Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to rule out discussions about a Government loan to help iwi Waikato-Tainui buy the contested land at Ihumātao.

But she's accused the Opposition of disrespecting Māori efforts to settle the ongoing occupation of the South Auckland site during a debate in Parliament.

Māori King Tūheitia has been acting as a mediator between mana whenua who oppose a housing development by Fletcher Building on the land and the iwi authority that has given the deal its backing.

The Government is not a party to the talks.


Waikato-Tainui last week denied reports it had reached an agreement to buy the land, but did not rule it out as an option.

Ardern on Tuesday faced a series of questions in Parliament from Opposition leader Simon Bridges about whether the Crown had had any discussions about a loan to help a purchase.

She said the Government would undermine and destabilise the talks by discussing them publicly.

"I am not going to undermine the discussions that are currently taking place between Kīngitanga and mana whenua," she replied.

"They are seeking a by-Māori-for-Māori solution and I am going to respect that process and allow that to occur."

National Party leader Simon Bridges has pressed the Prime Minister on whether a loan has been discussed. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National Party leader Simon Bridges has pressed the Prime Minister on whether a loan has been discussed. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Since Ardern announced a halt to the development at Ihumātao amid rising tension in late July, the Government's position has been to wait for mana whenua to come back with a proposal for a solution.

Asked specifically whether there had been discussion of an "interest-free" loan to the Kīngitanga, Ardern answered: "No."

But pressed by Bridges about whether any loan had been discussed, she accused the Opposition of undermining the process.


"The member is completely disrespecting what Kīngitanga is trying to do and I will not do that," she said.

"Unlike that member I actually want to see a solution for Ihumātao. I care what happens to that land. I care what happens to the many young people who have convened to try and find a solution for that land."

She also declined to say whether the Government had received advice about whether a loan to Waikato-Tainui would have any impact on New Zealand's Treaty settlement process.

Act Leader David Seymour, who also pressed the issue in the House on Tuesday, called for the Government to rule out a loan.

"If the Government isn't in negotiations with a third party and isn't planning to loan or give money to purchase the land, the Prime Minister should be able to say so," he said.

In a statement, a spokesman for Waikato-Tainui said discussions were ongoing.

"When we are in a position to make an announcement we will do that. Until then everything else is pure speculation," he said.

Ihumātao is thought to be one of the earliest places settled in Tamaki Makaurau and those occupying the land say the site is of historical and cultural significance. The 33 hectares was confiscated after the New Zealand Wars and ended up in Crown hands in 1867.

Fletcher Building wants to develop 480 homes on the site and earthworks had begun in July when machinery was blocked by protesters.

They were issued with an eviction notice on July 23 and Ardern announced a pause to the development three days later.

The land was sold to the company in 2016 after being designated a Special Housing Area by the Government. It has been the subject of controversy since.