Omaha whānau says land deal “Kick in the guts”

By Talisa Kupenga

Omaha Marae whānau are angry about the land exchange and housing development Ngāti Manuhiri have planned for Te Arai. Although Ngāti Manuhiri purchased the land from the Crown in 2012 following its settlement, families here say they were not consulted and are concerned for sacred significant sites.

Tears for land, exchanged for profit.

Omaha Marae Trustee Myra Aitken says, "Well I'm quite hurt actually because you know there was no consultation and I've lived here all my life and I haven't been told anything, you know, when I heard about it I was in shock, you know and I still am."

Consultation about a land exchange and housing development at Te Arai driven by Ngāti Manuhiri.

"I'm against it completely. The development the whole thing. It shouldn't happen. We should save those lands for our tamariki for our mokos," says Aitken.

The group heard about the development plans early last month via Facebook.

Omaha Marae committee member Janelle Penjueli told Te Kāea, "That was the first that we'd heard and to hear that we had entered into this joint venture to sell land, it was like a kick in the guts. We're supposed to be registered beneficiaries of the settlement trust I never received an email about a hui to discuss a mandate to sell. There was nothing and to this day, I've never seen any documentation. You can dress it up however you like but it’s just land for blankets again all over again."

The whānau here weren't only concerned about the lack of consultation around the land exchange, but also the wāhi tapu in the area.

Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust CEO Mook Hohneck says, "All of those people have attended the different consultation huis. We feel that we have communicated to the availability of all of Ngati Manuhiri. That particular land has had two rotations of forest over it so it's been worked over twice by forestry companies in the past. I can assure you that Ngāti Manuhiri will protect and look after any wahi tapu that is there."

This is the land that was exchanged to allow the development of houses and isn't able to be developed economically for Ngāti Manuhiri.