17 Dec 2020

Ihumātao: SOUL marks the beginning of the end

8:04 pm on 17 December 2020

The first step in breaking the long-running deadlock at Ihumātao is being hailed by the groups involved as a positive one.

A deal has been struck between the government and Fletchers to buy the land for $29.9 million, with a commitment for housing to be built on the site. The Kīngitanga, the Crown and Auckland Council have also signed a memorandum of understanding that will pave the forward on decisions on the future of the land.

The Kīngitanga says the agreement is the first step in the healing process since the land was taken from its original inhabitants more than a century ago.

SOUL co-spokespeople Qiane Matata-Sipu  and Pania Newton at Ihumātao.

SOUL co-spokespeople Qiane Matata-Sipu and Pania Newton at Ihumātao. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

In a conference this afternoon, Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) group spokesperson Pania Newton said she had mixed feelings about today's announcement.

The group said the decision affirmed international commitments to indigenous rights and the place of tangata whenua in Aotearoa.

SOUL also thanked Kiingi Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero Te Tuawhitu and his representatives for facilitating the resolution made today.

It said there was more work to do, but that today's resolution represented the start of the next phase in the process.

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Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Newton, who was the face of the campaign against the development, said she was still processing the news.

"I'm both happy but sad at the same time that it took so long and some of those who started this kaupapa with us have now passed on and so it's sad to think about that."

Newton said she was excited to celebrate this day with whānau, and the marae.

"This is not only a win for our whānau or Makaurau Marae, but this is a win for all of Aotearoa."

SOUL co-spokesperson Pania Newton holds the hand of a child while walking with others.

SOUL co-spokesperson Pania Newton holds the hand of a child while walking with others. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

She said she looked forward to whānau determining what the aspirations were for the whenua.

"I wouldn't say we're necessarily interested in housing, maybe we're interested in proving the existing housing footprints on this whenua. But again, our whānau haven't had an opportunity to discuss what kind of aspirations they have for the whenua. I'm sure we'll get that done in the next stage before us."

She said she enjoyed being able to let her guard down at Ihumātao and looked forward to enjoying a moe (sleep).

"We haven't really decided on what the future of those of us staying on the whenua will be or what will happen to these beautiful structures ... rest assured that our whānau who are on the whenua are not going to be homeless or whatever, there's always a place for every one and each of us."

Structures set up at Ihumātao.

Structures set up at Ihumātao. Photo: RNZ / Mabel Muller

She said developers needed to engage with Māori and the communities they wanted to work in, and organisations should take heed of their responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi.

"By announcing what they have today, is a step in honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi - not in the way that would've been ideal for us but we can only do what we can. But it was somewhat disappointing to hear that disregard for the Treaty aspects of this struggle," Newton said in regards to Special Housing Area 62.

Co-spokesperson Qiane Matata-Sipu added that was a lesson policymakers should take heed of too.

"We need to understand Te Tiriti o Waitangi has never been to be settled, it is written to be honoured."


Photo: RNZ / Mabel Muller

Matata-Sipu expressed gratitude to supporters of their years-long protest, which had involved hīkoi, petitions, court action and a trip to the United Nations.

"We really want acknowledge every single person who has come to Ihumātao over the last six years, who have supported this campaign, who have supported us, who have stood in solidarity with us, whether it was here on the whenua or overseas, because we know there was many of our indigenous whānau overseas who stood with us.

"We want to acknowledge our kaumātua and kuia who have passed on in the last six years - of which there were a number of them, who were all fully supportive of seeing this whenua resolved.

"While we stand here and front these types of things, it is all of those people who have contributed to this kaupapa over the years that have led us to be here today. Some of their names you will never know, but they have all had a significant impact in getting us to where we are and that is the biggest thing we want to say in our response to the resolution - is thank you."

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Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Today was about acknowledging them and the influence they had in carrying the movement, she said.

She reiterated this was not the end of the resolution but an important step as part of an ongoing process.

When asked if they trusted the government, Matata-Sipu said that they trusted the Kīngitanga.

She said the tikanga and Kīngitanga-led agreement was the next phase to establish who had ahikā status of the number of rōpū who claimed that status.

"We're very confident in the process moving forward and we're very settled in knowing that process is going to work for everybody and is going to be a fair process, but most importantly is going to be a for-Māori-by-Māori process."

Ngāti Te Ahiwaru, the principal hapū of Ihumātao, said this was a momentous occasion for whānau of Makaurau Marae and those who live in papakāinga of Ihumātao.

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Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Co-chair Natalie Ngaha said whānau met last night at the marae and were overjoyed at finally reaching this stage of the resolution.

"This is a huge turning point for us at Ngāti Te Ahiwaru. In many ways it is the beginning to recognise the injustices endured by the whānau and hapū of Ihumātao.

"We acknowledge the courage and tenacity and amazing work of our whānau, who are our nieces and nephews, who initiated and led the recent reclamation movement over the last six years.

Tamariki who have been protecting/occupying the whenua at Ihumātao.

Tamariki who have been protecting/occupying the whenua at Ihumātao. Photo: RNZ / Mabel Muller

"They follow the legacy of our tūpuna and our elders who always fought to be recognised, heard and valued as tangata whenua at Ihumātao."

She said the move meant they could begin to heal, reconnect to the whenua, and focus on the aspirations for the future and mokopuna.

"We are excited about the next stage and look forward to engaging in the tikanga approach to ensure we are able to sustain our ability to be ahikā and fulfill our role and responsibilities as kaitiaki."

Margaret Wilson at Ihumātao.

Photo: RNZ / Mabel Muller

Stacey Bishop, a supporter of the SOUL campaign, said today was not the end of the generations-long fight, but it was a step forward.

"When I was a young girl I said to my grandmother 'Nanny, why, why don't we have our land ... she said to me 'because the fight is too big and the price is too high, that's why'.

"So I never came up here to protect myself, from that trauma that my tūpuna had gone through."

Margaret Wilson, 61, who lives in Ihumātao said she could not describe how she felt, but she was mostly happy for the next generation.

Members of Te Kaha O Te Rangatahi Indigenous Youth Hub are at Ihumātao to tautoko the cause and mana whenua ahead of the announcement.

Members of Te Kaha O Te Rangatahi Indigenous Youth Hub are at Ihumātao to tautoko the cause and mana whenua ahead of the announcement. Photo: RNZ / Mabel Muller

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