Auckland protest demands protection of Maori land

By Mike Tucker
July 9, 2018
Qiane Matata-Sipu

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Over 300 people demonstrated here May 26 protesting moves by Fletcher Building, the country’s largest construction company, to begin building 480 houses for sale on historic Maori land at Ihumatao.

“They are trying to steal our land for their economic gain,” Pania Newton, a leader of the protest, told demonstrators. “Today we are acting to show them that we are staying on this land.”

“Over the past few years we have been to the United Nations and got support and have petitioned the government,” Newton said. “But nothing has been done to stop this. History shows that legal processes are designed to oppress us.”

The Maori people, the indigenous people, have lived here continuously for hundreds of years. Ihumatao was one of the first human settlements in New Zealand. It was confiscated by the New Zealand government in 1863. Government militias, backed by 12,000 British troops, invaded what is today the southern part of Auckland and much of the neighboring province of Waikato. This was the biggest military offensive against Maori in the l9th century New Zealand land wars.

“The New Zealand land wars began right here in 1863 and we are still fighting,” Haare Williams, a government-decorated artist and broadcaster, told protesters.

SOUL — Save Our Unique Landscape — was initiated in 2015 to campaign to preserve the land by residents at Ihumatao. The predominantly Maori village of 80 households borders the confiscated land near Auckland’s airport.