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Ihumātao | He Raupatu Tuarua | A Second Confiscation
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Ihumātao | He Raupatu Tuarua | A Second Confiscation
Dr Rawiri Taonui

This column investigates how the proposed Fletcher Residential development at Ihumātao, the National government’s Special Housing Area policy and the preoccupation of the Auckland Council, the courts and statutory bodies on preserving Māori culture as an icon of the past rather than restoring the living relationship between Māori and their whenua constitutes a second confiscation.

The Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve 2007

One of the earliest occupation sites in Auckland, the 100-hectare Ōtuataua Stonefields at Ihumātao are the main remnant of 8000 hectares of sophisticated Māori cultivations that once extended across the isthmus.

The Crown confiscated Ihumātao in 1865. The 32.8 hectare Ōruarangi block and part of the adjacent Ōtuataua Stonefields were sold to Gavin Wallace by Crown Grant in 1867. Gavin Wallace, his son Hugh, and their descendants the Blackwell family farmed the land for 150 years.

As a rapidly expanding Auckland city sprawled southwards towards Ihumātao, consideration arose about rezoning the farmland for urban development or preserving it as part of our national and Māori heritage. In 2001, the former Manukau City Council purchased 100 hectares of the land for $4.7 million, including a parcel from the Blackwell family, to establish the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve. Nick Smith, the then Minister of Conservation, opened the reserve declaring it ‘a heritage site of regional, national and international significance’.

The Environment Court 2012 

In 2007, the Council placed a protective instrument on the remainder of the Blackwell farm seeking to preserve Ōruarangi as an open public space. In 2012, the Blackwells won an appeal in the Environment Court rezoning the land for urban development. Te Warena Taua on behalf of the Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority and the Makaurau Marae Māori Trust bravely and on his own challenged the application on the basis that ‘all the land at Ōruarangi was wāhi tapu’.


Photo supplied

The court found that most of the culturally significant archaeological sites were located on the stonefields rather than Ōruarangi, the establishment of the stonefields reserve provided a main preservation, and that the land could be developed ‘sensitively’.

The court did not consider the original confiscation or its impact on Māori because the Resource Management Act (RMA 1991) only allows for consideration of Māori values. The legislation is institutionally racist. Firstly, because the focus on the preservation of Māori culture as an archaic artifact from the distant past excludes consideration of restoring the wellbeing of the relationship between the Māori of Ihumātao and their unjustly confiscated ancestral lands, and secondly because the rights of the receiver of the stolen land, the private landowner, were deemed to override the rights of those the land was stolen from.

Special Housing Area 2014

The Blackwell family offered to sell the land to the Manukau City Council whose best offer was $6.5 million. Having already contributed to the stonefields, the Blackwells, sought a more competitive market offer.

In September 2013, the National government passed the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act (HASHAA) to increase and fast track affordable housing. Limited notification requirements overrode existing consultation provisions with Māori. In October 2013, the government and the Auckland Council signed a three year accord to construct 49,000 houses in Auckland. In November 2013, Fletcher Residential advised the Council that it intended to build at Ōruarangi.

Council’s Housing Projects Office prepared a confidential brief titled the ‘The Wallace Block’. The Māngere Ōtāhuhu Local Board discussed and rejected the proposal on 19 March 2014. The following day, Fletcher and the Blackwells entered into a sale and purchase agreement for $19 million. Eleven days later, Fletcher, as a majority overseas company, applied for Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval of the sale. Two days after that, the Auckland Council Development Committee, with the public excluded and minutes secret, approved the Fletcher proposal to build 520 houses with an end of 2014 start date.

An updated Wallace Report included a short section saying, ‘the Local Board opposes the project’ to which the Housing Projects Office added ‘recommend that the project proceed’.

A Māori section titled iwi ‘issues’ rather than interests, values or concerns stated that ‘considerable dialogue with iwi’ was required because Ngāti Te Ahiwaru had ‘the longest continuous occupation of papakāinga in Auckland’ and ‘strong ancestral and spiritual associations’ with the land extending over ‘hundreds of years’ and supported by Te Kawerau ā Maki ‘wanted to maintain the integrity of their community’ and ‘stay rural’.

In culturally duplicitous fashion, Fletcher said they had consulted with two Māori individuals from Te Ākitai and written to all iwi. Te Ākitai are from Pūkaki marae, therefore no consultation had occurred with Ngāti Te Ahiwaru, possibly because Taua had opposed the rezoning in 2012. Any reasonably qualified consultant would have pointed Fletcher to Ihumātao; they are just up the road.

Satisfied that this pepper potted sprinkling of Māoriness was doing right by Māori without talking to them, the Council recommended the government classify Ōruarangi as SHA. The soliloquist of Ōtuataua, Minister of Housing Nick Smith, duly informed Cabinet and the land was gazetted SHA62 on 1 July 2014.

