Protesters trying to prevent construction vehicles entering what they say is a sacred site in South Auckland are claiming police have broken an agreement with them.

Three protesters were arrested last night and a fourth this morning after she wedged herself between a truck and trailer unit.

Around 40 protesters are at the Ihumatao site, near Auckland airport. Twice as many police are in attendance.

They are opposing a Fletcher project to build nearly 500 new homes at the historic site.

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Protest leader Pania Newton is urging others to join them today. "Bring your tamariki. This area remains a safe place. Bring your guitar, bring your drums, bring your weaving."

Newton said the protesters' philosophy was based on Parihaka - peaceful and non-violent.

She accused police of using brute force in trying to remove one of her fellow protesters.

"They're actually yanking her out, pulling her hair, pulling her arms. It's actually quite inhumane if I could describe it in one word."

Newton says they want the building stopped and the site preserved for all New Zealanders to enjoy.

Large police presence, four arrests

By RNZ

Police made three arrests at the protest yesterday and a fourth today.

The group has been occupying the land, near Auckland Airport, in an effort to stop the development going ahead, but was moved off yesterday by more than 50 police, as well as local kaumātua, the building company and bailiffs.

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About 40 people spent the night at the cordon. Newton said police had floodlights on the group overnight.

Almost 12 hours after being ordered to leave the land they'd occupied for years, Newton, voice croaky from shouting, said she felt frustrated, sad, angry, and disappointed.

"I feel like this was just another repeat of Bastion Pt. The way that they just came in and erected fences and ejected us from our lands is almost similar to what they did in 1978."

The site is due to be developed by Fletcher Building, which plans to put more than 400 houses there.

By sunset more than 50 police officers stood in two rows blocking access to two roads as trucks moved back and forth carrying machinery and lights, while the occupiers yelled "shame on you" at the police.

Police at the housing development site on Tuesday night. Photo / RNZ-Tom Furley
Police at the housing development site on Tuesday night. Photo / RNZ-Tom Furley

Three people were arrested late in the afternoon yesterday for obstructing police, but most remained peaceful, with singing long into the night and parents bringing their children along.

As the night grew colder, a small fire was lit and cups of tea handed out, including to some of the officers barring the way in.

Newton and mana whenua met last night to discuss where too next and many supporters were prepared to spend the night holding the line.

Mirky, who joined the occupation two months ago, said he was shocked by the eviction.

"I started out feeling fairly defeated, but now I feel victorious after hearing those speeches, after seeing how many people have come here from all over New Zealand already.

"I've been here for long enough, I'm going to stay here as long as I can," Mirky said.

Fletcher Building said in a statement yesterday it had tried to engage with the group for the past three years, but they had never shown a willingness to find a solution.

It said the 480 home development was tested in the Māori Land Court, the Environment Court, and the United Nations - where all objections have been unsuccessful.

Local councillor Efeso Collins was among those who turned up to show support and said Auckland Council has urged the Government to step in.

"There's been very little return or reply from the Government. I think we need to sit down and have that discussion and say look, you guys have got the money, we obviously don't have... it's been rated anywhere between $15 million and $40m.

"Whatever the cost is, we've spent $100m on the America's Cup, we can damn well spend money here, get back this land and make it the precious sacred land that it is."

Newton said they're in it for as long as it took.

"We do plan on continuing our peaceful presence on the land. We will not leave until we see justice for Ihumātao."