The Government has made its two appointments on the Ihumātao working group but is waiting on Kīngitanga to select its representatives before any progress can be made. It’s been a year since the Crown bought the land, writes political editor Jo Moir.

On December 17 last year Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced the Crown would buy the long-disputed land of Ihumātao, next to Ōtuataua Stonefield’s Historic Reserve in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Fletcher Building had previously put a $45 million price tag on the property but sold it to the Crown a year ago in a deal that cost about $30 million.

By then, SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) protesters at Ihumātao had been peacefully occupying the privately-owned land for the best part of four years.

In 2019 any building at the site ground to a halt when the Prime Minister struck a deal with Fletcher Building to hold off on a proposed housing subdivision of 480 homes while a resolution was found.

One year on from Robertson’s announcement and the steering group announced as part of the resolution has still not formed and no progress has been made on how best to use the land, including what mixture of housing will be built.

“I was hoping to get the group up before Christmas, but I can’t select Kīngitanga’s people.’’ – Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson

The governance group, Roopu Whakahaere, will consist of seven members, made up of three Ahi Kā representatives chosen by the Kīngitanga, a separate representative from Kīngitanga, two Crown appointees and one observer from Auckland Council.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson is charged with helping form the group and told Newsroom the Crown’s appointments have now been made.

“They’ve agreed to go on the group and we’re waiting for Kīngitanga now…it’s taken a little while and I can understand people getting a bit impatient, but we’re trying to work with Kīngitanga,’’ he told Newsroom.

“I was hoping to get the group up before Christmas, but I can’t select Kīngitanga’s people.’’

Jackson is hopeful the Crown appointments being made will speed up the process of selecting the other representatives.

“We’ll tell Kīngitanga who they are in the next few days and follow it up with a phone call and we’ll see where they’re at, but they’re taking their time.’’

He wouldn’t confirm who the two Crown appointments are, other than to say they both bring a Māori perspective and have an understanding of housing and Ihumātao.

Jackson isn’t quite at the point where he’s putting pressure on Kīngitanga to make appointments by a certain date, but he will have a conversation about timelines ahead of Christmas.

“I would hope we’ve got this group rolling by February – that’s what I’m hoping,’’ he told Newsroom.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson hopes the Crown appointments will speed up Kīngitanga announcing its representatives. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

The Taxpayers’ Union made an Official Information request about the appointment status of the steering group.

“The process for determining the representatives requires a considerable period of facilitation by the Kīngitanga,” Jackson responded in writing.

“Given the complex relationships and associations between the parties…the Kīngitanga appointment process creates pressure on the relationships between these groups, and it is important the Crown allows the process to take the time it needs’’.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke told Newsroom the Government had failed to “achieve consensus’’.

“Any agreement on the number, ownership, or management of homes is being delayed indefinitely.

“Actual construction at this point remains a pipedream,’’ he said.

In a December Cabinet paper from last year, the Crown says it recognises “the need for housing on the site’’ but the extent of that will be decided by all parties involved.

A number of iwi have connections to the land and even within iwi and hapū there are splits and divisions as to what the land should be used for.

Which of those groups end up being represented will play a large role in the type of housing likely to be built at Ihumātao in the future.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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