Deal on Ihumatao close, says occupier

A deal on the disputed land at Ihumātao could be just "hours away", says a leader of the group leading the occupation.

But that notion is disputed by Fletcher Building, the company behind the contested 480-house development, which says discussions are "ongoing".

The South Auckland site, believed to be one of the earliest settlements in New Zealand, has been the focus of a high-profile protest movement against a housing development over the past several years, erupting in July last year when occupiers were served an eviction notice.

Amid escalating protests, on July 26 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stepped in to call a halt to the development while all parties negotiated a resolution.

Soon the Māori King became involved, bringing the mana whenua groups divided over the development under the korowai of the Kīngitanga to find common ground.

In September, Kīngi Tūheitia announced mana whenua had reached a consensus: they wanted the land, originally confiscated by the Crown in 1863, returned and wanted the Government to negotiate with Fletcher Building.

On Tuesday, Pania Newton, co-founder of Save Our Unique Landscape (Soul), told the New Zealand Herald a deal is "hours" away.

Fletcher staff were seen packing down fences and removing equipment at the site.

"A deal is coming. We are just working through the details, and have a meeting with whānau tonight to confirm they are happy with the arrangement," she said.

"We are hoping a resolution is just hours, if not a day, away."

Newton said she could not release any further details until after that meeting, but that they were "relieved".

"Fletcher has been in, starting to remove the last of their gear. We are really relieved. Conversations have been progressing really well."

But a Fletcher Building spokeswoman said discussions about the site's future were "ongoing".

"Fletcher Building is making minor changes to its traffic management plan at Ihumātao in response to reduced activity at the site.

"This includes removing some fencing and opening the road to the Maunga. Fletcher Building's residential development at Ihumātao continues to be on hold at the request of the Prime Minister."

NZME has approached Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office for comment.

A spokeswoman for Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who had met with Fletcher last year, said there was no announcement yet.

"Talks are progressing towards a resolution for the land at Ihumātao, but there is no announcement to make at this time."

The area of farmland on the Māngere peninsula known as Ihumātao is believed to be one of the first places Māori settled in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland).

The contested block was confiscated from Māori in 1863, acquired by the Crown and sold to the Wallace family.

The site was designated a Special Housing Area in 2014, paving the way for Fletcher Residential's purchase in 2016.

That December Fletcher gained consent to build 480 houses on the 32ha site and protesters began occupying it soon after, demanding it be made a public space and its heritage values preserved.

Those involved with the group Save Our Unique Landscape and various mana whenua - including nearby Makaurau Marae - have claimed the development would destroy the unique historical, cultural, spiritual, social and environmental values of the area, which is one of the country's first settlements.


This will.cost the taxpayers a lot....
It should cost us nothing, and it would've to, but someone stuck their beak in before fleeing to an island headed by her father, after that, saying the government would not get involved (too late to not get involved when you personally put a stop to legal land owners going about their business)
Watch out NZ, your private land could be next for a steal/taxpayer handout

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