Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Ihumātao

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she will visit Ihumātao, it's "just a matter of timing".

On Thursday, a large group of protesters marched from Ihumātao to Ardern's Mt Albert office to present a 26,000-strong petition asking her to visit the historic south Auckland site. Ardern's staff received the invitation as the Prime Minister was in Wellington.

Demonstrations have been underway there for weeks, with thousands of protesters flocking to the area from across New Zealand. They are demanding the cancellation of a Fletcher's housing development planned for the site.

Ardern has been under fire from the protesters for not visiting the site, with protest organiser Pania Newton repeatedly calling for Crown intervention. In the meantime, talks have been facilitated by Kingitanga to try to find a resolution.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Ihumātao
Photo credit: Newshub.

Despite so far refusing to visit the site, Ardern said on Friday that she will visit the site eventually.

In response to a question from Newshub asking if she would "want to see that land yourself? Do you want to experience it?", Ardern said: "Absolutely, and I will. I have never ruled out visiting".

"For me, it is all about making sure I respect the process that is underway, that is being led by Kingitanga," she said.

"But I will visit Ihumātao, that has been no question for me, it is all just a matter of timing."

Ardern has previously said she had "no intention" to visit the site.

"No plans at this stage. I haven't ruled out sometime down the track. But no intention at this stage," she told The AM Show earlier in August.

On Friday, she wouldn't say exactly when a visit would occur but stressed she wanted to give the talks currently underway some space.

"I want to give that process the time it needs, I don't want to create any distraction around that, because that is the thing that will give us resolution."

ACT Party leader David Seymour reacted by saying it would be "extraordinarily naive" for Ardern to visit.

He says Ardern "emboldened" the protesters by last month announcing a temporary halt to any construction at the site after a meeting with relevant parties, including Fletchers and Auckland Council.

"A prime ministerial visit will only provide them with further legitimacy.

"It is extraordinary that Jacinda Ardern has taken the side of illegal occupiers over the legal owners of the property."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Ihumātao
Photo credit: Newshub / Getty.

The AM Show host Duncan Garner said on Friday morning that a source close to the talks had told him Fletchers is willing to sell the land for around $38 million.

Ardern said until the Kingitanga made any announcement, it was all speculation.

"I certainly have heard some of those conversations in the public domain, but again, conversations and the talks to seek a resolution, they are being led by Kingitanga, and until that is finalised, everything else is speculation.

"The conversations are still ongoing, the talks are very active and live, but everything is speculative around that until those talks have concluded.

"I really wouldn't want to try and make any estimates around when those talks will conclude, they are active and live, they are underway and have been actively for the last week or more."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Ihumātao
Photo credit: Newshub.

The 480-house development is planned for the area but protesters say the land, which is one of the country's earliest settlements, should be protected.

Members of both sides of the debate say they are mana whenua and have a level of authority over the land.

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

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has previously called some of the protesters "imposters".

Newshub.

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