Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit Turangawaewae today for the annual Kingitanga Koroneihana celebrations with suggestions that a solution to the Ihumatao standoff at Mangere may be close.e
POLITIK understands that it could be announced during Ardern’s visit to the Ngaruawahia marae.
The disputed land has historic links to Kingitanga.
Since August 3, when King Tuheitia and nine busloads of supporters turned up at the disputed Mangere site, the Kingitanga flag has been flying there and will do so until a settlement is reached.
The Prime Minister yesterday sounded optimistic.
“Kingitanga have rightfully stepped in and offered a process, and that’s what’s happening at the moment,” Ardern told her weekly post Cabinet press conference yesterday.
”So that’s where I think the focus should be; on that Kingitanga process and I think our role has been to support them and enable that to happen,’ she said.
Ardern said that the Government was not a party to the negotiations.
“I have some knowledge of. some of the discussions,” she said.
“I’m not a party to the negotiations.
“The Crown is not a party in these negotiations, but I do have some knowledge of some of the conversations that are happening.”
That should not be surprising; Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta has close links to Kingitanga and has already been involved in discussions with the leader of the Save Our Unique Landscape group occupying the site, Pania Newton.
Newton argues that the land should be saved from housing development because it contains unique archaeological features, but her role as spokesperson for the tangata whenua is contested; a situation which complicates any negotiations.
Newton has been highly successful, though, in attracting support for her cause.
Over the weekend, the All Black halfback TJ Perenara not only wore a wristband with “Ihumatao” written on it during the Bledisloe Cup test but visited the site on Sunday.
And though Ardern says the Crown is not involved, POLITIK understands that eventually, it may be, if only to provide compensation to buy the land off Fletchers, the current owners, who indicated in February they would be willing to sell for the right price.
They bought the 33-hectare site for $19 million in March 2014, when the rateable value was $11.5 million. It is now valued at $36 million.
The problem is that it has been in private hands since it was acquired by the Crown as part of the New Zealand Wars land confiscations. The Crown then sold the land to a farmer.
The 1928 Sim Royal Commission into the confiscated lands found that nearly 600 hectares were confiscated in Mangere in 1865.
The Commission’s report quotes from Sir John Gorst’s book, “The Maori King”, saying the villages at Mangere were inhabited by relatives of the Waikato Tribes who had been instrumental in the war.
Gorst says most of the villagers were old and infirm.
Nevertheless “It was resolved to drive these poor men and women from their homes and confiscate their lands.
“There was no difficulty in finding a pretext.
“They were Maoris, and relatives of Potatau. (the Maori King)”
The villagers were asked to declare an oath of allegiance to Queen Victoria or face eviction.
Gorst says: “Only one or two at each place accepted the test and stayed behind. The fugitives were, of course, unable to carry all their goods with them. What remained behind was looted by the colonial forces and the neighbouring settlers. Canoes were broken to pieces and burnt, cattle seized, houses ransacked, and horses brought to Auckland and sold by the spoilers in the public market. Such robbery was, of course, unsanctioned by the Government, but the authorities were unable to check the greediness of the settlers.”
Sim concluded that the Mangere confiscations were particularly excessive and proposed that an annual sum of $298,000 (2019 money) be paid to Tainui as compensation.
He did not, however, propose that any land be returned.
That in effect is the issue now confronting the Government and may well explain why Ardern is anxious to emphasise that the Crown is not a party to the negotiations.
Were it to be so, and were it to be thought to be forcibly acquiring confiscated land to return to Maori, it could open a confiscations’ Pandora’s box of claims.
In the Waikato alone, some 403,000 hectares are confiscated land.
Waikato farmland is currently valued at around $30,000 a hectare — the value of the confiscated land could thus be approximately $12 billion.
Parliament’s Maori Affairs Select Committee has considered the Ihumatao situation and received a petition from Pania Newton but its report last month made no recommendation.
However, it did say that it was informed that private land was available for use in Treaty settlements if there was a willing buyer and seller.
That would seem the logical route out of the impasse at Ihumatao; that Fletchers willingly sell the land to some sort of consortium of interests which the Crown might underwrite.
If all goes well at Turangawaewae today, an announcement might be made later this afternoon.