Ihumātao deal would 'send a chill down the spine of taxpayers and property owners' - Judith Collins

Judith Collins says the Government needs to tell Kiwis before the election whether it's planning to spend taxpayer money on an Ihumātao deal.

The new National Party leader, who has criticised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's "foolish" involvement in the land despite, says if she'd stayed out of it there would now be more houses on the site than KiwiBuild ever delivered.

"New Zealand is in the grip of a jobs crisis with more than 200,000 people out of work and our economy in decline," Collins said on Sunday morning.

"If the Government is comfortable with struggling Kiwis footing the bill for Ihumātao it will send a chill down the spine of taxpayers and property owners."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson told Newshub on Sunday the issues are "numerous and complex".

"I thank Kiingitanga, Fletchers, Auckland Council and all the parties involved for their patience and hard work over the past year as we negotiate an outcome that satisfies everyone.

"The Government continues to focus on supporting a resolution that respects all parties including the Crown, mana whenua and Fletchers, we are still working towards an outcome be it before or after the election."

Ihumātao is an area of historical significance for Māori near Auckland Airport, where activists have been protesting against Fletcher Building's plans to build almost 500 homes on land it purchased, that was confiscated in 1863 by the Crown.

Protesters from the Save Our Unique Landscape movement say the land should be returned to Māori, and occupation of the land ramped up in July 2019 after police served occupiers with an eviction notice.

The Prime Minister negotiated a temporary halt to construction at the site in July 2019 while a solution was sought - but a year has passed and nothing has been announced.

Ardern in June rejected speculation a deal was imminent.

"This clumsy and incompetent Government claimed it would build more houses but there is still no sign of the 480 homes planned for Ihumātao a full year after the PM stopped the diggers in their tracks," said Collins.

 "With the election just around the corner, Jacinda Ardern now owes it to voters to be transparent about whether any taxpayer funds will be used to settle this dispute under a Labour Government.

"She should either rule out a Crown deal now, or be upfront about what her Finance Minister is cooking up behind closed doors."

She said a deal with the Crown would "call full and final Treaty settlements into question and set an appalling precedent".

A Treaty settlement with the local iwi was signed in 2014. Te Kawerau ā Maki approved the deal with Fletcher, and has in the past urged the protesters to leave.