Barry Soper: Ihumātao - the lingering migraine for the Beehive

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 19 September 2019, 9:03AM
The Greens, through their co-leader Marama Davidson, also support the return of the land to mana whenua. Photo Dean Purcell
The Greens, through their co-leader Marama Davidson, also support the return of the land to mana whenua. Photo Dean Purcell

COMMENT:

It was being touted as a possible Foreshore and Seabed issue for the Government.

That's the issue that spawned the birth of the Māori Party and drove a wedge between Helen Clark's Labour Government and Māori that took years to repair.

The Ihumātao land dispute certainly has the potential to cause significant division now that it's been "settled". It's the expectation of those who were involved in arriving at this point that could become a lingering migraine for the Beehive.

The Māori King Kīngi Tūheitia proudly proclaimed that he had successfully guided mana whenua of Ihumātao to a unified position - they want the disputed land back.

It's their expectation on the Government on how to achieve the return of the land that could cause problems on a number of fronts.

The King says the views of the mana whenua have been conveyed to the Government and he's urging them to negotiate with Fletchers to return the land "to its rightful owners".

The Greens, through their co-leader Marama Davidson, also support the return of the land to mana whenua. The current owners Fletchers didn't get a mention but the Crown did with Davidson saying that's where the return had to come from.

Extrapolated, it's fair to assume there's an expectation that they expect the Crown to buy the land and give it back. The Greens have stood with the mana whenua from the start, Davidson said, and they'll continue to be a voice in Government that they can rely on.

It may be a lone voice though if you listen to the leadership.

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, whose word in this Government is generally the final one, isn't having a bar of it. Peters is happy for ministers to continue to be part of the discussions but they won't be in the business of negotiating with the construction company.

Peters rightly contends Ihumātao was part of what he says was a significant Waitangi Treaty settlement process and insists any notion the land would now be bought back by the Crown would set a precedent.

He didn't say it but he knows a buyback would cause a stampede of other unhappy claimants who have settled.

And his view was reinforced in Parliament's bear pit when Grant Robertson was challenged over the issue by the Nats, clearly sniffing blood. The Finance Minister was unequivocal, the Government has no intention of reopening full and final Treaty settlements.

If the unthinkable happened and Fletchers simply gave their land to Māori, who were going to get houses built for them as part of the housing development deal, where would that leave other companies who are building houses for Kiwis?

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