Ihumatao no Bastion Point, says acting PM Peters
By Pattrick Smellie
July 29 (BusinessDesk) - Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters rejects suggestions the protests over historic Maori stonefields at Ihumatao, near Auckland Airport, are today's equivalent to the Bastion Point protest of the mid-1970s, although he does describe the stand-off as a "potential crisis".
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press conference instead of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is in Tokelau, Peters also insisted the only people with a right to participate in settling the dispute over the land were those who'd "been keeping that land warm over the centuries".
He stopped short of saying the Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) movement, which has attracted thousands of supporters to camp near the site of a proposed housing development on Maori land at Ihumatao, was illegitimate. The movement is led by Pania Newton, who has ancestral connections to the land.
However, he indicated personal support for kaumatua leading Te Kawerau a Maki (TKAM), a tribal incorporation that was involved in negotiating a settlement with the government in 2014.
The settlement, like all others legislated in the settlement process that has been running for much of the last generation, was intended as 'full and final' compensation for Maori land confiscations in the area. They were part of much larger confiscations throughout the central North Island in the mid-1860s as colonising governments sought to crush the Kingitanga movement.
Today, the Kingitanga officially supports TKAM and its deal with the residential arm of the country's largest construction firm, Fletcher Building, to build 480 houses near the stonefields and to return land to the local Maori owners, or mana whenua.
Peters said there was no role for "outsiders" in the debate over the land's future.
"I’m not saying they’re in the right," he said of TKAM. "Let’s go out and find out if things have been done properly, if the people who are making statements have the authority to speak, have the mana to speak and are not just coming out of leftfield. They don’t belong there.
"Our job is to sort this potential crisis out and we can do that best if we go from a point of view of historic fact and not just the views of some, in cases, as someone who has been associated with Maori land claims for a long long time, some people who have no authority to speak whatsoever."
Peters said that if the government bought the land from Fletcher Building, it risked opening up "a whole lot of Treaty settlements and you've got to ask yourself: is this Moutoa Gardens (a mid-1990s Maori land protest in Whanganui)? Is this Bastion Point? On the law, the facts, the detail and the research, the answer is no."