Police will reduce presence at Ihumātao protest

Published: Thu 8 Aug 2019 05:03 PM
Police will reduce presence at Ihumātao protest - Wally Haumaha
Police will minimise their presence at Ihumātao, says Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha.
Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha addressing media at Ihumātao. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui
Mr Haumaha was welcomed onto Ihumātao on Tuesday, following a tense stand off on Monday night between police and mana whenua, who oppose the Mangere site being developed for housing.
Miscommunication between the police and protesters led to the tense stand off, he said.
Mr Haumaha has assured the occupiers he will ensure that does not happen again.
Protesters called for more supporters on Monday night, after police numbers swelled in what one of the protest organisers, Pania Newton, said was a "very intimidating" five-hour standoff.
Protesters have been at Ihumātao for years protesting against a planned housing development on what mana whenua say is wāhi tapu land bordering the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve.
Local mana whenua are split on the issue, with some leading the SOUL group and others backing the developers.
Ms Newton, of the Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) protest group, said police on Monday threatened to trespass and arrest the occupiers, and that she was pushed over by an officer.
However, Counties Manukau district commander Superintendent Jill Rogers rejected that, along with the idea that deploying more officers to the front line could have inflamed the situation.
"Our tactics were in response to the information that we received directly from the protest organisers of their intention that they were going to breach our lines and reclaim the property from which they're prohibited from entering," Ms Rogers said.
"As the night unfolded, it became an incredibly dangerous situation... I can tell you from their commanders it was not a nice position to be in to have to scramble staff like that.
"It became really unsafe for our staff, hence they were pulled back to a position of safety."
Police will step back after increasing their presence at Ihumātao on Monday night. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen
Auckland councillors Efeso Collins and Cathy Casey yesterday called for a reduction of the police presence at Ihumātao, saying it had run roughshod over Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's commitment to peaceful and honest talks to resolve the situation.
Auckland Council has also agreed to add almost nine hectares to Ōtuataua Stonefields Reserve, which borders the land at Ihumātao.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said rezoning the land was the council's gesture towards finding a resolution at Ihumātao.
"It's council-owned land so there was no problem in rezoning it, there was no extra cost to the ratepayer, 9 hectares of land is a significant size piece of land, it adds to the Stonefields area and it says look we recognise this area is important, it's the area that's probably the oldest inhabited area in the whole of Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau and that is something that we can put on the table," Mr Goff said.
The council had tried to keep the Ihumātao block zoned as public space, but lost the battle to the Environment Court in 2012, meaning there was nothing more the council could do, Mr Goff said.
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