Ihumatao - the watch continues and police to minimise presence

In late July 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a halt in construction by Fletcher Residential at Ihumātao, the site in Māngere believed to be sacred land to Māori, until the growing dispute over the South Auckland land was resolved. However in early August tensions escalated after a dramatic increase in police numbers. Following public outcry and a call from Auckland Councillors, Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha has said Police will minimise their presence at Ihumātao



Members of the Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) group, who are continuing their peaceful occupation in protection of the land in Māngere, say the police cut off road access to protesters as well as refusing blankets to them.


Dozens of officers lined up late into the night of August 5th, blocking Ihumātao Quarry Road, with crowds of land defenders standing in front of them.


SOUL co-founder and spokesperson Pania Newton said she was pushed over by an officer during what was a five-hour standoff, but police have rejected this saying staff acted with incredible professionalism.


Around 30 officers have been at the site since July 23, when the trespass notice was handed to the group occupying the land so Fletcher Buildings could begin construction on a planned 480-house development.


However the increase came almost suddenly, according to protesters, with some Police spotted arriving with firearms that were then removed from site, estimates of the total number of new officers ranged from 60 to over 100.


"We're not too sure why, it was very unexpected," says Pania.


"It was very intimidating... I was concerned about the safety of the people,” she said that the hundreds of people in the dark were all there to protect the land however the police presence was strong and daunting.


"There were many [police] in the paddocks, many on the front line, there was a very strong presence."


The PM has said the government was not involved in decisions made by the police at Ihumātao.


Two Auckland city councillors say the increased police presence at Ihumātao somewhat undermines the prime minister's commitment to enter peaceful and honest talks with protesters.


Councillor Efeso Collins said he was disappointed and saddened and that the police presence is overkill and unjustified.




Councillor Cathy Casey said the council unanimously supported a motion to bring all parties together to facilitate a peaceful outcome and the prime minister was also seeking a negotiated settlement.


"We call on the government to show good faith in their commitment to resolving the crisis by reducing the police presence," she said.


This comes just three days after Kiingi Tuheitia formally invited all mana whenua to meet at Hopuhopu to find a solution over the contentious development having arrived at Ihumātao with a group of more than 400 people to listen to mana whenua and their supporters over the weekend.


The Kiingitanga wanted to hold the hui before the koroneihana festivities on 14 August and hopes his visit helps to find a resolution to the prolonged dispute.


Minister for Māori Crown Relations Kelvin Davis previously said he supported a peaceful solution to the dispute.


"We support the process that the Kīngitanga is leading," he said.


Meanwhile other protests have taken place around the country as part of a national day of action, with protests taking place outside the Fletcher Building in South Auckland and outside Parliament in Wellington.


Green party co-leader Marama Davidson says she is seeking more information behind the escalation in police presence.


Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha says miscommunication between the police and protesters led to the tense standoff.


He was welcomed onto Ihumātao on Tuesday, following the tense standoff on Monday night between police and mana whenua.


Mr Haumaha has assured he will ensure that it does not happen again.


"We've got to a point now we can minimise the police presence on this whenua and just maintain a small number around the health and safety for everyone," he said to media, onsite.