Ihumātao: Flag lowered as 'pathway to resolution' found

The Māori King indicated on Wednesday that a "pathway to a resolution" has been found at Ihumātao.

A spokesperson for Māori King Kiingi Tūheitia said his work had largely concluded, after months of intense negotiations.

The breakthrough was symbolised by the lowering of the Kiingitanga flag.

"There's still work to do, but Kiingitanga is satisfied that now is the time to retrieve the flag from Ihumātao," Rahui Papa, the King's spokesperson said.

"In essence, Kiingi Tūheitia's work is done. He has successfully interceded on behalf of his people to find a pathway to a resolution that is outside of the Treaty process."

It not clear exactly what resolution has been reached.

The site, in south Auckland, has been the focus of controversy in recent months, after protesters on the land were served eviction notices in July last year.

The land, owned by Fletcher Building, was earmarked to have 480 houses built on it, but construction worked was halted due to the ongoing protest.

Speculation that a breakthrough had been made in the dispute was sparked on Tuesday when Fletcher workers were seen removing a fence on the site.

The Māori King first visited the site in August, and since then has acted as an intermediary between Ihumātao's iwi authority, which originally supported a proposed development, and activists who oppose it.

In September, the Māori King announced a consensus had been formed by mana whenua to see "their land returned".

National leader Simon Bridges said earlier on Wednesday that the dispute could cost taxpayers millions of dollars if the land was bought back from Fletcher's.

"Whatever deal the Government cuts isn’t going to be the end," said Bridges. "In fact, it may just be the beginning because the reality is, any sort of Government interference will call into question full and final treaty settlements.

"The Government buying its way out of this mess isn’t a solution. A treaty settlement, a legal land purchase and a court process should not be undone simply because the Prime Minister made a mistake by halting construction."

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said any agreement would be subject to final approval by the city's councillors.

"The discussions between Auckland Council, Government and Kiingitanga, who are acting on behalf of mana whenua, have been positive and have progressed well," Goff said in a statement. "There is confidence that a resolution will be reached soon on the ownership and governance of the land."