INDEPENDENT NEWS

Ihumātao: Another arrest as protesters lose faith in police

Published: Wed 24 Jul 2019 11:50 AM
Battle for Ihumātao: Another arrest as protesters lose faith in police
Protestors say they are fighting on but have lost faith in police as they try to hold on to ancestral land in Auckland.
Police and some protesters at the site today. Photo: RNZ/Matthew Theunissen
A woman who boarded a truck outside the housing development site at Ihumātao has been arrested.
More than 50 demonstrators and a similar number of police officers are at the site in Māngere where a group occupying the land had been moved off yesterday.
About 100 people including mana whenua and local iwi protested peacefully during the night.
Tensions rose after a woman at the cordon climbed on board a contractor's truck heading into the grounds, and police tried for more than 20 minutes to remove her.
Police later arrested the woman.
Protesters said police broke an agreement that no more vehicles would be allowed onto the site after they had earlier allowed machinery through.
Protesters had spent the night the cordon and set up a kai tent and toilets. Organiser Pania Newton said police had had floodlights on the group overnight.
A person raising a flag at Ihumātao. Photo: RNZ/Matthew Theunissen
Yesterday, people occupying the land in an effort to stop the development going ahead were moved off by more than 50 police, as well as local kaumātua, the building company and bailiffs.
About 40 people spent the night at the cordon. Photo: RNZ/Gill Bonnett
Last night, almost 12 hours after being ordered to leave the land they'd occupied for years, Ms Newton, voice croaky from shouting, said she felt frustrated, sad, angry, and disappointed.
"I feel like this was just another repeat of Bastion Point. The way that they just came in and erected fences and ejected us from our lands is almost similar to what they did in 1978."
Protesters lit a small fire to keep warm and handed out cups of tea. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley
The site is due to be developed by Fletcher Building, which plans to put more than 400 houses there.
By sunset more than 50 police officers stood in two rows blocking access to two roads as trucks moved back and forth carrying machinery and lights, while the occupiers yelled "shame on you" at the police.
Three people were arrested late in the afternoon for obstructing police, but most remained peaceful, with songs sung long into the night and parents bringing their children along.
This is what “holding the frontline” looks like for the people here at Ihumātao. pic.twitter.com/I2jBxt3HuG— Eden More (@edenericamore) July 23, 2019
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As the night grew colder, a small fire was lit and cups of tea handed out, including to some of the officers barring the way in.
Ms Newton and mana whenua met last night to discuss where to next and many supporters were prepared to spend the night holding the line.
Mirky, who joined the occupation two months ago, said he was shocked by the eviction.
"I started out feeling fairly defeated, but now I feel victorious after hearing those speeches, after seeing how many people have come here from all over New Zealand already.
"I've been here for long enough, I'm going to stay here as long as I can," Mirky said.
Photo: RNZ / Eden More
Fletcher Building said in a statement yesterday it had tried to engage with the group for the last three years, but they had never shown a willingness to find a solution.
It said the 480 home development has been tested in the Māori Land Court, Environment Court, and the United Nations - where all objections have been unsuccessful.
Local councillor Efeso Collins was among those who turned up to show support and said the council has been urging the government to step in.
"There's been very little return or reply from the government. I think we need to sit down and have that discussion and say look, you guys have got the money, we obviously don't have... it's been rated anywhere between $15 million and $40 million.
"Whatever the cost is, we've spent $100 million on the America's Cup, we can damn well spend money here, get back this land and make it the precious sacred land that it is."
Ms Newton said they're in it for as long as it took.
"We do plan on continuing our peaceful presence on the land. We will not leave until we see justice for Ihumātao."
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