The Government is meeting with Ihumātao occupation leader Pania Newton as it seeks to bring an end to a land dispute that threatens to become this era's Bastion Pt.

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta entered a confidential meeting with Newton at 1pm in Auckland, a spokesman said.

The dispute over the housing development planned on the 33ha site in Māngere, South Auckland, has erupted since those occupying the land - regarded as sacred to mana whenua - were served eviction notices last week.

Today's meeting comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Friday a halt to the Fletcher housing development while all parties worked together to find a solution.

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A spokesman for Mahuta would not comment on any details of the meeting, but said they were "delicate negotiations and the Prime Minister has been deeply involved".

It will be the first official meeting between the Government and those leading the occupation.

Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta will meet with Pania Newton this afternoon in Auckland. Photo / File
Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta will meet with Pania Newton this afternoon in Auckland. Photo / File

Since last Tuesday the movement has swelled, with thousands of supporter pouring in from across the country.

While the focus has been on the disputed land at Ihumātao, sacred to Māori but where majority foreign-owned Fletcher Residential wants to build a major housing development, for many attendees the kaupapa represents the wider issues of Māori land rights.

The protests are being led by Newton and her cousins with the group SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) who have been pushing for the land, purchased by Fletcher in 2016, to be returned to iwi.

But Te Warena Taua, who chairs local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki and nearby Makaurau Marae, backs the development, which would see a quarter of the disputed land returned to mana whenua, and houses set aside for their people.

He had previously unsuccessfully challenged the process in court, and told the Herald in November last year the deal reached with Fletcher was the best the iwi could get.

Pania Newton has been leading the protest at Ihumātao. Photo / File
Pania Newton has been leading the protest at Ihumātao. Photo / File

However, Newton said the deal was not good enough, and has called on the Government to intervene and purchase the land and turn it into a public reserve. In February Fletcher said it would be open to selling for the right offer.

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Ardern had previously said the matter was for mana whenua, and stepping in would override the process, but on Friday after meeting with local iwi, Fletchers, and the Auckland Council announced a halt to building work while all parties worked together to find a solution.

Since then there has been no update from any party on a way forward to settling the dispute. The Government has said buying the land and returning it to mana whenua could open up previous settlements that had excluded private land.

Māori lawyer Moana Jackson said that would not be the case.

"That argument is a red herring. In other places where private land has been excluded from any settlement it has been because there was no willing seller. Fletcher has indicated it would be willing to sell for the right offer.

"The Crown created the injustice by confiscating the land [in 1863]. That confiscation created the complexities we have in the current situation. Therefore the Crown should act honourably and justly, and return the land."