'People need to be made accountable' over Ihumātao - AKL Councillor

By Taroi Black

Councilor Richard Hills is now the first gay Māori and youngest chair in Auckland council history. Hills will chair the Environment and Climate Change committee, committed to right the wrongs in Auckland's sad history. 

Hills, 33, is of Ngāpuhi descent told Te Ao Māori News, 'people need to be made accountable' about the controversial Ihumātao housing project. 

The settlement based in South Auckland is deemed to be one of the first places occupied by tangata whenua and eventually became the food basket of Auckland.

However, concerns among local Māori remain as their beloved Oruarangi river polluted and the smell of sewage lingers in the air from the ponds built in the 1960's. On top of that, was their sacred maunga quarried to build Auckland's motorways. 

Now, the area continues to be disputed by local Māori over the construction of 480 homes, as a response for the city's housing crisis.

"I think it's amazing to see young rangatahi standing up to decisions that were made," Hills says. 

The new committee structure chaired by North Shore councilor Hills is a critical issue for local government over the next three years, Mayor Phil Goff says. 

Before entering council, second term councilor Hills gained experience working on environmental issues as part of the Kaipatiki Local Board to clean and restore the Kaipātiki awa.

Deputy Chair Pippa Coom and Chair Richard Hills in AKL Council chambers  

Waitematā and Gulf councilor Pippa Coom who will serve her first term in council also secured deputy chair for the newly formed committee on the Environment and Climate Change. 

She believes there are other places in Auckland to build houses, however, there's a level of consultation with local iwi in Auckland to provide better outcomes, Coom says.

Land protectors at Ihumātao are pleading for better engagement and consultation by the Auckland Council. Especially around environmental issue impacting on mana whenua and ahikā of Tāmaki Makaurau.  

SOUL spokesperson Pania Newton says, "we know indigenous practises and Māori practises are more in line with ideal resolutions to addressing the issues around climate change.

"We need to listen to tangata whenua and consider our tikanga and our kawa when looking for resolutions to deal with climate change."  

Current Auckland Councillors / Source Auckland Council