Clearly, Fletcher and the Blackwells motivated by profit, and, the Council and the National government motivated by the politics of a looming housing crisis, were determined to proceed regardless of Ihumātao Māori. Their indecent haste in progressing SHA62 and disdain for the Ihumātao community made inevitable a new Bastion Point protection by reclamation.


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Tangata Whenua

The Makaurau marae community of Ihumātao learned of the proposal around mid-2014 but were without proper detail until about February 2015, some 15 months after Fletcher first mooted the proposal, 11 months after the Council decision and eight months after the Crown had formalised SHA62. Around this time, it became clear that Fletcher was beginning to sway the chair of the Te Kawerau Iwi Authority and Makaurau Marae Māori Trust, Te Warena Taua, to support the project.

Conscientized about issues, such as the detrimental impact of private and government development at Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Standing Rock in Canada, the Amazon and West Papua; aware that 1990s Māori leaders had been forced into multiple compromises to progress Treaty of Waitangi Settlements; and concerned that one of their respected leaders was not informing them sufficiently to mandate his decisions, six young cousins of mixed Ngāti Te Ahiwaru, Te Ākitai, Ngāti Māhuta, Waiohua and Te Kawerau ā Maki descent formed Save Our Unique Landscape (Soul).


Photo supplied

Over the next four years, Soul launched a principled and innovative social media campaign stimulating multiple opinion pieces and television interviews, an online site, a petition to Parliament, delegations to Select Committees, meetings with former Government Ministers, and presentations to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (CERD).

The idea that they are ‘rangatahi’ without the support of their elders is a media promoted myth. Soul obtained the support of a majority of households in Ihumātao Village, the written support of Janice Roberts, then the chair of the Makaurau Marae Committee, and Rāpata Roberts the chair of the Makaurau Marae Reservation Trust and the support of highly respected kuia, Betty King. This support continues today. Newton is the designated spokesperson for Makaurau Marae. Another Soul member Qiane Matata-Sipu is the media spokesperson for the Makaurau Marae Committee. In a moving video, Ike Rākena the current chair of the Makaurau Marae Committee is prominent in his support for Soul.

Auckland Council 2015

Prompted by Soul lobbying, seven councillors petitioned the Auckland Council to revoke the SHA62 decision. Councillor Dr Cathy Casey would later say that the objections of the Local Board and concerns of Māori were not properly brought to their attention. Councillor Mike Lee was concerned that the SHA legislation had suspended ‘the rights of people and communities’ and that neither Fletcher nor the Council had appropriately notified the Makaurau community.

The Council met on 27 August 2015. The meeting revealed divisions within Ihumātao. Te Warena Taua represented the Te Kawerau Iwi Authority and Makaurau Marae Māori Trust saying the latter was the mandated body representing Makaurau marae since 2004. Led by Pania Newton, Soul attended with written support dated 2 Aug 2014 from the then chairs of the Makaurau Marae Committee and Makaurau Marae Reservation Trust. Taua presented a letter from the chair of the Makaurau Marae Committee which appears to rescind its support for Soul and instructs all marae members to refer Ihumātao matters to Taua. That letter appears back dated to 30 July.

Soul presented a petition to Council, spoke to ancestral history, the historical suffering of the people at Ihumātao papakāinga, suggested other sites for housing development and asked Council to revoke SHA62.

Taua presented changes to the Fletcher Residential proposal, including a new buffer zone between the housing the stonefields, ownership of the zone by mana whenua, return of half a maunga, protocols ‘where possible’ protecting kōiwi, taonga and wāhi tapu, and a possible housing partnership (later 40 houses) and cultural centre. Taua believed that ‘at least 200 families could come back and live in the village’ and that ‘those opposing the development were not taking account of people who wanted to return’. The presentation was enough to persuade petitioning councillor, Alf Filipaina, to change sides and vote against the motion.

More crucially, a letter was tabled from Minister of Housing Nick Smith, who concerned about the political ramifications of a reversal for National’s flagship HASHAA policy, said that because SHAs were activated by Orders in Council only he as Minister could revoke them. The motion was defeated 12 votes to five. Thirteen days later, Associate Minister of Finance Jonathan Coleman and Minister for Land Information New Zealand Michael Woodhouse approved the OIO application.

Some councillors have expressed regret at the decision. Wayne Walker has said that HASHAA ‘was a mistake’ and ‘the council should have been stronger in opposing it’. John Watson who voted against the motion, has said that ‘It should have been apparent that this matters to the people out there and that it’s not going to go away’.

Accord Territorial Authority 2016

The events of 2015 initiated a series of legal confrontations between Soul and Fletcher Residential backed by Taua. In May 2016, the Accord Territorial Authority approved the Fletcher development plan.

Much of the hearing covered the same ground as in the Council hearing in 2015. The panel brushed off submissions opposing the proposal referencing the benefits of affordable housing. They concurred with the Environment Court (2012) that while there is little doubt that Ngāti Te Ahiwaru were the 1850s inhabitants of the area and were unfairly treated by the Crown, it was not within their remit to address remedies under the RMA or HASHAA.

