Five arrested at Kaitaia Airport protest

By Dean Nathan

Police have arrested five people in relation to the protest at Kaitaia Airport.

The protest began yesterday when more than 100 people occupied the airport.

Police say when negotiations with the occupiers didn't come to a resolution, they took action and served them with trespass orders.

Fires were burning as police moved in to arrest protesters, young and old.

Waireti Walters says, “The land down here belongs to my ancestor Timoti Popata of the Takuere clan.  So I must make a stand and be arrested.”

The priority for police and local government is to reopen a major service in the district.

Police officer Russell Le Prou says, “We'd prefer to negotiate first, but at the end of the day, this is about the Kaitaia people, their safety, their health and the airport has to open as an airport.  So whilst our hands are a bit tied, we have to act and we have.”

Mayor John Carter says, “The long term solution is making sure that we get all the issue addressed and settled so everybody is satisfied at the outcome.”

Today's arrests of Ngāti Kahu people marks their continued struggle with the Te Hiku iwi settlement being passed into law today.  Protesters say another iwi will now have the opportunity to purchase this land.

Waireti Walters says, “The four tribes at Parliament need to listen to us.  They're doing a brave thing, including this place in their claims.”

Wikatana Popata says, “Today is a very sad day because our relatives have been arrested but we stood staunch as a people in the fight for the return of lands stolen by the Crown.”

At 5pm this afternoon, the Kaitaia Airport reopened.