Jacinda Ardern cares 'deeply' about Ihumātao, despite lack of visit

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit back at suggestions she's been ignoring the protesters at site Ihumātao.

Ardern hasn't visited the disputed south Auckland site, despite a hikoi to her office in August and repeated calls from protest leaders for her to meet them in person.

"Some of her behaviour is becoming tokenistic, wearing a beautiful feathered korowai to meet the Queen and using te reo Māori in her [United Nations] speech," protest leader Pania Newton told Newshub on Thursday.

"It shows that her priorities aren't the issues that Māori are facing."

The land was taken from Māori in the 1860s and farmed by Pākehā for decades before being bought a few years ago by developer Fletcher, which plans to build houses on it, in a deal with local mana whenua. The protesters want it returned in full, despite a deal already having been struck.

A halt to construction was negotiated earlier this year until the standoff can be resolved. 

Ardern told Newshub Nation on Saturday she has no plans to visit - yet.

"People see it as a proxy somehow of me showing I care about the issue. I can hand-on-heart say I care deeply about this issue - I have spent a huge amount of time working on a resolution, I still am, and whether I visit or not I'm going to keep doing that. 

"I will visit, but I'd like to do it at a time when I feel like I actually have an answer to the problem."

Labour MP Willie Jackson on Friday defended the Government's handling of the issue, saying if National were in charge "they would have dragged those Māoris out by the throat about three months ago".

"She's working on a settlement for Ihumātao, which is much more than what National would have done," he told The AM Show.

He wouldn't say where the negotiations were at currently, except to say they were close to a deal.


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