Ihumātao deal could be imminent after Jacinda Ardern becomes personally involved

Source: 1News

A deal could be imminent over Ihumātao after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became involved in negotiations between the Government, developers and Māori who claim mana whenua. 

The deal over the disputed land in South Auckland is expected to cost more than $30 million. 

Pania Newton of Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) said reaching a resolution had not been easy, "but I think it'll be one of the best things I could ever experience in my lifetime". 

1 NEWS understands the Government is planning to acquire land at Ihumātao under the Housing Act, with the intent it would avoid issues with the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.

In addition, it's also understood that it does not guarantee a specific number of houses would be developed, with the decision being left up to the group that administers the land. 

"The mechanism that will be used to acquire the whenua may not be a mechanism that a lot of people agree with," Ms Newton said. 

"But our whānau is satisfied with where the conversations have gone. And it's definitely not our intention to build housing on this whenua."

1 NEWS can reveal Jacinda Ardern became involved in some of the negotiations along with some of Labour's Māori caucus. 

It is understood Ms Ardern set a deadline of June 30 for a resolution.

NZ First has publicly opposed using taxpayer funds to purchase the land. 

Last year, MP Shane Jones labelled protestors "freedom campers" .

It is not the first time the Government has come close to settling the dispute around Ihumātao. 

It was reported in January that a deal was close - but deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters told NZME that was "simply false". 

Fletchers Building warned the Government and protestors in February it could  not hold off developing the land indefinitely

Provided the deal goes through, it is understood the next stage is for a rōpū whakahaere to be established, to provide a board to make decisions related to the land.

It would have representation from the Government, Auckland Council and Māori organisations.

Fletcher would not comment on the possible resolution.

Ihumātao was confiscated from Māori in 1863 and was then held in private ownership. 

In 2014, company Fletcher Building purchased the land with the intention to build 480 homes in partnership with local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki. 

However, a separate group claiming mana whenua of the land occupied Ihumātao. 

TVNZ1’s Q+A will have more detail and an interview with SOUL leader Pania Newton at 9.45pm.