Kiingitanga expressed their surprise over rumours that the Auckland Council could be buying Ihumātao with taxpayer funds.
“This has come as a surprise and could potentially put the whenua out of reach of mana whenua who are awaiting its return.
“Council’s involvement is not the “by Maaori for Maaori” solution we had envisaged,” says spokesperson Rahui Papa.
Kiingi Tuheitia visited Ihumātao in August and has since gathered mana whenua. Kiingitanga then released a statement in September supporting mana whenua’s claim to Ihumātao and calling for the land to be returned to them.
In Parliament, when questioned about whether the government would loan Auckland Council money to purchase Ihumātao, Finance MinisterGrant Robertson answered, "We’ve got discussions underway about the future of Ihumātao. We acknowledge that several months ago, we were called on by Kiingitanga, after they had their discussions with mana whenua, to be able to work on it.
“Fletchers also approached us to do that, so we’re playing a facilitative role, it’s just a bit early in the discussions at the moment to be definitive.”
Minister Robertson confirmed that he is meeting with Fletcher CEO Ross Taylor today as well. Robertson also refused to comment on the specifics of any deals that are being worked on, because nothing has been agreed upon at present.
National Party Simon Bridges did not waste time in condemning the unconfirmed deal.
“Iwi lawyers will be writing their statements of claim for the court as we speak and protestors will be looking for their next site.
“This is an appalling use of taxpayers’ money and the Government needs to rule it out.
“It’s been four months since the Prime Minister got involved. It’s time to finally put a stop to this. The protestors need to go home and the Government needs to rule out a loan.”
National Party's communication team confirmed that Mr Bridges' response is based on speculation in a report published earlier this morning.