Mana whenua agree Ihumātao land should be returned - Māori King

The Māori King says mana whenua of Ihumātao "want their land returned". 

Since early August, the Kiingitanga has been acting as an intermediary between mana whenua with different views on what should be done with the disputed south Auckland land, believed to be one of the country's earliest settlements.

While some support progressing the construction of houses, others have occupied the site, calling for the Fletchers housing development to be cancelled. 

The Kiingitanga has previously stated support for the Fletchers development but on August 3 invited all mana whenua to work together to come to a resolution. The discussions followed tikanga protocol and didn't include the Government and Fletchers.

In a statement provided to Newshub, the Māori King, Kiingi Tuuheitia said the mana whenua of Ihumātao had now reached a consensus on the future of the land. 

"Although the land has remained occupied, mana whenua representatives have engaged in good faith discussions under the cloak of Kiingitanga and have reached a unified position on Ihumātao," a spokesperson said.

"Mana whenua agree they want their land returned, so they can make decisions about its future."

The statement said mana whenua agree the return of land was "outside of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process" and called for an "innovative and modern solution that does not financially disadvantage iwi". 

The Kiingitanga also acknowledged Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's previous intervention - where all construction on the site was paused.

It followed the ramping up of protests at the site in July after police presented occupiers with an eviction notice. Thousands of demonstrators then flocked to the area from across New Zealand.

After the Prime Minister didn't visit the site, a large group of protesters marched from Ihumātao to her Mt Albert electorate office to present a 26,000-strong petition asking her to make the trip.

Ardern promised to visit the site eventually, but didn't want to intervene further while talks were underway with the Kiingitanga.

"It is important that the Government prevents any further alienation of the people from their land, while discussions are underway".

The statement said the views of mana whenua had been conveyed to the Government and "urged it to negotiate with Fletchers for the return of Ihumātao to its rightful owners".

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters responded by saying the Government welcomed the statement.

"We thank Kingi Tūheitia for his work on this, the intention of the Prime Minister in seeking for the work on the land to stop was for the Kingitanga to play a facilitative role," he said.

Peters said the Government was happy to join the discussions on the future of the land.

"As we go through the process we are mindful of heritage claims, precedent issues and the commercial interests in the site.

"We look forward to discussions that involve all parties to find a resolution to these matters."