Kaitaia Airport takeover ends in arrests

Kaitaia Airport takeover ends in arrests

Kaitaia Airport is back up and running after a 24-hour siege by protesters over Treaty negotiations.

A cordon has been placed around parts of the airport after protesters lit three small bonfires near the road entrance, which were put out by the Fire Service.

Around 16 police officers were called to the scene this afternoon wanting a peaceful end to the protest which began yesterday.

Police say they began negotiating with the protestors, but when that didn't work they served trespass notices on them around 2pm.

The demonstrators said their takeover of the airport was in relation to a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with four of five iwi in the region, which didn't include Ngati Kahu.

Ngati Kahu claims the airport land was taken from a family during World War II.

Police say many of the around 15 protestors at the airport left when they were asked to, but they arrested five people and charged them with trespass. The four men and one woman will appear in the Kaitaia District Court next week.

The next flight out of the Northland's only major airport is set to depart at 5pm.

Earlier today, it appeared the group had broken a promise to allow a flight carrying doctors to land.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said he was "not very impressed" with the protest and was adamant the action wasn't on behalf of Ngati Kahu, but rather "a few louts".

He says the airport is already available to them under the proposed agreement, but because of the overlapping interests with Ngai Takoto it would have to be shared.

Mr Finlayson labelled the protest a "standard Popata B-Grade performance", referring to Hone Harawira's nephews Wi and John Popata who were leading the action.

"I'm sick of their behaviour and sick of the way they treat the mana of their iwi with this sort of thing. It's totally inappropriate and it is oafish behaviour. They may not like the term, but it is oafish behaviour," he said.

John Popata warned the protest wasn't over.

"We will fight forever and ever and we are pissed off at Chris Finalyson that they don't come here and sort shit out." 

New Zealand First leader and Northland MP Winston Peters said insulting the group wouldn't solve the problem.

Shutting the airport down meant a large group of people, both Maori and European, and particularly those who are sick, would be "seriously harmed".

"You've got the major airport in the north, the very far north, the only one we've got, shut. What's the minister doing? Throwing insults at people he was meant to be negotiating with and ramming his solutions down everyone's throat. It's not good."

He welcomed the end of the occupation, saying while he didn't approve of the action Ngati Kahu should have benefitted from a High Court decision asking the Waitangi Tribunal to reconsider their case.

It should have been a signal for Mr Finlayson, but he "totally ignored it".

"It demonstrates that the functions of Parliament do matter and that all Ngati Kahu was seeking was a fair hearing." 

The local carrier Barrier Airlines was losing business while the airport was shut, he said.

Prime Minister John Key said the protesters have gone the wrong way to try to implement change.

"I'm not very impressed with their actions," he said.

"There are legitimate ways of resolving those issues through the treaty settlements process.

"The treaty settlements minister has been quite willing to have those discussions with the iwi involved."

Police say yesterday's protest meant one flight departed without any passengers and a flight from Auckland, due to arrive at 5pm, was cancelled.

Far North area commander Inspector Wendy Robilliard said Tuesday's protest had been peaceful but there was potential for problems if an emergency occurred on inbound flights.

The three flights a day to and from Kaitaia often carry medical staff and supplies and patients, she said.

Barrier Air is ferrying passengers by bus to and from Kerikeri for Auckland flights.

Parliament today passed four Treaty settlement Bills that give iwi nearly $100 million compensation.

Redress in the Te Hiku claims Bills include giving iwi joint governance over Ninety Mile Beach in the Far North.

During a debate on the settlements in the House this morning, Mr Finlayson said if Ngati Kahu haven't concluded a settlement within three years of Ngai Takoto's agreement – by December 2018 – then Ngai Takoto has the sole right to buy the airport as a deferred selection property.

3 News / NZN