PM’s Ihumatao cave-in trashes settlement process

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s cave-in to protesters at Ihumatao at Mangere, Auckland, on Friday opens the floodgates to similar protests, trashes Treaty settlements, and erodes private property rights.

Ihumatao has industrial development to the east, Auckland Airport to the south, and a former farm intended for housing is to the west adjacent to the stone fields reserve .

Ihumatao has a history. The rock work at the stone fields reserve is evidence of long settlement although the area was vacated during the inter-tribal Musket Wars in the early 19th century before 1840.[1] 

Occupation resumed when British settlement made the area safer, but when the tribal rebellions started, residents there in 1863 were given the choice of taking the oath of allegiance or go join the anti-government Kingitanga. Many left to return later.

In 2001, after pressure from conservationists, two Auckland councils bought 100 hectares of stone fields from various owners and created the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve.[2]

Meanwhile, the area’s Te Kawerau a Maki iwi had Treaty settlement in 2015 that included financial redress of $6.5 million, most of Riverhead Forest, forest rentals, and more. [3]

That settlement summary does not mention confiscated land although the Te Kawerau a Maki website asserts that the land was confiscated.[4] However, an 1860s map of confiscated land shows that Ihumatao is outside the confiscation area.

A 32-hectare area worth $11.85 million on the eastern side of the stone fields reserve was a designated Special Housing Area in 2014. In June 2015, Fletcher Residential bought the Wallace farm and proposed to build 480 homes, of which Te Kawerau a Maki were to be given 40.

That prompted a member of the tribe, law graduate Pania Newton, to hold a protest meeting which led to her Save Our Unique Landscape campaign.

Newton wants the Government to buy the land and preserve it to maintain its spirituality, culture and history.[5] Her reasoning is that the Government has obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and He Whakaputanga and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.[6]

The protest continued for four years until last Tuesday when Te Kawerau a Maki elders asked the protesters to leave, eviction notices were served, and police started to remove protesters.

Newton bussed in more supporters. Green Party MPs Marama Davidson, Golriz Ghahraman, Jan Logie and Chloe Swarbrick joined the protest, and as the media frenzy escalated, police stopped evictions.

Then on Friday night Ardern buckled when she announced there will be no building until a solution is reached.[7]

Tamaki Makarau MP Peeni Henare, who is Whanau Ora Minister, warned on Saturday that every Treaty settlement ever done could be undermined if the Government buys the land.[8]

To be clear, a process to deal with such grievances has existed since 1985, and Te Kawerau a Maki has agreed to a full and final settlement of grievances. Pania Newton, who belongs to Te Kawerau a Maki but was not a signatory to that agreement, wishes to revisit a settled grievance.

Newton’s protesters are unlawfully occupying private land in a tribal protest that does not have the support of her tribe. The police are failing to uphold the property rights of the land owner, and 480 houses are not being built at a time that Auckland is crying out for housing.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark refused to give in to protesters over the Seabed and Foreshore issue. Ardern has just sent the opposite message, opening the floodgates to similar protests, trashing Treaty settlements, and eroding private property rights.

These actions do not only conflict with New Zealand law but also conflict with Maori culture in the failure to demonstrate fundamental respect for the decision of the elders.

Forget the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, the solution lies in the Treaty of Waitangi in which protection, property rights, and equal treatment was guaranteed for all. That includes Te Kawerau a Maki, Pania Newton, Fletchers, as well as all the people of New Zealand.

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[4] See

[5] 480 homes planned for Maori burial site.


[7] Building suspended.