Labour has dropped support for legislation that would see public reserve land at Pt England developed for housing as part of a Treaty of Waitangi settlement with local iwi - labelling the move a "land grab".
The 300 home development has emerged as one of the most controversial local issues in Maungakiekie in election year and Labour's candidate Priyanca Radhakrishnan announced her party's opposition to the development along with housing spokesman Phil Twyford.
Maungakiekie is a marginal seat and Radhakrishnan will be aiming to wrest it back off National after current MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga announced his retirement from Parliament. National's candidate is Auckland Councillor Denise Lee.
Labour's opposition has disappointed Ngati Paoa, who said without the land there would be no Treaty settlement between it and the Crown.
"By opposing the legislation Labour is opposing a Treaty settlement bill - for the first time in the history of the Treaty settlement process," said Hauauru Rawiri, chief executive of Ngati Paoa Iwi Trust.
"All other iwi in Tamaki Makaurau support this transfer. Opposing the Bill pits the Labour Party against mana whenua of Auckland."
Rawiri said he urged Labour's Maori MPs to lobby colleagues on the issue and vote against their party if necessary.
The Point England Development Enabling Bill allows for housing development on 11.7 hectares of the 48 hectare Point England Reserve in Tamaki, east Auckland.
Ngati Paoa will have the right to develop the land for housing. A further 2ha is being provided for the development of a marae as part of the cultural redress of the Treaty settlement.
Ngati Paoa's planned development of about 300 homes could be under way later this year, and aims to have a minimum of 20 per cent social houses and 20 per cent affordable houses.
The rest of the Point England Reserve will remain as recreation reserve land alongside the adjacent Council-owned beach reserve.
The enabling bill is opposed by the Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board and the Point England Reserve Bird Sanctuary Group, who fear the development will affect about half of the dotterel nesting sites in the reserve.
When Labour supported the enabling legislation at its first reading in December its Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare said he was "extremely excited" about the opportunity for Ngati Paoa.
And Labour's Kelston MP Carmel Sepuloni said the party supported the bill because "we will support any piece of legislation that is going to be about building more affordable homes in Auckland".
"It does not make sense to use prime land for grazing cows when it could be used for affordable housing," Sepuloni said.
However, in a press release today Twyford said the legislation was a "land grab" that flew in the face of the local community's wishes.
"The Minister seems to think because some of the land has cows grazing on it, it's fair game to take it for housing. The community needs this land for future generations. Once it is sold for housing it will be permanently lost to the public."
Opposing the legislation was a tough call given Labour's strong support for Treaty settlements, Twyford said, but National had "completely stuffed it up".
"They could have offered land the Government already owns which is right next to the reserve that is now part of the Tamaki redevelopment. Instead they're grabbing park land against the wishes of the local community which sets a dangerous precedent."
Henare told the Herald he supported Labour's opposition to the Pt England development, which had been debated and decided upon as a caucus.
"I'm getting a little bit annoyed at it being passed off as a Treaty settlement bill, because if it was it would have come to the Maori Affairs select committee for consideration, and it didn't.
"I get it - we need more homes in Tamaki Makaurau. But for the purposes of Ngati Paoa, why weren't they considered for any of the assets in the Tamaki Redevelopment Initiative."
Radhakrishnan said the city needed its open spaces.
"What has left the community upset and angry is the National Government has been secretive and underhanded. They never consulted with the community.
"I've called a public meeting on April 26 so people can prepare to fight this land grab."
Rawiri said Labour's position that Ngati Paoa was being duped by the Government was "supremely patronising and condescending", and assertions that other land was available were incorrect.