Ihumātao deal 'just around the corner', Pania Newton announces

A deal over the future of Ihumātao in south Auckland is imminent, lead protester Pania Newton says.

The land is believed to be one of the country's earliest settlements and has been the site of highly publicised protest since July when occupiers were presented with an eviction notice. 

The land was meant to be used for a 480-property development from Fletcher Building, but protesters called for it to be protected. Following the intervention of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in late July, work on the land was halted while parties figured out an agreement on how to go forward. 

On Tuesday, Newton, the head of the Save Our Unique Landscape group and one of the lead protesters, told Newshub that a deal was imminent - potentially within hours.

"For us here on the whenua, it is a huge relief. For us, it is a sign that our conversations are progressing well and we can expect a resolution in the coming days," she told Newshub.

She said a hui would be held on Tuesday night.

"A resolution is just around the corner."

It comes after Fletcher workers were seen moving barriers and equipment around. The building company said this was due to making changes to its traffic management plan because of reduced activity at the site. 

"Fletcher Building's residential development at Ihumātao continues to be on hold at the request of the Prime Minister," it said in a statement.

"Discussions with all parties on the future of the site are progressing."

Newton said Fletcher was downplaying the company leaving the whenua. 

Thousands of protesters flocked to the site in July and August demanding the land be returned to mana whenua, who were initially divided over what should be its future. In September, after Kiingitanga acted as an intermediary between mana whenua with different views, the Māori King announced that a consensus had been formed by mana whenua to see "their land returned".

A spokesperson for Finance Minister Grant Robertson said: "Talks are progressing towards a resolution for the land at Ihumātao, but there is no announcement to make at this time."