The 2015 Council hearing revealed that the Fletcher proposal included paying an undisclosed sum to the Makaurau Marae Māori Trust. In the Accord hearing, Fletcher said that the Te Ākitai Waiohua and the Te Kawerau Iwi Authority and Makaurau Marae Māori Trust had completed Cultural Impacts Assessments for them. Notwithstanding the practice of paying consultants from iwi, this can raise questions about possible conflicts of interest if Fletcher were directly or indirectly paying individuals representing iwi many of whose members oppose the development, something the Waitangi Tribunal, Te Roroa Report (1992), described as ‘tāmana’ cash sprinkled by Pākehā to acquire land.

Heritage New Zealand 2017

The final step for Fletcher Residential was archaeological approval from Heritage New Zealand (HNZ). Charged with ensuring the ‘protection, preservation, and conservation of historical and cultural heritage’, up to 2017 HNZ had granted 97 percent (877 of 907) of applications for developments affecting Māori archaeological sites. After failing in two applications, Fletcher advised HNZ that it would seek a judicial review if its third application was unsuccessful. HNZ granted the authority in September 2017.


Photo supplied

The Environment Court 2018

Soul and kuia Betty King appealed the HNZ decision to the Environment Court, which found in favour of the project on much the same grounds as previous hearings.

In this hearing, counsel for Fletcher launched an inept and culturally illiterate attempt to discredit Newton by requesting her application be dismissed because she had not established ‘whakapapa’ to the land. Newton is tangata whenua. He grandparents lived there. Her father is Ihumātao and along with her uncles, aunties and ancestors he is buried there.

Under international law she can choose not to justify her heritage in a European or Pākehā legal forum on the basis of the indigenous right to ‘self-identification’. If one identifies as tangata whenua and is accepted as that by others themselves also recognised as tangata whenua, then she is tangata whenua. This system applies at iwi level and in international indigenous forums.

This was nothing more than selective divide and rule. Fletcher, the courts and the Auckland Council and have adorned themselves with advice from Māori consultants unconnected with the land. Naida Glavish and Sir Pita Sharples sit on the NZH Māori Heritage Council. Cliff Whiting and Mita Harris head Māori Heritage operations. Kevin Prime from Ngāti Hine sat alongside the Judge Davd Kirkpatrick in the 2018 Environment Court. None is from Ihumātao.

Such attacks are nothing new. Māori who challenge Pākehā institutions often find their authenticity judged and condemned. Ngā Tamatoa at Waitangi, Whina Cooper of the Māori Land March, Tuaiwa Eva Rickard at Raglan and Titewhai Harawira at Waitangi were subject to much vitriol. Over time, they earned respect and so has Newton’s dignified response.

Similar happened to Taua when he challenged the Blackwells in 2012, the Environment Court describing him as prone ‘to generalise and exaggerate’. There was no repeat because he is now seen to comply. Newton has stood her ground. It is therefore no surprise that in March of this year, Fletcher CEO Chris Evans and Taua issued a press release saying Newton ‘is not mana whenua nor has she been mandated to represent mana whenua of Ihumātao’.

Cultural Literacy

Fletcher have proven themselves unsuited to lead a project on confiscated land. They have repeatedly attempted to justify their consultation. Whatever the case, project approvals were advanced many months before serious efforts were made to consult with Māori. The proposal was always presented as a fait accompli. This is contrary to the Ministry of the Environment’s guidelines on the Principles of the Treaty to provide adequate information in a timely manner and to not treat consultation as a mere formality or perfunctory exercise. It is also contrary to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) to ‘obtain free, prior and informed consent’. There are new questions about the mandate of the groups they say represent Ihumātao.

Neither Fletcher, the former National government, the Council or the courts have entertained whether it was appropriate to build 480 houses, including potentially 440 non-iwi occupants, on historic land containing wāhi tapu across the road from the people from whom the land was confiscated.

Sited between the Ihumātao papakāinga and the stonefields, the development divides tangata whenua from their heritage. The offer to return the buffer to mana whenua is nothing more than empty land. There is no real, equal or mutually beneficial partnership. Ihumātao are teina. There is no certainty that tribal members will hold 40 houses long term. And, they may not need crumbs from Fletchers table. There are other opportunities to progress housing.


Photo supplied

Despite all the protocols for wāhi tapu, with potentially over 1000 non-iwi people living on the land, history shows there will be no real protection from desecrating burial caves. The Wallace family dumped rubbish in at least one urupā cave. In 1940, a family member filled a sugar bag with human bones for presentation at a school show and tell. The caves have not been fully explored.

Fletcher, the former National government, the Council and the courts are responsible for a colonisation and confiscation second in form and intent to that of the 1860s Auckland land grab.

Dr Rawiri Taonui CertPh, BA, MA (Hons1), GradDipBus, PhD
Director | Writer | Adviser


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