The Ihumātao dispute is getting messier and government interference is to blame.
When it began, Mana Whenua had an agreement with Fletchers, who own the land.
Then, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a halt to any building while negotiations continued and now Mana Whenua have backed out of the agreement with Fletchers and are siding with the protesters in wanting the land back and she’s not ruling out buying it:
. . . But there was a breakthrough on Wednesday, with the Māori King announcing all mana whenua “want their land returned” and calling for the Government to negotiate with Fletchers “for the return of Ihumātao to its rightful owners”.
While National Party leader Simon Bridges quickly called for the Government to reject entering into such negotiations, Ardern is refusing to rule it out.
Speaking from Japan, Ardern said she was “incredibly grateful” for the work Kiingitanga had facilitated but wouldn’t say what action the Government would take.
“There is still a bit more work to be done, but we will be mindful, as we go from here, of issues like Treaty precedent, the commercial interests, but also the heritage issues,” she said.
“At this stage, our focus is on picking up the good work that has been done by Kiingitanga.”
She wouldn’t discuss whether Auckland Council should be a party to negotiations with Fletchers, calling that speculative.
Bridges said on Wednesday that Fletchers legally owned the land and if the Government began negotiations, it could set a precedent.
“If this settlement is brought into question then so will all other full and final Treaty of Waitangi settlements,” he said.
A spokesperson for Kiingi Tuuheitia said on Wednesday that the return of land was “outside of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process” and called for an “innovative and modern solution that does not financially disadvantage iwi”. . .
The government buying the land off Fletchers is not an innovative and modern solution it would be the start of another, very expensive problem.
Treaty negotiations have always ruled out private land and been agreed as full and final.
Wrong was done all those years ago and the amount Iwi have got in settlement of its grievances is well below the value of what was taken, but that doesn’t alter the agreement nor can it open up a re-negotiation when the younger generation feel their elders didn’t get enough.
If the Iwi want to buy the land and Fletchers are willing to sell it there is no problem.
But if Fletchers don’t want to sell and/or the Iwi aren’t prepared to buy it but want the government to, there is a very big problem.
And while all this is going on, the building of the much-needed houses can’t start at great cost to the legal owners of the land.
The government’s interference has made matters worse and is yet another signal that it doesn’t understand and has no sympathy for business.