'Excellent' source tells Simon Bridges Crown is purchasing Ihumātao from Fletcher Building

Simon Bridges says he has it on "excellent authority" that the Government has struck a deal on Ihumātao and that it will be announced next week.

The Opposition leader tweeted on Friday that a "deal is closing for the Crown to buy Ihumātao right now" and that it will be "announced next week" when Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters are away "so they don't have to answer questions".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be in Fiji next week on a Trans-Tasman trip to meet with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, while Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will be in India.

The Prime Minister tried to prevent the media from asking questions about the Ihumātao dispute when she was in Tokelau in July last year. 

There was speculation in 2019 that the Crown was considering loaning money to Auckland Council so it could purchase Ihumātao, and that Fletcher was asking for $40 million - more than double what it was bought for in 2014.

But Bridges told Newshub he understands Auckland Council is no longer involved and that he's been told the Government is buying the contested land from Fletcher Building to put into a mana whenua trust for heritage purposes.

The National leader said he strongly opposes the Crown purchasing Ihumātao, writing on Twitter: "This is wrong, rewarding illegal protestors, wasting taxpayer money & reopening full & final treaty settlements."

A Government spokesperson told Newshub: "The Government's focus has always been on supporting a resolution that respects all parties including the Crown, mana whenua and Fletchers, and we are continuing to work on finding that resolution."

It's not the first time Bridges has weighed into the Ihumātao dispute.

Earlier this month, he said the Government has "no right to get involved in this dispute in the first place" and that "hardworking taxpayers will end up picking up the tab".

Ihumātao is an area of land in Mangere near Auckland International Airport, where Māori activists have been protesting against Fletcher Building's plans to build 500 homes.

The people of Ihumātao were evicted during the Land Wars in 1863. The land was acquired by the Crown, and granted to the Wallace family, Pākehā settlers who farmed it for the next 150 years.

Five years ago, it was named as a Special Housing Area, and in 2016 Fletcher Building bought it with plans to build the homes. The company agreed to return 25 percent of the land it owned in agreement with local iwi, but protesters were not satisfied.

The protesters had a major stand-off with police in July last year which led to protest leader Pania Newton accusing the police of ramming her - a claim the police rejected - among a string of other heated altercations.

The Prime Minister negotiated a temporary halt to construction at Ihumātao in July last year while a solution was sought but that is still yet to be announced.

Simon Bridges said in August last year the Prime Minister set an "appalling precedent" by halting construction. He said the protesters should "go home".

Pania Newton claimed in January that a deal over the future of Ihumātao was "just around the corner", which host of The AM Show Duncan Garner was also told by a source.