Ihumātao: Deal struck to buy disputed land

A deal has been struck between the Government and Fletcher Building to buy the disputed Ihumātao land for just under $30 million, the first step in breaking the long-running deadlock.

As RNZ reported earlier this week, Cabinet considered the deal on Monday between all three parties, including Kiingitanga - on behalf of mana whenua.

A Memorandum of Understanding (He Pūmautanga) has been signed by the Kiingitanga, the Crown and Auckland Council which sets out how parties will work together to decide the future of the land.

"The parties acknowledge that the Crown's acquisition of the whenua will be for housing purposes," the document says.

Protest banners at Ihumatao Photo: Nicole Hunt
Protest banners at Ihumatao Photo: Nicole Hunt

A key clause stresses the agreement does not constitute a "settlement of historical [Treaty] claims", a response to concerns any deal could effectively re-open full and final settlements.

"I want to thank all the parties involved for working together to come to this agreement," Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

"I particularly want to thank Kiingi Tūheitia and his officials for their leadership of this process. He Pūmautanga represents the starting point for the future of Ihumātao."

The land was bought under the Land for Housing Programme; Housing Minister Megan Woods said "the parties have committed that there will be housing on the site".

"The exact form that takes will be agreed by the signatories to He Pūmautanga - it could include Papakainga housing, housing for mana whenua and some public housing. It will be a sensitive development that recognises the special characteristics of the land."

Taxpayers aren't a bank - National 

But National said taxpayers shouldn't be stumping up the money to cover the Government’s "bungling" of the land dispute

“Taxpayers aren’t a bank to be called upon to clean up the Government’s poor decisions, particularly when it is meddling in private property rights, finance spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said today.

He believed the Prime Minister should never have become involved with the dispute "and taxpayers shouldn’t bailing her out now".

“The ramifications of this Crown deal go much further than the lost opportunity of building houses immediately. It will call all full and final treaty settlements into question and set a dangerous precedent for other land occupations, like the one at Wellington’s Shelly Bay.

“More than 20,000 Kiwi families are on the waiting list for a home this Christmas. The Government should not be spending $30 million on stopping 480 much-needed houses from being built right now.

“Promises to build houses in the future are all well and good, but this Government has made plenty of housing promises that haven’t come to pass. Just look at KiwiBuild."

He said National would protect the land owner’s property rights and ensure full and final treaty settlements are just that - "full and final.”

Ihumātao protesters at the climate change march on Auckland's Queen St on 27 September 2019....
Ihumātao protesters at the climate change march on Auckland's Queen St on 27 September 2019. Photo: RNZ

Kiingitanga response

Kiingi Tuuheitia Pootatau Te Wherowhero VII has "given his royal blessing to the resolution".

After "more than 160 years of alienation from Ihumaatao, the descendants of the original owners will be reconnected with their whenua,"says Kiingitanga spokesman Rahui Papa.

"Kiingitanga's intervention brought a tikanga-based approach to the discussions and gave the parties the time to develop a "by Maaori for Maaori" solution".

Kiingi Tuuheitia visited lhumaatao in August 2019 and offered to facilitate discussions between mana whenua that "resulted in a consensus that they wanted their land returned".

"But the most important thing was a peaceful and lawful agreement by willing parties that would see an historical grievance put to rights," Papa says.

Kiingi Tuuheitia thanked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern "for her leadership in negotiating a positive outcome".

Pania Newton, spokesperson for Save Our Unique Landscape, which led the movement against the...
Pania Newton, spokesperson for Save Our Unique Landscape, which led the movement against the development, at Ihumātao. Photo: Nicole Hunt

Rōpu Whakahaere established to guide future decisions

A steering committee, or Rōpu Whakahaere, will be established, says Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson, as it's "important that those who have an interest in the future of Ihumātao have a seat at the decision making table".

It will be comprised of Three Ahi Kaa representatives supported by the Kiingitanga, one Kiingitanga representative and two Crown representatives.

Robertson also acknowledges the decision by Heritage New Zealand to extend the classification in regard to the land and that that will have some impact on what happens, saying "alongside housing, the parties want to use some of the land to provide better recognition of the cultural and heritage values associated with Ihumātao".

Auckland Council will send an observer to attend meetings and work with the Rōpu Whakahaere to "achieve the vision and objectives of He Pūmautanga".

- additional reporting ODT Online 

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