Battle over Auckland's Ihumātao housing development heads to the United Nations for a third time

A delegation of south Auckland residents is heading to the United Nations in Geneva for a third time.

They're protesting a 480 home Fletchers Residential development at Ihumātao, which local mana whenua claim will be built on land deemed wāhi tapu or sacred.

Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) spokesperson Pania Newton has presented twice before to the UN. She hopes this time will spark some action.

"We want this Government to see the mistakes of the last Government and rectify them," she says.

Ms Newton will present to the UN committee on International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this week.

"We would like them to add pressure to our calls for this land to be returned to the community and recognised for its significant historical, cultural and archaeological values and preserved for future generations as a public open space," she says.

The land at Ihumātao borders the Ōtuataua Stonefields, which is a category 2 heritage site.

It was made a Special Housing Area in 2014, with the National-led Government and Auckland Council over-ruling previous plans to give the land heritage protection.

The Housing Minister has the power to disestablish a Special Housing Area under the Housing Accord Act, but Ms Newton says SOUL has had no formal response from Phil Twyford or anyone else in the Labour-led Government so far.

In 2016, Labour MP for Māngere Aupito William Sio tabled a 4000-strong petition in Parliament, which called for the SHA status to be revoked.

At the time, Mr Sio called the development "unjust" and promised to stand in solidarity with his community.

Steve Evans, chief executive of Fletcher Building Residential and Land Development, says the land at Ihumātao has been privately owned and farmed for 150 years, has never been public space and doesn’t block access to the public park protecting the Stonefields.

He says both central and local government have confirmed they have no need for more reserve space at the Ōtuataua Stonefields.

“Very importantly, we are working closely and positively with the local iwi and are disappointed that commentators including the UN have not consulted with local iwi leaders.”

Mr Evans says SOUL and other land protest groups need to go through either the Waitangi Tribunal or the Maori Land Court.

“Attempts by opponents to use these avenues have to date failed due to there being no valid claims to change private land to public.”

Fletcher Building has launched a website with information on the development at Ihumātao.