Ihumātao: All eyes on weekend protest as Government steps in

Interested parties will be watching what happens at Ihumātao over the weekend closely, as the Government moves in to try and find a solution.

New Zealand's Chief Human Rights commissioner Paul Hunt told Newshub he's visited the site and was shocked by what he found. 

"I'm struck by how peaceful it is, there's a lot of respect here. I'm also struck by the fact that this is a human rights issue and we need to think about the human rights implications of what is happening."

He's hoping Government and other parties keep this in mind as they try to find a solution.

Efforts to end the dispute are stepping up over the weekend, as more people arrive to protest a planned Fletcher Building development on the south Auckland land.

Protesters call themselves 'protectors' of the land, which is one of the country's earliest settlements, and argue it should not be used for the 480-house subdivision.

Jacinda Ardern announced the Government would step into the dispute on Friday evening, dispatching ministers Peeni Henare and Willie Jackson to the dispute on Saturday.

Henare said he's primarily there to listen.

"The number one job is to hear those of our whanau and those who have made their way to Ihumātao to make sure that they are part of the dialogue too.

"This isn't one-sided and fair right across all parties concerned."

Ardern promised there would be no building on the land until a solution is reached, which Fletcher Building has agreed to.

"We've continued to allow conversation to occur, to have hui with Government and with mana whenua," spokesperson Steve Evans said.

University of Auckland professor of Māori studies Margaret Mutu told Newshub it's important people have patience while those talks take place.

"If you allow it to take as much time as it needs to sort itself out I am very confident that it would sort itself out, but if you try to rush it, nope, it won't work."

She believes building on wahi tapu (sacred) land invites disaster, and there's only really one way out of the situation.

"It really doesn't matter who pays Fletchers, whether its the Government or whoever this is, I mean everyone looks at the Government but Fletchers just wants their money."

Fletcher actually came to an agreement with the local iwi to build fewer houses than originally planned, give some of the land back. The iwi called it "better than anything we have ever achieved from Housing New Zealand or the Crown" and said protesters were "misguided".

Prof Mutu said the Government may feel obligated to keep to the original legislated settlement for the land, but she wants the Prime Minister to consider whether that would be fair.

"What I would ask her to do is to think very carefully about how fair and how just that settlement was, was it really in the interests of that hapu or was it more in the interest of the Crown."


Contact Newshub with your story tips: