Saving Ihumātao: New Zealand Prime Minister Halts Development Plans While the Government Brokers a Solution
The Ihumātao site in South Auckland, New Zealand is Auckland’s oldest settlement and observed as a sacred land by local Māori. In 2013, the land was reserved for housing development plans which local Māori have protested. In 2016, The land was sold to Fletcher Residential – a subsidiary of Fletcher Building. Members of Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) have been occupying the land for some time to protect it from being destroyed for industrial purposes.
Protestors were occupying the land illegally, which led to an eviction notice on July 23rd. Police then moved in on the site to evict the protestors. According to news reports, police closed off the roads and no one was permitted to enter. Elders were cooperating with the police to come to a peaceful agreement. People occupying the land had been in contact with the police previously and were told they would be warned when police would come, but in the end, they were caught by surprise on the morning of July 23rd. Thousands of protestors gathered at the site and remained peaceful, which led to a reduction of police presence. No arrests have been made, but police will continue to be at the site to ensure safety due to a large number of protestors. Organizers agreed to not enter buildings in the area where eviction notices were served. Over the weekend, several government ministers visited the site and some sat with the protestors in support. Though the number of occupants has dropped since the weekend, many tents remain with families and community stakeholders.
Last Friday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised that no building would take place at Ihumātao until the dispute is resolved. Still, protectors will stay at the site and have asked for a written letter confirming what the prime minister promised on Friday.
Fletcher building claims they will give 25 percent of the land to the iwi Māori and will work through a permitting process to make this happen. For now, plans have been put to a halt while government officials come to a solution.