Ihumatao: a postscript

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The conflict over the future of Ihumatao continues. It will continue forever if the proposed residential development proceeds.

The eviction attempts and arrests are all over the local news. I watch video of the tinorangatira draped women in the song of passive resistance facing off against the gilets jaunes of the New Zealand Police.

It’s when I hear Labour MP Kelvin Davis declaring that the Coalition Government cannot get involved as it is a dispute within an iwi and the Fat Inspector look-a-like intoning that the protestors should “respect the decisions of their kaumatua and kuia…” I realize that my perception of the issues may be somewhat different from the current powers that be.

This is not about the need for additional housing, defying older community members or the legal right to sell; it is about the inherent cultural value of this Ihumatao land to New Zealand and to Tamaki-makau-rau.  

1.     The site designated as a Special Housing Area for residential development is a significantly historic site. Previous attempts have been made by territorial authorities to acquire the land but were opposed by the then Pakeha owners whose ancestors historically came into possession of it by direct New Zealand Government grant following what we call “The Land Wars” – it was confiscated Maori Land.

2.    The legal owner of the land  decided to sell the land.

3.      The land was sold to a  building company

4.      New Zealand and Auckland need new housing to be built particularly for those who cannot afford to buy “affordable housing”.

5.. There are other amounts of sub-divided land and undeveloped sub-divisions in the general Auckland South area where affordable housing could be built now and in the future by the building company involved in the current Ihumatao dispute.

6.   It is the land that is the issue not the people who are protesting its proposed development; not the fact that it was sold to a development company; not its Special Housing Designation – it is the inherent unique cultural significance of the land for all of New Zealand and for the Tamaki-makau-rau region.

7.    Opposition to the development of the land is appropriate whether it is made by young people affiliated to the land or by those with no association because of the nature of the land.

It is concerning that the current Labour Government does not see that. It is intensely concerning that they are dismissing this opposition of the basis that it is an “intra-iwi dispute”.   It is terrifying that a Maori MP would suggest that those opposing the destruction of this land should bow to the decisions of people who are merely older than they are.  

“ Graeme Campbell, who as Auckland conservator for the Department of Conservation in the late 1990s negotiated and then amalgamated many of the Otuataua Stonefields properties, is just as unequivocal.

“This land should not be an SHA. What we’ve learnt in the past 20 years is that the Polynesian migration is a much richer story than we knew in 1999, and predictably we’ll have an even greater understanding of this in the next 10 or 20 years, if the land stays open. It’s not just Auckland, but New Zealand, and it’s international – one of the great migrations. It’s the end point of the Pacific migration. Mangere and Otuataua is a 5000-year-old story.

“You can say this is the place where Polynesians became Maori, and there were maybe 30,000 people living between Mangere and Wiri, a proto-Polynesian city.” “     Ihumatao and the Otautaua Stonefields: a very special area. Geoff Chapple, Noted/Listener 3rd June 2016

Here is the statement from Steve Evans of Fletcher Building Limited: ” “We’re the rightful and legitimate owner of the land,” Steve Evans from Fletcher Building has said. “Fletcher Building respects any person’s right to protest. However, we are owner of the land at Ōruarangi Road, and we look forward to working with mana whenua to develop housing for their people, and to build a new neighbourhood. For now, our primary focus is on the safety of our people, of Police, and of those protesting. We hope that the protest does not become unsafe.” Fletcher Building continues to work with iwi including Te Kawerau ā Maki and Te Ākitai Waiohua, and support the kaumatua and kuia who yesterday asked protestors to leave, Evans said.”  Stuff July 25, 2019

If you are interested in the history of the two iwi cited in the above statement

Te Kawarau a Maki     http://www.tekawerau.iwi.nz/history

Te Akitai Waiohua   http://www.teakitai.com/index.php/about-us

At the end of the narrative of Te Akitai Waiohua and before a timeline that refers to the year 1,000 for this area it says:  

“The Otuataua stonefields in Ihumatao remain as one of the last enduring examples of Te Ākitai Waiohua occupation and history in the region.  Constant urban development in Auckland has not only impacted on the ability of Te Ākitai Waiohua to re-establish itself as an iwi, but it has affected the relationship of the iwi with its traditional environment. The ability for Te Ākitai Waiohua to meet its kaitiakitanga obligations and rangatiratanga aspirations are inextricably linked with the progress of Tamaki Makaurau”

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

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