Ihumātao – in its own terms

The Police Commissioner needs to explain the decision last night to crank up the heat at Ihumātao. The development is on hold, discussions are taking place, the Government is trying to de-escalate. What agenda are the Police pursuing here?

The whole situation needs careful handling by the Crown. This is a site of unique significance, and the issues are not simple. In addition, it highlights a systemic injustice of the treaty settlement process: that stolen land in private hands are out of bounds. That is untenable as a long term position and has potential to unravel at any time.

On the other hand some people are comparing this to the Foreshore and Seabed. I’m a long way from the action but I find that hard to understand. F&SB was the Govt of the day passing legislation to seize potential Māori property rights across the country. Clark’s Govt pre-empted a court case to disadvantage Māori. It was a modern-day raupatu.

Ihumātao, as far as I understand, is about protecting a unique and important site from development. It was stolen a while ago and went into private Pakeha ownership. A previous National Govt ruled that privately owned land could not be part of any treaty settlement. A later National Govt fast-tracked the consent process to use it for housing. Jacinda is trying to figure out a way through the mess.

Yes Ihumātao should be protected. Yes the Crown needs to take responsibility for its role to date. Yes the Govt must grapple with the broader question of how to deal justly with important sites in private ownership (bearing in mind they haven’t hesitated to take Māori land when it served Pakeha interests). But to me this isn’t about trying to make a comparison to a very different situation.

To me the point is to recognise what Ihumātao represents in its own terms: another generation of rangatahi seeking to take up their role as protectors. Another opportunity to build activist networks and connections and grow the movement for positive change. Another significant moment in the work to decolonise ourselves.

It is also part of a broader context. Indigenous people around the world are asserting their mana, and more than that, the vital importance of indigenous values in the world today. Values far more important than money.

Many tangata whenua and tangata tiriti have supported and been inspired by Standing Rock, by Mauna Kea. Many have been angered by the revelations about “uplifts” of Māori children. At the same time we are seeing the world fraying and coming apart around us. Ihumātao is a catalyst, an opportunity to disrupt the status quo and demand something different.

If there ever was a time when we needed to speak up, it is now. If there was ever a time to make a stand for justice, for people and for the earth, it is now. Love and respect to the protectors at Ihumātao, and everywhere.


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