Housing giant Fletcher Building can next week shut a public Auckland road to its planned 480-lot Māngere housing estate where land protesters vow to stop work at Ihumātao due to Māori land grievances.
Steve Evans, Fletcher Building's residential and development division chief executive, said today the business could shut the road on Monday.
"From May 6, Fletcher Building has consent to close Ihumātao Quarry Road to allow for work to begin on the land we own. Public notices have been issued and all approvals granted. Exact details are still being worked through, however our plan is to begin development soon," Evans said today.
That closure lets utility works be installed, road upgrade works carried out and heavy equipment can be moved onto the land for earthworks to begin, he said.
Whether Fletcher will start on Monday is uncertain but Evans said the closure was necessary.
"Once development starts, large vehicles and equipment will move from one side of the road to the other and so a road closure is important to ensure the health and safety of the public and those working onsite," Evans said.
Fletcher made $9.4b revenue in the June 30, 2018 year. Its residential division had operating earnings of $136m, up on the previous year's $130m. The 480-home Māngere project could be worth at least $300m.
Its site is opposite the 100ha Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve and despite years of protest, land occupation, legal challenges, rallies, criticism and marches, Fletcher is legally allowed to build there.
Pania Newton of Save Our Unique Landscape [Soul] which has been trying to stop Fletcher said this week: "We have been doing non-violent direct action training, learning about peaceful resistance. We have our kuia put up their hands to stand in front of the bulldozers. They are aged 80-plus, people in wheelchairs and on walking sticks."
For more than two years, Soul members have illegally occupied a Fletcher-owned house on land beside the stonefields at 56 Ihumātao Quarry Rd.
Newton said she was worried about how "hundreds of people a day" would access the stonefields when the road was shut.
But Evans dismissed that: "The public won't be able to access the 100ha Ōtuataua Stonefields through Ihumātao Quarry Rd. However there are at least two other entry points, including through the northern gates about 700m further along Oruarangi Rd."
Newton said the body of her father, who died suddenly in Auckland last month, rested for a time in the Fletcher house before it was laid to rest in the whenua and a police investigation into his death was ongoing.
A Fletcher statement said: "We saw on social media that Pania and her whanau had taken the body to the house at Ihumātao Quarry Rd. The whanau did not advise Fletcher Building, or seek our permission as the building owners. However we appreciate this is something whanau do during tangi and we respect that."
Newton confirmed police were investigating her father's death.
Asked about a South Auckland shooting last month, police said: "We are still investigating the death of a 62-year-old man at an address in Aldo Place, Clover Park. A post-mortem has since been completed. Police are still conducting a number of enquiries to establish the circumstances around the man's death."
Newton said electricity to the house was disconnected last month, around the time of her father's death and resting in the house.
Fletcher's statement said: "Pania's father passed in the early hours of April 5. On 13 April, contractors disconnected power to the house that Fletcher Building owns at 56 Ihumātao Quarry Rd. Fletcher Building sent letters to those unlawfully occupying the house asking them to leave and informing them that we do not believe it is habitable. As the land and property owner, Fletcher Building can disconnect the power to the property."
Newton said lack of electricity did not deter protesters living in the Fletcher house: "We're using other means of sustaining ourselves."
Fletcher said thee people were in the house for about three years "and have on several occasions have been asked to leave. Trespass notices were issued in 2016."
The company was working with Te Kawerau a Maki and Te Warena Taua, representing the mana whenua, and would return more than a quarter of the 32ha to iwi, plant native trees, build a visitor centre and create an open area between houses and the stonefields, Fletcher said.
"We have met with Soul on a number of occasions. It is important to note, and the iwi have said this publicly that Soul do not speak on behalf of the iwi," Fletcher said.