Media Release: National Day of Action to Protect Ihumaatao
Individuals and groups are standing in solidarity with the Save Our
Unique Landscape (SOUL) Campaign outside Fletcher offices in Wellington,
Auckland, Dunedin, and Hamilton on Friday 15 February to stop an
unwanted housing development on 33 hectares of rare landscape at
Ihumaatao, near Auckland International Airport.
This land is part of a rare cultural heritage landscape and is adjacent
to the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve. It was unjustly
confiscated in 1863 and given to settlers who farmed it until their
descendants sold it for around $20m to Fletcher Building Limited in
2016. Fletcher wants to build 480 houses.
According to Pania Newton, SOUL Spokesperson, “Our people cannot thrive
without this land. It is part of a wider landscape that defines our
identity, health and wellbeing.”
The SOUL Campaign has been working tirelessly to protect the land from
development since 2015, even going to the United Nations three times
where it secured a recommendation from the Committee for the Elimination
of Racial Discrimination to the New Zealand Government, to ensure proper
consultation was carried out with all affected Māori. As yet, the
Government has not responded.
SOUL argues that the original confiscation cannot be ignored and the
natural, conservation and heritage values of this landscape make it
crucially important to the nation.
“The whole story of our country can be told at Ihumaatao – the good, the
bad and the ugly,” says Newton. “We want it protected for all New
Zealanders to enjoy, especially our future generations.”
This week Steve Evans, Chief Executive of Fletcher Building Limited told
media the company was open to offers, although as yet nothing serious
has been presented. “Like any of our land sites, we would always be open
to offers which valued the land at or above what we thought was its
value,” Evans told the New Zealand Herald.
Newton says: “We have met with the company a few times and we want to
keep meeting, but the Crown and Auckland Council are still avoiding the
Groups standing in solidarity with SOUL say there’s a unique opportunity
for the Crown and Auckland Council to secure public ownership, then
negotiate a just future for the land and the community. The historical
injustices attached to this land cannot be ignored.
SOUL’s new Action Station petition #ProtectIhumātao is seeking to
protect the land for all New Zealanders. SOUL is asking Government and
Auckland Council to buy the land or mandate a process that comes up with
an outcome everyone can live with.
Groups are now joining SOUL to stop the development. They believe
Fletcher has a responsibility to act as a corporate citizen. “Obviously
there is a deep hurt attached to this land and all the consents in the
world can’t wash that away. The Government has to step in,” adds Newton.
“SOUL is doing everything possible to avoid confrontation on the land,
but our nannies are preparing to stand in front of the bulldozers if
they come. Our plea to Fletcher is this: Don’t send in the bulldozers or
the Police. Let’s work this out around the table with Government,
Auckland Council, Iwi and other affected parties.”
SOUL are currently occupying land at Ihumātao to halt Fletchers plans to
start construction. SOUL have called for collective action and support
in an effort to stop a confrontation on the land. ‘We invite anyone who
wants to stand against colonisation and racism to join us at Fletchers
on Friday the 15th. If you can’t make it to a protest, we invite you to
call or email Fletchers and let them know how you feel.’’
‘We often look back at historical campaigns like Bastion Point and think
we would have been on the right side of history. Now is the time to take
a stand and protect Ihumātao and support mana whenua fighting to get
back land the government stole.’ said Pania Newton.
‘This is colonisation in action. The mana whenua of this land were
driven from it illegally once, and now Te Tiriti obligations are again
being ignored and this culturally sacred land is being threatened
further.’ said Brendan Corbett.