"We're still waiting": the long wait for an outcome over Ihumātao

By Taroi Black
Kiingi Tuheitia with SOUL members & Kiingitanga representatives at Ihumātao. Photo / file

Ihumātao: What was promised as a positive outcome before Waitangi Day according to Kiingitanga representatives failed to deliver.

The waiting game continues since reports first emerged of a resolution in the dispute over the housing project at Ihumātao.

Spokeswoman Pania Newton, of Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL), claimed that Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mentioned that an outcome was to be announced before Waitangi Day. But Newton says, “We’re still waiting.”

The Auckland Council told Te Ao they are willing to be part of a solution on issues relating to Ihumātao and have been working constructively with all parties, particularly with Fletchers, to reach an agreement.

The agreement, as far as the Kiingitanga are aware, is looking at two outcomes: one is to work alongside local and central government; the other is for the return of the whenua back to Māori.

Following this, a formal decision-making process will be required.

“Our family have been here at Ihumātao for a long time waiting with heavy hearts because of what the Crown has done to us and our lands,” Newton says.  

Recent movements on the proposed housing development began last month when Fletchers packed up their fences due to reduced activity at the site. This was a sign say SOUL that things were heading toward a positive resolution. 

Then followed the arrival of Kiingi Tuheitia and representatives of Te Kiingitanga saying they expected a resolution before Waitangi Day.

A spokesperson for the Kiingitanga, Rahui Papa, told Te Ao that their institution remain as takawaenga or mediators to ensure there is no raruraru with the processes.

At Waitangi, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Te Ao she will visit Ihumātao but is endeavouring to find a solution first.

"I'm hoping that we can do it at a time where we know what the future will be."

Background to the story:

This has come as the result of SOUL’s five-year campaign to get Ihumātao returned to its people. Newton faced an eviction notice from Fletcher Building, Residential and Land Development last year, which was followed by police numbers escalating on the land.

Police and protesters at Ihumātao. Photo / File

Te Kawerau-a-Maki were there with police to ensure a peaceful removal of the occupiers. Newton and Makaurau marae were adamant that nothing except an unconditional return would be acceptable to them.

By this point, hundreds had come to support the kaupapa at Ihumātao and it had been transformed to an ocean of tents. Many compared it to the fight for Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) decades ago.

Getting the 'sign-off' from renowned activists from across Aotearoa helped reassure Newton and SOUL they were moving in the right direction.

Ihumātao land protectors protesting in Auckland. Photo / File  

However, it was important for SOUL to work with mana whenua, such as Te Ākitai Waiohua and Te Ahiwaru Waiohua, who have a close relationship and history with the Kiingitanga. Kiingi Tūheitia, in an unprecedented move, brought in 800 Kingites to erect the flag of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, who lived there for a time. The King made it clear that he was going to carry on the role established by Te Wherowhero, that of an inter-iwi arbiter.

Talks between Te Ākitai o Waiohua, Te Kawerau-a-Maki and Fletchers took place at Novotel Auckland. PM Jacinda Ardern gave the Kiingitanga the space they needed to work things out. Newton continued to invite Ardern to Ihumātao. Ardern’s response was to send Peeni Henare and Wyllie Jackson, while she visited Tokelau, NZ’s northernmost territory.

Tensions rose as police increased their numbers at Ihumātao, Māori Wardens did their best to keep the peace. Allegations emerged that Newton was shoved by police.

Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha brought everyone to the table to settle the matter. Kaitiaki claimed the trust was broken after police cut off access to Puketutu, the site of the kaitiaki’s weekly karakia. The strength and mana of these karakia compelled police to withdraw.

“Our family have been here at Ihumātao for a long time waiting with heavy hearts because of what the Crown has done to us and our lands.”