Government accused of trying to 'hide' Treaty of Waitangi implications of Ihumātao deal

The Government is being accused of trying to "hide" Treaty of Waitangi implications of its Ihumātao deal by redacting those details from a Cabinet paper. 

The south Auckland land was purchased from Fletcher Building in December for $30 million under the Government's Land for Housing Programme, in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Kīngitanga and Auckland Council.  

After the deal was announced by the Government, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on December 17 it was "very clear" it would "not affect the Treaty settlement process". 

But the redacted section of a Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Cabinet paper discussed on December 14 clearly states that Treaty implications were considered.  

"Crown Law and Te Arawhiti have been working through the Treaty implications of a purchase through the Land for Housing fund, and the use of the MOU to determine the future use of the land," it says. 

"This is due to the fact that the land is being purchased by an agency (whose land is not generally available for use in Treaty settlements) for a specific purpose (e.g. housing)."

The hidden information was discovered by copying and pasting the PDF file of the Cabinet paper into a Word document, which removed the redactions. 

ACT leader David Seymour wants answers. 

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

"The Government was warned from the get-go that if it butted into the Ihumātao issue - a dispute over private land - other iwi groups would inevitably feel that their full and final settlements with the Crown were neither full, nor final."

Seymour asked Robertson in Parliament on Tuesday what iwi and New Zealanders in general should think about a Government that told them the Ihumātao deal had no Treaty implications "and then tried to hide those details". 

Robertson said the implications were worked through and the outcome "does not undermine" the Treaty settlement process. 

"What New Zealanders in general are seeing is a situation where there was a significant stand-off, there was an inability for Fletchers, who owned the land, to be able to pursue a development.

"What they've seen is a Government that actually wants to bring New Zealanders together for a settlement that will build houses and build a much stronger and more cohesive society."

Another hidden section of the Cabinet paper shows there is a chance the land at Ihumātao won't be used for housing despite assurances from the Government it will be. 

A redacted section of the Cabinet paper says: "Funds received from the sale of the land for housing or support for housing, or any other uses which are deemed to be more suitable than housing, will be returned to the Crown."

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

It comes after Newshub revealed Treasury warned the Government against using money from the Land for Housing programme to do the Ihumātao deal, saying that's not what the programme was designed for.

"Indeed, if the new owners did determine the land was suitable for something other than housing Treasury would be proved more than right," Seymour says. 

"The Land for Housing fund is money appropriated for KiwiBuild. Treasury advice was clear: using it for potential housing at Ihumātao was tenuous at best. If it's not used for housing at all, it will be more than tenuous - it will have been misappropriated."

Robertson said there were a "range of views" discussed throughout the period of negotiations over Ihumātao about how the settlement could be reached and the Government is "very confident" in the outcome. 

"We worked through a process with a range of agencies to ensure that we had a resolution at Ihumātao that upholds the Treaty settlement process, and we achieved that."