Birthing of a new age at Ihumātao

By Taroi Black

Ihumātao leader Pania Newton told Te Ao Māori News exclusively that her pēpē will be born at Ihumātao. It marks the beginning of a new era as she reveals there will be a "positive outcome" for tangata whenua in days to come.

The news of her pregnancy came as a surprise two weeks before the eviction in June. However, she had to work through it under secrecy so that the Ihumātao kaupapa could come first.

“Those were one of the sacrifices that I chose to make for our kaupapa.”

Throughout her journey, Newton’s tamāhine to be has become a new source of motivation and kaha. Newton described how she met father to be, Tuputau Lelaulu, through the kaupapa.

“My tāne has been there throughout this very challenging year.”

Pania Newton sitting with her hoa tāne Tuputau Lelaulu in front of their caravan / Source – Mataara Stokes

The whawhai for Ihumātao now takes on greater meaning as baby’s arrival draws near, so does good news for tangata whenua.

“In the coming days, there will be an announcement of a positive outcome for our people who have waited for a long time, for Ihumātao to be restored to its waahi tapu status.”

Whaiāipo couple watching as Ihumātao tamariki run free / Source – Mataara Stokes

This has come as the result of SOUL’s five year campaign to get Ihumātao returned to its people. However, though the year is ending in victory, it has not come without its struggles.

First, the loss of her pāpā, along with her need to protect her pepe from the media. Pania then faced an eviction notice from Fletcher building, residential and land development. Which was followed by police numbers escalating on the land.

Te Kawerau-a-Maki were there with police to ensure a peaceful removal of the occupiers. Newton and Makaurau marae were adamant that nothing except an unconditional return would be acceptable to them.

By this point, hundreds had come to support the kaupapa at Ihumātao and it had been transformed to an ocean of tents. Many compared it to the fight for Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) decades ago.

“Having the likes of Moana Jackson and Margaret Mutu and Tina Ngata, come and visit was really humbling.”

Getting the “sign off” from them helped Newton know that her leadership was working, and that the movement was moving in the right direction.

“Legacies like these for the generations to come because these are the examples you want them to follow.”

However, it was important for the protectors to work with mana whenua such as Te Ākitai Waiohua, and Te Ahiwaru Waiohua who have a close relationship and history with the Kiingitanga. Kiingi Tūheitia, in an unprecedented move, brought in 800 Kingites to erect the flag of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, who lived there for a time. The King made it clear, that he was going to carry on the role established by Te Wherowhero, that of an inter-iwi arbiter.

Talks between Te Ākitai o Waiohua, Te Kawerau-a-Maki, and Fletcher took place at Novotel Auckland. PM Jacinda Ardern gave the Kiingitanga the space they needed to work things out. Newton continued to invite Ardern to Ihumātao. Ardern’s response was to send Peeni Henare and Wyllie Jackson, while she visited Tokelau, NZ’s northernmost territory.

Tensions rose as police increased their numbers at Ihumātao, Māori Wardens did their best to keep the peace. Allegations emerged that Pania was shoved by police.

Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha brings everyone to the table to settle the matter. Kaitiaki claimed the trust was broken after police cut off access to Puketutu, the site of the kaitiaki’s weekly karakia. The strength and mana of these karakia compelled police to withdraw.

Pania Newton with the new generation. Source – Mataara Stokes

“You want to work to a better Aotearoa for your children and your mokopuna.”