'Racism' behind why Govt won't buy Ihumātao land - Māori Party

The Māori Party president is accusing the Government of double standards when it comes to resolving Māori issues.

The land dispute at Ihumātao is gathering steam, drawing thousands of protestors over the weekend.

Che Wilson says mana whenua are told the system cannot produce a solution to purchase private land, "whereas something like South Canterbury Finance, we jump immediately to trying to help them to solve all the issues. So there's quite a lot of racism associated with any resolution".

South Canterbury Finance investors were bailed out to the tune of $1.6 billion in 2010 when the company went under. It was by far the largest amount paid out under the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme, implemented in the depths of the global financial crisis to discourage Kiwis from pulling their investments. 

"We want to ensure that ordinary New Zealanders feel that their deposits are safe in the current uncertain international financial market conditions," then-Finance Minister Michael Cullen said in 2008.

When South Canterbury Finance collapsed two years later, the National-led Government of the day had little choice but to pay up.  

The amount paid to South Canterbury Finance investors is close to the total ever paid out in Treaty settlements to iwi. Since 1993, $2.2 billion has been spent settling claims - out of a total $1322 billion in Government spending since then. 

Fletcher bought the land in 2016 from a family who'd owned it since it was confiscated 150 years earlier. It wants to build a housing development, and had cut a deal with local iwi leaders.

Wilson thinks the situation shows a lack of an independent Māori voice in Government.

"At the moment you've got a Labour Māori voice and a National Māori voice and a NZ First Māori voice - not a Māori voice."

He feels sorry for the Māori MPs in Government, saying they are restricted by what their parties do.

The Prime Minister has put a pause on any construction until there is a resolution to the long-running conflict.

Wilson says the Government should pay off developer Fletcher to end the standoff. 

"Treasury say they don't have money to do X, Y and Z - then the Christchurch attacks happen and then they find all this money to repay gun owners. There's always money available if there's a will."

He says it is a chance to correct the wrongs afflicted by the Crown.