Ihumātao protest: Jacinda Ardern has 'no intention' to visit site

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she has "no intention" to visit the Ihumātao protest site at this stage.

Thousands from across New Zealand have flocked to the Mangere site over the last two weeks to protest a Fletchers housing development planned for the area.

Protesters and police have been in a standoff since July 23 when occupiers of the site - believed to be one of New Zealand's earliest settlements - were served an eviction notice. 

While several Ministers, including Willie Jackson and Peeni Henare, and Green MPs have visited the site, calls continue to grow for the Prime Minister to make a visit and hear the concerns of protesters.

Demands for the Prime Minister to intervene continued on Monday night when more police were deployed to the site. Protest leader Pania Newton told The AM Show police rammed her to the ground with a gate during the late night tensions.

But Ardern told The AM Show on Tuesday she currently has "no intention" to head to Ihumātao.

"No plans at this stage. I haven't ruled out sometime down the track. But no intention at this stage," she said. 

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: The AM Show / Newshub.

Last month, after repeatedly saying she didn't want to get involved, Ardern met with parties disputing authority over the site, Auckland Council, and Fletchers. An outcome of that meeting was a temporary halt to any construction while a solution was sought.

Talks are currently underway between parties, with the Māori king on Saturday inviting mana whenua to a discussion following tikanga protocol. However, that won't include the Government or Fletchers.

"I think the most important role for us to play as Government is try and support and facilitate talks. They are obviously underway at present and they are ongoing," Ardern said.

"When it comes to what is happening on the ground... while people are there we just really urge there to be a peaceful protest to try and of course ensure a de-escalation.

"No one wants anything to be inflamed particularly while talks are underway and so we just need to create a space for that to happen, and that is what is happening."

Ardern wouldn't rule out the Government purchasing the land, but said that was a hypothetical at the moment.

"I am not coming in over the top with hypotheticals when at the moment these are discussions amongst Maori for Maori.

"Mana whenua are at the table and that is where these talks need to happen."

One of the tensions fuelling the dispute is that members of both sides of the debate say they are mana whenua and have a level of authority over the land.

Newton, leader of the Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) movement and the protest has family connections to the land. But some local kaumatua support the housing development programme.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has previously said the Government wants to get to the truth of the matter by speaking to those who had "kept the land warm all these centuries".

"Let's not have some of the statements by, in particular, people who don't belong there, who have not kept the land warm all these centuries, who are not in authority or do not have the mana to speak on behalf of them, let's not have this sort of media circus," he said.

He called some of the protesters "imposters".

Newshub.

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