the site every twenty minutes.

Solicitor Dewy Sacayan, is providing advice about rights and responsibilities, for the protestors.

Solicitor Dewy Sacayan, is providing advice about rights and responsibilities, for the protestors. Photo: RNZ

A group of lawyers set up a legal support station at Ihumātao and printed notes have been handed out detailing protestors legal rights and responsibilities in case they are arrested.

"[It's] a matter of making sure we have served the peace, and educated the people to know what their rights are," soliciter Dewy Sacayan said.

Fletcher Building welcomes talks

A senior Fletcher Building executive has welcomed the chance for talks while the development of housing at the Ihumātao site in south Auckland stops.

Steve Evans, the company's chief executive of residential and land development, said the company has had about a dozen meetings with the Save Our Unique Landscape group in recent years.

Last night, after meeting iwi, Fletchers and Auckland Council, Ms Ardern said no houses would be built at the site while they try to broker a solution.

Mr Evans said people have the right to protest.

He said the hui with iwi and the government means no further work will happen at the site for now while talks are arranged.

Ms Newton said protesters only found out about a meeting between the government and mana whenua after it had happened.

Sundown at Ihumātao.

Sundown at Ihumātau on Saturday night. Photo: RNZ / Jordan Bond

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