Anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared atop an Auckland maunga targeting the Tūpuna Maunga Authority chair Paul Majurey in what has been called an "abhorrent act".

Since October, protesters have been occupying Ōwairaka/Mt Albert to prevent the removal of hundreds of exotic trees as part of a major cultural and native restoration project that has the backing of the city's mana whenua and Auckland Council representatives.

The protest camp was removed by the TMA on Wednesday as it breached the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown rules.

But protest group Honour The Maunga disputed the reasoning behind the removal, issuing a media statement claiming they had unveiled "concerning untruths", including that the TMA had police support and that the tent equipment was removed from the maunga - the group claimed it had instead been placed in the toilet block.

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Overnight Thursday that very toilet block was plastered in bright orange graffiti reading, "Majurey lies", with two large Star of David symbols beneath his name.

Tūpuna Maunga Authority chair Paul Majurey has called the graffiti an
Tūpuna Maunga Authority chair Paul Majurey has called the graffiti an "abhorrent act". Photo / Russell Brown

Honour the Maunga spokeswoman Anna Radford told the Herald the group did not support the action, and called it a "disgusting act".

But Majurey said it continued a run of "hate speech" and demonstrated the true character of the protest group.

"Childish name-calling is of no consequence, but the anti-Semitic and supremacist use of the Star of David is abhorrent," said Majurey, who himself has no Jewish heritage.

"Sadly, this is the latest ramping up of the escalation of intimidation and hate speech by the protest group."

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In November last year a protest group leader posted on Facebook that the TMA's plans to restore native vegetation on the maunga was retribution for colonisation, Majurey said.

At a public hui held by the TMA on November 28 a non-Māori member of the public took to the microphone and placed a curse on all mana whenua who supported the restoration plans.

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Tūpuna Maunga Authority chair Paul Majurey was the target of the graffiti. Photo / File
Tūpuna Maunga Authority chair Paul Majurey was the target of the graffiti. Photo / File

Letters opposing the project have also been delivered to Mt Albert residents under the "One Treaty One Nation" banner, referring to the Treaty of Waitangi settlement over the maunga as a "fraud".

"It does say something about the value set of those who seek to portray themselves as victims over the removal of unlawful structures as the result of their flouting of the clear lockdown rules during a global pandemic," Majurey said.

"Based on previous form, we can expect the protesters to try to distance themselves from this latest attack and claim they had nothing to do with it.

"However, the public will be able to draw their own conclusions as to those responsible given the location, style of attack and proximity to the recent removal of their unlawful structures.

"It is timely for some very misguided individuals to take stock and remind themselves that they are in the middle of a global pandemic and that the scars of the Christchurch massacre are still very fresh.

"What really matters in these challenging times is whanaungatanga and aroha."

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The attack has been reported to police.

Massey University sociologist Paul Spoonley told the Herald it appeared to be "typically anti-Semitic".

"The combination of the Star of David and the suggestion people are lying about something is very typical, classical anti-Semitism.

"Even now there is a strong conspiracy online that Jewish people are behind the Covid-19 outbreak, and are lying about it."

What was unclear was the intention behind whoever did the graffiti, Spoonley said.

"It will be interesting to know whether it was from a white supremacist group, someone who believes in Jewish conspiracies, or if it was someone just trying to be offensive. But my guess would be that it is deliberate."

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Local residents at the entrance to the summit of Ōwairaka/Mt Albert in a November protest. Photo / File
Local residents at the entrance to the summit of Ōwairaka/Mt Albert in a November protest. Photo / File

Honour the Maunga spokeswoman Anna Radford said she had been sent images of the graffiti and was "horrified" to think someone would seek to represent their group in that way.

"We certainly do not condone this disgusting act. It has not been done by a member known to the group, and must be from the wider community."

When asked about the link between her group's media statements claiming Majurey was not telling the truth, Radford said they could not control other people's actions.

"Just because someone supports our ideas does not mean we support their behaviour. We didn't incite this."

The protest camp was hit by what they say was an act of vandalism in January when a fire broke out in the early hours near their site while people were sleeping.

Background

The city's 14 tūpuna maunga were transferred to the mana whenua tribes of Auckland in a 2014 Treaty settlement.

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They are managed by the Tūpuna Maunga Authority, made up of six iwi representatives, six Auckland Council representatives and one non-voting Crown representative.

The authority is independent of the Council and has decision-making powers and functions.

Majority of the city's maunga were important Māori pā (settlements), making them separate from other parks and open spaces in that they were wāhi tapu - sites of immense spiritual, ancestral, cultural, customary, and historical significance to mana whenua.

The tree removals are the latest in the wider restoration project to replace hundreds of exotic trees on the city's maunga with 74,000 new native trees and shrubs by 2021, to "restore the mana".

The aims of the city-wide project are to reconnect native ecological networks within and between the 14 maunga and the wider landscape, and also improve the sightlines.

Work on Ōwairaka/Mt Albert has been stalled since protests began in November, and a subsequent High Court legal challenge.

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