It is not a surprise that we have another case of iwi occupation, this time at Shelly Bay in Wellington.
It was widely predicted that members of Whānui Taranaki might occupy the Shelly Bay land if they saw that the occupation at Ihumātao in Auckland had been successful.
And for all intents and purposes, Ihumātao’s occupation was successful. We’re still waiting to hear the exact details of the deal, but it’s clear there will be a resolution and Fletcher will not be developing its land in the way it intended to after paying $19 million for it.
And so we have a similar thing now playing out in Wellington.
The situation here is that the land was sold by the commercial arm of the iwi to a developer, Ian Cassels. He plans to build 350 homes on it.
But members of the iwi didn’t want the land sold and they have a court case scheduled for March to dispute that. But they’re worried that Cassels plans to start on-selling bits of land before the court case, hence the occupation.
Now, it’s not for me to say whether they have a legitimate case or not against their own iwi – that’s for the courts to determine - but this is not the way to resolve these disputes.
It is unacceptable to have people occupying land that is now legally owned by someone else. If these occupiers think they have a case, they should go to court and apply for an injunction to stop further sales. That is the legally appropriate way to deal with this.
The delays that this occupation will cause must risk imposing huge costs on Ian Cassels, in the same that the 16 month delay caused by the Prime Minister’s intervention in Ihumātao must be costing Fletcher huge sums too.
The concern is what this will do to developer confidence in future land deals with iwi and hapū. Matthew Tukaki of the Maori Council reckons this as many as half of the current housing development deals risk falling over if developers get too nervous about the risk of occupation if they buy iwi-owned land.
And his concern is where else iwi will get investment from if those deals do fall over.
This occupation is short-sighted and damaging and not the right way to resolve legal disputes over private property.