Ihumātao protest: Contractor's vehicles removed

Police have removed a contractor's vehicles from Ihumātao as well as one of their own vehicles.

Demonstrations have been underway at the south Auckland site for the last few weeks, with thousands of protesters flocking to the area from across New Zealand.

They have been demanding the cancellation of a housing development planned for the site, which they say is one of the country's earliest settlements and should be protected. It came after police presented an eviction notice to allow developers Fletchers to begin construction.

On Friday morning, Superintendent Jill Rogers confirmed "a small number of vehicles" were removed from Ihumātao. One was a police vehicle while the rest were a contractor's vehicles.

"This was done because the contractor's needed them to carry out their work in other areas (sic)," Rogers said in a statement.

"As Police confirmed last week we have reduced our presence at Ihumātao but remain on-site to ensure the safety of everyone present."

Last week, tensions stirred between police and protesters after a large contingent of officers arrived at the site. Protester leader Pania Newton claims she was pushed over during a scuffle - something police reject - while one protester racially abused an officer.

Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha then visited the site and said officer numbers would come down.

On Thursday, protest organisers threatened to march to the Prime Minister's office if she did not visit the protest site. They've launched a petition calling for Jacinda Ardern to visit, which received thousands of signatures within hours.

Talks are on-going into how to resolve the standoff, with protesters invited to a meeting organiser by Māori King Kiingi Tūheitia. 

However, one of the sticky points around the protest is who has authority to speak for the land. Members of both sides of the debate say they are mana whenua. 

Some local kaumatua support the proposed housing development while Newton has family connections to the land.


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