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August 12, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Ihumātao, its Whakapapa, and why it isn’t Mana Whenua v Outsiders

800 years ago, tāngata whenua of Ngāti Mahuta, Te Ahiwaru, Waikato-Tainui, Te Ākitai and Te Waiohua started settling at Ihumatāo. The fertile land is considered to be one of the first to hold a thriving gardening and cultivation scene in Aotearoa.

The land holds numerous wāhi tapu, including a number of lava cave entrances which hold urupā (burial grounds).

In 1863, the government passed the New Zealand Settlements Act, and confiscated land at Ihumātao to punish support for the Kīngitanga movement.

In 1869, the land was sold to private Pākehā land owners, the Wallace family.

In 1985, Ihumātao mana whenua through the Te Waiohua iwi collective, lodged the Wai 8 Tribunal claim. It discussed the confiscation of Ihumātao land. At the time, the tribunal was prevented from ruling on claims occurring before 1975.

In multiple settlements from the 1990s, The tribunal found that although the Settlements Act was itself valid, every confiscation under it by the government breached the law—by both failing to provide evidence there was rebellion within the areas, and by unnecessarily confiscating uninhabitable areas of land.

In 2010, the same Te Waiohua collective established Te Ākitai o Waiohua Iwi Authority, and was granted government mandate to settle Wai 8 so far as it relates to them. This was to allow potential for other mandates as there is overlapping whakapapa from multiple Tāmaki hapū.

For this reason, Wai 8 has never been fully settled. No iwi or hapū has the exclusive ‘mandate’ to negotiate over Ihumātao lands.

In 2007, the Manukau City Council intended Ihumātao be added to the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve.

This attempt was thwarted in 2012 when the Wallace family, still private owners of the land, sought to have the land re-designated so that housing might be built on it.

The case went to the Environment Court.

Multiple Ihumātao mana whenua, including The Makaurau Marae Committee and Te Kawerau a Maki, opposed the change but lost the case.

The Wallace family offered to sell to Manukau, but the council could not pay the price they wanted.

In 2014, the Auckland City Council rezoned the land as appropriate for a Special Housing Area (SHA) because of its proximity to the Auckland CBD. This makes building houses on the land cheaper, and reduces many legal obligations, ‘fast-tracking’ it for development.

In 2015, Pania Newtown—along with her whānau—established SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape), opposing the rezoning of the land. Pania and her cousins all whakapapa to the land through multiple mana whenua ties: Ngāti Mahuta, Te Ahiwaru, Waikato-Tainui, Te Ākitai and Te Waiohua. Through the campaign, many councillors have announced regret for the decision, believing they were ill-informed in making it.

However, an established SHA can only be changed by the Minister of Housing and Urban Development; currently that minister is Megan Woods.

In 2016, the land was sold to Fletcher Residential for a rumoured $19 million, on the condition they would develop it under the SHA scheme.

As a 56% overseas-owned company, and because the land has wāhi tapu, the company by law had to prove to the Overseas Investment Office that it would bring benefits to New Zealand above and beyond that of any local firm, in order to allow them to build under the scheme.

They argued their capacity to build a lot of homes quickly and cheaply, which was appealing given the Auckland housing crisis.

Fletcher also began negotiations with the board of Te Kawerau a Maki, one of the many Tāmaki hapū with whakapapa to Ihumātao. Fletcher’s had no obligation to negotiate with any iwi group, but sought out Te Kawerau a Maki as a means to boost their claim.

The five trustees of Te Kawerau a Maki, without the support of Makaurau Marae Committee nor other mana whenua (in particular Te Waiohua), negotiated a series of houses to be put aside for their hapū, as well as a ‘buffer’ of free land around the site.

While the deal would mitigate the effects of development on the land at Ihumātao, SOUL and the Makaurau Marae Committee, who are also mana whenua and kaitiaki of Ihumātao, have stated that the deal fails to represent the consent and approval of all mana whenua.

In February 2019, Fletcher announced that for a good offer, they would be open to selling.

In July 2019, the NZ Police began evicting mana whenua off what the law says is Fletcher’s “property”. This was when the issue began to gain the profile it has now.

2019: A Summary

Land was confiscated illegally by the Crown in 1863 and sold to Pākehā settlers, who owned it for 150 years. They chose not to sell to the council to maintain for the public good because the price offered was too small. Instead, they sold to Fletcher—who, last year, lost $660 million—and has an interest to build hundreds of cheap and condensed houses on the outskirts of Tāmaki for profit.

Auckland has a housing shortage and wants land to build on, so the council and government approved the build. The city has 39 golf courses, 14 of which are Auckland Council-owned. Meanwhile,only 4% of Auckland’s population are registered golfers.

Te Kawerau a Maki, five representatives who were offered a place at the negotiating table with Fletcher, took the opportunity to try to make the best of a bad situation. They have ended up being incorrectly referred to as the exclusive mana whenua.

Powers to intervene?

The government says they can’t step in over ‘iwi mandates’ but one does not exist. They say “Treaty settlements are full and final” but one never happened.

They recently agreed to spend $113 million on the America’s Cup.

They have an interest to protect open land in the fight against climate change.

They stole the land illegally per the Treaty and its own law, and thus it was sold illegally.

They allowed a failing company to cut legal corners and blindly gave it permission to build on it.

They have a Public Works Act with which they can buy back the land. That’s the one they use to cut off corners of high school classrooms for highway roads.

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