A small occupation on farm land at the eastern end of the Waipapakauri Straight, north of Awanui, differs markedly from what has been seen so often around the country in the past.
The occupiers, from the tiny settlement of Waimanoni, were not protesting, spokesperson Keryn Pivac said yesterday, but were protecting land that was at the heart of their community. And all they were seeking was a fair price, which they were able and willing to pay.
The 11ha, which includes a wahi tapu, was occupied on Saturday, Ms Pivac saying it would continue until negotiations over the purchase of the land were completed satisfactorily.
The land, she said, had traditionally belonged to Waimanoni, but had been transferred to general title in 1855. It was now part of a 74ha farm, from whom the community wished to buy it. The Aupōuri Ngati Kahu Te Rarawa (ANT) Trust, also wished to buy it, however, and was due to settle next year, but was willing to sell it to the community at three times its official valuation.
Ms Pivac emphasised that all the community wanted was a fair price; it was not asking for the land to be returned at no cost, and was prepared to reimburse the trust for work it had done there. The community had a five-year plan, which included establishing gardens (with support from the local horticultural industry), raising beef cattle and building a walking track, with significant sites marked and explained.
A hui in August, attended by Waimanoni descendants from around the country and Australia, had agreed that a resolution should be sought by negotiation, but, failing that, the land should be occupied.
There was no dispute with the current owners, but a deep-seated aversion to being "dictated to" by the trust, which was not part of and did not represent the Waimanoni community.
"We are doing this for the future of our tamariki and our marae," Ms Pivac said, Kaio Hooper adding that the community was totally unified.
"We are all on the same page. We are making a stand for a fair conversation," he said.