John Tamihere attacks government over Ihumātao "lie"

Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere is accusing government ministers of telling a “bald-faced lie” over the status of land at Ihumātao, the ancient settlement in South Auckland where hundreds of land protectors are opposing a multimillion-dollar housing estate.  

Speaking at a hui for the Māori-led inquiry into Oranga Tamariki the former Labour MP went all in telling the audience that government ministers are wrong to insist purchasing the land at Ihumātao would undermine full and final Treaty settlements.

Ministers from Peeni Henare to Winston Peters have told media a Crown purchase at the controversial site risks reopening historic Treaty settlements.

But Tamihere argues otherwise.

“[Ihumātao] is not a Treaty settlement issue and [the government] have gone out and told everybody that if they bought it back that it would upset the relativities of all other settlements.”

“That’s just a bald-faced lie.”

“That sets us up against one another. That sets the new generation of activists and people wanting greater rights up against our present iwi leadership.”

One of the controversial angles in the dispute at Ihumātao is parts of the Te Kawerau-ā-Maki Tribal Authority are at odds with many of the haukāinga (local or home people). One side, the Tribal Authority, back the new housing estate and the other, the haukāinga including SOUL and the local Marae, oppose it.

The Kiingitanga under the cloak of King Tūheitia are attempting to mediate and find a mutual solution between the opposing sides.  

But Tamihere rightly points out there is only one viable solution and it has nothing to do with Treaty settlements.

“[Ihumātao] is a sacred site because it is a national site of significance. It is a heritage estate. And it should be looked at like that.”

Despite the government returning to the line that a purchase at Ihumātao risks undermining full and final settlements no group is even calling for a settlement.

Land protectors’ group SOUL have maintained the site is important to all New Zealanders and it should be held in trust or in common, not packaged as part of a Treaty settlement.  

It’s unclear where the government sits on the idea the land could become a heritage reserve as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern repeatedly refuses to meet the land protectors on site and continues to maintain the issue is for mana whenua, not the Crown, to sort.

But after a call out at the Koroneihana this week – Māori Party co-president Che Wilson, speaking from the pae, told the Prime Minister to stop “hiding” – Ardern appears to be opening the door ever so slightly to eventual Crown intervention.

“On issues like Ihumātao, the difficult issues, the hard issues, we will be there, we are there in those conversations,” Ardern told the Koroneihana attendees.

The Prime Minister has sent in Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta to speak with the relevant parties and take advice on what role (if any) the Crown can play and what solutions it might be capable of implementing.

But the tentative steps on the government’s part have done nothing to dull Tamihere’s criticism.

“If we look at Ihumātao, if we look at Oranga Tamariki, if we look at Whānau Ora, we see a whakapapa. It’s all connected,” he told the audience gathered at the inquiry hui.

“This government would not exist but for our seven seats. It would not exist but for our 60 percent party vote. And yet they’re going to sell us out,” he warned.