Govt warned against using taxpayer, ratepayer money on Ihumātao:

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Nov 2019, 1:59PM
The Government hopes to find a resolution soon. (Photo / Newstalk ZB)
The Government hopes to find a resolution soon. (Photo / Newstalk ZB)

Govt warned against using taxpayer, ratepayer money on Ihumātao:

Author
Derek Cheng, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Nov 2019, 1:59PM

Iwi lawyers will be licking their lips at the prospect of relitigating Treaty of Waitangi claims if the Government loans money to buy the contentious land at Ihumātao, National deputy leader Paula Bennett says.

And she adds that no taxpayer or ratepayer money should be used to bail out the land in question.

But Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who is leading the Government efforts to resolve the standoff, says that one of the bottom lines of any resolution is not to set a precedent that could see Treaty settlements relitigated.

Radio NZ reported this morning that the Crown was considering a $40 million loan to Auckland Council to buy the land from Fletcher Residential, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fletcher Building.

Fletcher is seeking $40 million for the property - more than double the $19m it paid in 2014.

Robertson is meeting Fletchers chief executive Ross Taylor today, but this morning would not be drawn on the $40 million loan.

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett says buying the land at Ihumātao from Fletchers with taxpayers' money would send the wrong message. Photo / Mark Mitchell

National Party deputy leader Paula Bennett says buying the land at Ihumātao from Fletchers with taxpayers' money would send the wrong message. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"We're approaching this on the principles of being able to come up with a solution that everybody can live with, that doesn't set unfortunate precedent, that recognises mana whenua, but also recognises Fletchers.

"You can imagine, it's quite a complex endeavour."

He did not rule out the use of taxpayer or ratepayer money being used.

"Clearly if the ownership of the land changes, that will require someone to buy it. That will be one of the matters we have to discuss. Bear in mind we have not come to final conclusions yet."

But Bennett said neither taxpayers' nor ratepayers' money should be on the table.

"Let's obey the law, and the land is owned by private citizens and that's how it should be treated.

"There was a very fair Treaty settlement that was negotiated that was supposed to be full and final ... they [Ihumātao occupiers] need to move off that land."

She said a Crown loan to buy the land from Fletchers would be of interest to other iwi who have negotiated settlements.

"Iwi lawyers right now will be looking at this very closely, knowing this could open up a whole lot of other settlements. The message it sends is if you're not quite happy, then go and sit on land for a long period of time and the taxpayer will bail it out."

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson is meeting Fletchers chief executive Ross Taylor to discuss, among other things, the stand off at Ihumātao. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson is meeting Fletchers chief executive Ross Taylor to discuss, among other things, the stand off at Ihumātao. Photo / Mark Mitchell

She did not provide any examples of settlements that could be reopened if the land was bought from Fletchers, instead saying that they could happen "throughout the country".

Robertson said the Government wanted a deal to be done as soon as possible, and Labour MP Willie Jackson, who co-chair's Labour's Māori caucus, hoped for a solution by the end of the year.

Jackson, who said he had been feeling the pressure as a Maori MP, said the Crown loan was being discussed.

"We'll see what happens."

Ihumātao is located next to the Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve in Māngere - home to New Zealand's earliest market gardens and a significant archaeological site on land considered wahi tapu, or sacred, by local hapū and iwi.

Heritage New Zealand announced this month it was considering expanding the borders of the Stonefields reserve to include the disputed land and increasing its status to the highest level of heritage recognition.

Even if the land's heritage status was increased, the status of the special housing area would remain intact, meaning the land could still be used to build papakāinga housing - homes designed by Māori for Māori.

Public submissions on the heritage status are open until 29 November with a final decision expected no later than the end of February.

Kerre McIvor Mornings

Kerre McIvor Mornings

9AM - 12PM