A Māori land protester is planning mass rallies against Fletcher Residential at Māngere, likening it to Bastion Point for its importance to those opposing a just-allowed 480-residence housing scheme.
Pania Newton of Save Our Unique Landscape reacted strongly this morning to the Environment Court's rebuff of an appeal against Heritage NZ's assent to the development, saying she would bring more people to occupy the land.
"We look at Bastion Point. Although it's a different situation, it's very similar in many, many, many ways. I am angry, frustrated. My heart is really heavy but the fire to continue in this fight is blazing," she said after the damning court decision.
"We are considering a number of actions, including an appeal. There's definitely another option we are considering. We have a commitment to elevate occupation of the site," she said. "We always knew it would take people power to win this fight. We want to save this land because the powers that be are just not good enough."
About "two dozen" people were now on Fletcher the land, she said, although she objected to it being called that: "We would call it open space, an historic reserve, mana whenua. We will bring as many people as it takes," she said of planned mass protests.
Housing would "desecrate" the land, she said.
Newton is understood to be living in a brick house on the Fletcher land and in the structure the company owns.
Steve Evans, Fletcher Residential chief, said: "This is not like Bastion Point. That was public land. This is private, cultivated farm land with no trace of stone fields, which the court has found not to be rare or unique."
Watch Evans talk here.
The court decision would allow Fletcher to start immediately, although it would wait till the appeal time period lapsed and begin next year, aiming to sell the first homes in 2020. Places would range from one to five bedrooms on the land near high employment zones like the airport, Evans said.
"Auckland desperately needs more houses. We now have permission to start. We'll build close to 1000 houses this year. The court decision is just. But the good thing about the Resource Management Act is that it allows people to appeal," Evans said.
The Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve was around 100ha, he said, stressing the size and saying it was not a small area of land. Fletcher was not building on more than a quarter of its 33ha site.
"We're building on less than 25ha," he said.
The court acknowledged the relationships of Māori with the land but said those relationships had been considered.
Newton, kuia Betty King who has undisputed whakapapa to Makaurau Marae, Ngā Kaitiaki o Ihumātao Charitable Trust and SOUL Ihumātao took the case against Heritage NZ which said it granted authority for a site which excluded areas of archaeological importance.
Newton said the land held historical and archaeological significance "not only for the Māori people but also for the wider Auckland area and New Zealand. This is the area we wish to protect and preserve for future generations. We want our voices heard on this significant issue," she said in Herald video two years ago.
Building work was also subject to conditions, it said, so that if archaeological discoveries were made, correct procedure was followed. All earthworks were to be monitored by an archaeologist approved by Heritage NZ. Any archaeological evidence encountered was to be investigated, recorded and analysed. Before earthworks start, an archaeological investigation must be made of the listed sites. A public interpretation panel must be erected.