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Disappointing’ Environment Court Decision

Ihumātao campaigners call on Government to intervene following ‘disappointing’ Environment Court Decision

Yesterday’s decision by the Environment Court about a proposed Special Housing Area at Ihumātao, on confiscated Māori land near Māngere, removes the last legal impediment to the transnational corporation Fletcher Residential developing the site as a high-cost subdivision. The Court’s decision has come as a disappointment to the appellants, including the SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) campaign working to protect Ihumātao for all New Zealanders and future generations.

The SOUL Campaign had appealed against the decision of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga to grant Fletcher Building Limited an archaeological authority to modify or destroy Māori and other archaeological sites on the 32-hectare block.

The Court upheld Heritage New Zealand’s decision however, noting the narrow scope of its evaluation which focussed on individual archaeological remains (such as middens) and excluded the wider conservation values attached to the whole landscape. The decision also excluded any review of the appropriateness of any previous zoning, Council or Court decisions paving the way for this contested development. The Court recognised that mana whenua, especially Te Kawerau a Maki and Te Wai-o-Hua, have been adversely affected for a long time and that the present situation is not the best that tangata whenua would have wanted.

SOUL Spokesperson Brendan Corbett says, “This just goes to demonstrate the impotence of Heritage New Zealand and the pro-development bias in the legislation. It is extremely disappointing to see the government body charged with protecting our heritage siding with an overseas-owned corporate to enable the destruction of taonga that have national and international significance. The outstanding landscape character, heritage and open space values of this special place are now critically at risk.”

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Pania Newton says she is disappointed and frustrated, but not surprised by the decision.

“My heart is heavy. The system continues to fail us. This decision adds to our grief and determination as mana whenua to resist the development.”

The land was confiscated from mana whenua in 1863 as a prelude to George Grey’s invasion of the Waikato, an injustice that has been acknowledged by Government but has been unable to be addressed by any of the steps leading to the approval for this development.

"The injustice continues at Ihumātao," adds Newton, "I can’t help but wonder when it will ever end. Regardless of the decision from the Court, we will continue to fulfil our responsibility to the whenua as a kaitiaki to protect and preserve this land for future generations - at whatever cost.”

Spokesperson Brendan Corbett echoes the determination.

“This whole process has been inadequate in allowing the real issues of historical injustice to be examined and the preservation of the outstanding conservation values attached to this special cultural-heritage landscape to be properly considered. We therefore call on the Government to step in before we have to do it ourselves on the ground.”

SOUL has consistently maintained its intention to exhaust every legal and political avenue to see this land protected and, has also made it clear that members and supporters would be willing to stand in front of the bulldozers if those measures fail. Following yesterday’s Environment Court decision, that day has come a lot closer to reality.


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