Māori leaders who asked Auckland Council for $1 million for a "Statue of Liberty" structure at Bastion Point are facing calls for their resignation over the way they handled the proposal.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust chairman Marama Royal has admitted that "an internal error" was committed by applying for council funding before the proposal was formally presented to the trust board.

Ngāti Whātua Kaipara resource consents co-ordinator Pani Gleeson, an Ōrākei resident, said people were calling for "an emergency wānanga [workshop] with the trust board to find out what has happened".

A member of the Ōrākei hapū, Steve Phillips, called for the resignations of both Rangimarie Hunia, the head of the hapū's tribal development arm who fronted the proposal for a Statue of Liberty-scale statue of Papatūānuku the Earth Mother, and any trust board members who supported the plan.

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"I think it's pretty well a dead duck now," he said.

"We have seen our Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust directors go into damage control and wash their hands of it and made it look like our chief executive [Hunia] has gone out on her own. I find that very hard to believe."

He said Hunia's tribal development company should have been concentrating on improving the Ōrākei houses, which the tribe has taken over from Housing NZ, instead of pursuing a statue.

"You only need to walk through here to see the state of the housing. People are getting sick from the housing," he said.

"We have all these blocks of vacant land down there, yet Rangimarie has said there were 102 whānau - that's whānau [families], not individuals - on the housing waiting list.

"To be saying that and then to be putting that out advertising that pou [statue], I was not happy with that at all."

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Royal posted a statement on Facebook this week that "the idea for a statue or sculpture has not been formally presented to and received support from the trust".

"To be clear, the trust has not approved this project, and we have not put any money into this kaupapa."

She said the tourism strategy had been moved from Hunia's tribal development company to the hapū's business arm, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Rawa.

A Whai Rawa director and trust deputy chairman Ngarimu Blair said this week that Māori tourism opportunities across the whole Auckland region "should be explored thoroughly before any discussion on a potential sculpture".

Royal told the Herald on Sunday last week that "an iconic pou planned for Takaparawhau/Bastion Point" was "being led by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei".

Auckland Council said it had approved $100,000 in this financial year to design the pou and $900,000 next year "for initial development".

Mayor Phil Goff said the pou "has the potential to be an iconic symbol of Auckland".

Rangimarie Hunia (above), chief executive of Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Maia, presented the proposal to a council workshop with then trust chairwoman Sharon Hawke. Photo / Dean Purcell
Rangimarie Hunia (above), chief executive of Ngati Whatua Orakei Whai Maia, presented the proposal to a council workshop with then trust chairwoman Sharon Hawke. Photo / Dean Purcell

Ōrākei ward councillor Desley Simpson said Hunia and Sharon Hawke, who then chaired the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Reserves Board, presented the proposal at a council long-term budget workshop on May 9.

Hawke has since retired as chairwoman and her replacement, Royal, has yet to chair her first meeting.

Simpson said the $1m was allocated in the long-term plan under the council's co-governance arrangement with Ngāti Whātua for the Ōrākei reserve land, but no money would actually be spent unless both parties agreed to a formal funding agreement for it.

Royal said Hunia's company "has been working with the Reserves Board on this application for funding".

"The proposed statue was not formally presented to the trust and therefore has not received our support," she said.

"It should have been presented to us before any application like this was made. It wasn't, and that is an internal error that we are looking at."