Ihumātao: Powerful powhiri welcomes state ministers to protest site

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By RNZ News

About 2000 people showed their support as New Zealand protests against a controversial proposed housing development at Ihumātao in South Auckland entered their fifth day.

RNZ reporters at the scene sid it was abuzz with people and activities that included traditional Māori massage, mirimiri.

At least 50 tents were erected in the main paddock which protesters reclaimed from police yesterday.

READ MORE: Our trail of tears: The story of Ihumātao was stolen

LISTEN TO RNZ: Peeni Henare speaks to Kim Hill on Saturday Morning

Government minister Peeni Henare, the MP for Tāmaki Makaurau, arrived at the site at midday with fellow minister Willie Jackson.

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They were welcomed onto Ihumātao with a roaring powhiri.

Earlier this week both ministers were reluctant to weigh in on the land dispute, saying there was nothing the government could do to resolve it.

A representative of mana whenua, Eru Rakena, spoke directly to Henare, asking him what he would do if Ihumātao was his land and under threat.

Appeal for support
He asked the ministers for their support to save the land from a housing development so it could be used by his mokopuna.

He said whānau protesting were mana whenua and had always been mana whenua.

Mana leader Hone Harawira … “stay away” from the issue plea to the prime minister. Image: RNZ

Mana movement leader Hone Harawira said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should stay away from the land dispute at Ihumātao, and allow her Māori ministers to find a resolution.

Yesterday Ardern vowed that no building would take place at Ihumātao while the government and other parties tried to broker a solution

Harawira arrived at the site this morning with more than 100 Destiny Church members to pledge his support for protesters.

He said it was disappointing that Māori ministers had not taken a lead role in trying to find a solution.

“It would be nice to see the Māori ministers leading here rather than being told what to do by Jacinda.

‘Stay overseas’
“I don’t think she knows what’s going on here. Stay overseas. Leave it to Peeni and the whānau here. Let’s get it done.”

Earlier, one of the Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) campaign leaders, Pania Newton, said people were arriving from all over the country to oppose the Fletcher Building development on land considered sacred by iwi.

Newton said there would be a free concert later today, with Stan Walker, Ladi6, Troy Kingi, NRG Rising and others performing.

“We just are so grateful for the support that is coming in from the nation.

“We are expecting around 10,000 to 15,000 visitors so we do encourage everybody to come on down and enjoy the event and to come and take a stand on the land with us and with our whānau and our marae to protect it.”

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki said Pākehā systems and the government would never be able to help Māori.

He said a solution to the land dispute would come from the ground up.

Range of stakeholders
Henare told Kim Hill on Saturday Morning ahead of his visit to the disputed site that there was a range of stakeholders.

“There are mana whenua, there are whānau, there are iwi, there are local supporters, that’s the trickiness of this all … mana whenua have as we know traditional rights in places like this, but we also have other people involved too.

“Mana whenua are Ti Akitai, Te Wai o Hua, Tainui and Te Kawerau ā Maki – those are the mana whenua. Now whether people like it or not, engagement that the Crown has had in the past with those tribes … for legislation purposes, they are recognised as mana whenua.”

But Henare said no one was denying the whakapapa to the land of people from the group Save Our Unique Landscape.

“There’s no doubt it’s caused a lightning rod, if you like, for the issue of Māori land rights and that’s what’s seen so many other iwi and people from across the country make their way to Ihumātao.”

Henare said it was a complex issue which had been through many courts and also involved Auckland Council, as well as mana whenua.

“One of the points made to me by mana whenua, who have said many of the people that are going there aren’t from there, and that creates a bit of a challenge because they would argue that they’re not respecting the rights of mana whenua there.

‘Passionate people’
“While I don’t want to belittle the role of mana whenua in this, the fact remains there’s many passionate people that made their way to Ihumātao.”

The government has been considering how to broker a situation for a number of months, Henare said.

He said he and minister Jackson were going there today primarily to listen and to get a feel for what was going on.

Despite the prime minister’s assurances no houses would be built at Ihumātao until a solution was found between both groups, people still arrived during the night to support those protesting against the development.

Green MP Mārama Davidson was one of those supporting the SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) group by sitting with the line of protesters in front of police.

Around 30 tents were set up in a paddock and people were also sleeping in their cars.

Throughout the night there was singing and speeches of support as many fires around Ihumātao lit up the whenua.

Fletcher Building welcomes talks
A senior Fletcher Building executive has welcomed the chance for talks while the development of housing at the Ihumātao site in south Auckland stops.

Steve Evans, the company’s chief executive of residential and land development, said the company had had about a dozen meetings with the Save Our Unique Landscape group in recent years.

Last night, after meeting iwi, Fletchers and Auckland Council, Ardern said no houses would be built at the site while they tried to broker a solution.

Evans said people had the right to protest.

He said the hui with iwi and the government meant no further work would happen at the site for now while talks were arranged.

  • This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.
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