A group of between 40 and 80 protesters has gathered outside Fletcher Building's headquarters in Penrose, expressing opposition to plans to develop land at Māngere.

The Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) protestors have gathered outside the Great South Rd premises to oppose Fletcher Residential plans to build 480 residences at Ihumātao near Auckland Airport.

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Roger Fowler of SOUL said a picket line had been established: "There's tremendous support and toots from passersby." Councillors Cathy Casey and Efeso Collins were on the protest line.

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Members are holding banners saying 'Save Ihumātao', 'Stand with Ihumātao' and 'Super City - Super Ripoff!'

One estimate put numbers at around 40 people although Pania Newton of SOUL and Fowler said more than 80 people were on the street.

Fletcher issued a statement this morning saying that during the last four years, it had "worked in partnership with Te Kawerau a Maki who, together with Te Akitai, represent the people who hold mana whenua of Ihumatao, to ensure our approach to developing our land supports their kaitiaki of the surrounding area.

"This includes co-designing the masterplan and designing homes under the guidance of Te Aranga design principles, as well as devoting over a quarter of our 32ha development area to add to the Otuataua Stonefields Reserve, which is adjacent to our site. This existing 90ha reserve, and not our land, represents a culturally significant part of Auckland, where the first interactions took place between Māori and Pākehā," Fletcher said.

Pania Newton of SOUL outside Fletcher's HQ. Photo/Roger Fowler
Pania Newton of SOUL outside Fletcher's HQ. Photo/Roger Fowler

The company acknowledged the SOUL group's right to protest today but questioned its status with regard to the land.

"It is important to note that the SOUL group does not represent the wishes or interests of mana whenua. That role is being held by our iwi partners. For some time now we have been meeting with the SOUL leaders to try and find a pathway for them to voluntarily end their unlawful occupation of our Oruarangi Road site. Our land has been private land for 150 years. In the meantime, and against the wishes of mana whenua, they are continuing to prevent us from building much-needed new housing that has been given the necessary approvals for development by council, Government and Heritage NZ," Fletcher said.

Fletcher wanted to provide homes which will include long term rental, assisted ownership and KiwiBuild homes as well as open market homes, and our development will open up home-ownership opportunities for people and families including those with strong connections to the area and, or a wish to live close to the rapidly-growing employment centres of Manukau and Auckland Airport, the company said.

Pania Newton at today's anti-Fletcher protest. Photo/Roger Fowler
Pania Newton at today's anti-Fletcher protest. Photo/Roger Fowler

Steve Evans, chief executive of NZX-listed Fletcher Building's residential and development division, said last week the business might sell the land if the right offer was made.

No serious offers had been made on the Māngere land at Ihumātao but he did not rule out considering options for the site where land protesters are trying to stop development.

"We have not obtained any offers which we have verified as serious and that we could take forward. Like any of our land sites, we would always be open to offers which valued the land at or above what we thought was its value," Evans said last week.

Auckland Council values Fletcher's site at 545 Oruarangi Rd at $36m, being $35.7m in land alone.

Fletcher plans 480 homes on its 33ha site at 545-561 Oruarangi Rd beside the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve.

SOUL members protested outside Fletcher's annual meeting at Eden Park late last year, spoke out against the business in that meeting and plans a series of events to raise the profile of its grievances.

Today's protest is part of its wider campaign to try to stop Fletcher building.

"This action will be targeting Fletcher Building Limited who bought the land at Ihumātao and are planning to start construction soon. Fletcher's must urgently stop all plans for this land, and instead return it to mana whenua," SOUL said of today's event, due to finish at midday.