Auckland mana whenua takes housing opposition to UN
A Māori interest group is taking its battle over a south Auckland housing development to the United Nations.
Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) was set up due to community concerns about Special Housing Area 62 at Ihumātao.
Fletcher Residential bought the land and is planning to build 480 homes on the 32 hectares near Māngere.
However, local mana whenua claim the area is culturally significant and archaeologists believe it could contain middens, lava caves and Māori burial sites.
The site is located next to the Ōtuataua Stonefields, a category 2 historic place. Carbon dating puts human settlement in the area around 1160 AD.
SOUL spokesperson Pania Newton told Newshub they've decided to take their case to the United Nations' Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
"The Government and Auckland Council made a mistake in approving this land as a Special Housing Area, and in doing so have breached a number of articles in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
"They're refusing to step up and fix this, so we feel like we've got no other option."
A Givealittle page has been set up in an effort to raise $3000 to help support SOUL members while they attend the next UNPFII meeting in New York on April 26.
The UNPFII is the world's highest body for matters relating to indigenous people. It was set up in 2000, with New Zealand as a signatory.
Since 2010, New Zealand has also been a supporter of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The land at Ihumātao was confiscated by the British in 1863 out of punishment for local Māori supporting the Kīngitanga movement.
In 2012, the Environment Court ruled that all rural land west of Auckland Airport be designated as future urban space. This ended a plan from the Manukau District Council era called the Māngere Gateway Heritage project, that would have seen Ihumātao protected.
In May 2014, the Government and Auckland Council designated the land at Ihumātao a Special Housing Area. SOUL was formed in opposition to the move in early 2015.
In May last year, Auckland Council upheld its decision to keep the site as a Special Housing Area, despite strenuous community opposition.
The group's held a number of rallies, built a stone whare, set up a virtual occupation of the land and threatened a Bastion Point type occupation if construction goes ahead.