Ihumātao protectors living up to the aspirations of their tūpuna

By Jessica Tyson, Taroi Black

Today marks one year since police tried to evict a small group of protectors occupying Ihumātao, in Māngere.

The group, Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL), has opposed a 450-home Fletcher Housing development since 2015.

Since the failed eviction, the group has drawn thousands of supporters from around the country.

SOUL co-founder Pania Newton says there has been a resolution to the land dispute.

“Every day we’re here on the whenua (land). There’s no development no housing on the whenua. We’re here living up to the aspirations our tūpuna and our whānau have for this whenua, so we feel as though resolution has happened."

Last month Newton told TVNZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had become involved in negotiations. Today she told Te Ao reporter Taroi Black that the next step is up to the government to announce.

"My response is nothing has changed since our agreement and the government has given us its commitment to resolve this kaupapa but, as you can see, we’re still here practising kaitiakitanga on our whenua and we’re living the aspirations that we have and, for us, that’s winning. But, of course, we continue to be patient as the government builds the courage to make that announcement.”

A highlight during the occupation was a visit from the Kiingitanga in January.

“Kiingi Tuheitia coming here to the whenua to support the kaupapa and support our whānau and our marae in protecting our whenua was a huge boost for us and for us. It solidified our connections and our whanaungatanga with Waikato Tainui and of course the Kiingitanga.”

As one of the leaders of SOUL, Newton says she's built a lot of resilience.

“A lot of strength has come through the adversities that we’ve had to face and my patience has also grown. I think it’s been great personal developments as well as whānau and marae developments.”

A ceremony was held today to mark the one-year anniversary.