The Māori activist protesting against Fletcher Building's plans to develop an Auckland site says she has occupied the land for two years and 63 days and plans to stay, but Fletcher says it will start development there this year.

Pania Newton of Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) said this week she had moved onto the land on November 5, 2016, but Fletcher wants her and the group to leave. In 2017, it issued a trespass notice against her and the group and won Tenancy Tribunal proceedings.

But Newton said no enforcement action had been undertaken.

"Every day that I am here undisturbed on my tupuna whenua feels like we're winning. Every time I plant a new native tree and veges on this whenua to reclaim it for what it was once used for, I feel like were winning."


Fletcher plans to build 480 houses near the protected Ōtuataua Stonefields reserve at Ihumātao in Māngere and Steve Evans of Fletcher Residential said work on the site at 30 Ihumātao Quarry Rd will start this year.

Newton said today: "They can come with their trespass notices and contractors try to tell me I'm illegally occupying and that I will have to leave - but I never will until this whenua is protected and preserved. This whenua was stolen from us once in 1863 and again in 2016. 2019 will see it returned - I promise."

In a TedX Auckland address titled Ihumātao: recognising indigenous heritage, Newton showed the notice and said she and her five cousins had a responsibility to the cultural and heritage landscape and they were supported by their family and community.

Ripping up the notice gets cheering and clapping: "I stand here today and say to Fletchers that I'm not going anywhere and I'll take a stand to save this land."

She then sings a waiata which she said is taken to Waitangi every year: "We will never, we will never give up our right to fight for what's right, oh no, we will not, we will not."

All 11 written comments supported her, some written in te reo Māori.

Newton read Fletcher's notice.

"To Pania Newton and members of the Save Our Unique Landscape campaign: in accordance with the above act and section, you are hereby warned to stay off the place known as Ihumātao Quarry Road. It is an offence punishable by a fine not exceeding $1000 or by imprisonment not exceeding three months to enter the above address within two years from the date you receive this warning."

Newton said: "This was given to me by Fletcher Building. They tried to trespass me from ancestral land, land that was meant to become a public open space for all New Zealanders to enjoy, not just the 480 millionaires who can afford to live there."

Fletcher defended its plans and took issue with Newton's claims, saying it was not building on the ancient stonefields, the company said in a statement.

"This unique treasure is protected forever for all New Zealanders by a 100ha reserve. Our new homes will be built on a dairy farm next door where historic sites won't be built on," Fletcher said.

Pania Newton's reaction to the trespass notice, as shown in the video.
Pania Newton's reaction to the trespass notice, as shown in the video.

In fact, it was relinquishing more than a quarter of the dairy farm to add to and protect the reserve, it said.

"The homes are not being built for multimillionaires. They are being built for a diverse community of ordinary working New Zealanders taking up jobs in the many businesses nearby, and include 48 discounted homes," it said.

Fletcher was working closely with the iwi and the local marae, who were supportive of the new homes and their location, it said.

Read more: Protesters gather outside Fletcher AGM, voice concerns about Ihumātao

Newton's protest against Fletcher's plans date back some years, although Fletcher says its project got backing in every forum, including Auckland Council to the Environment Court.

See more: Fletcher Residential's Steve Evans hits back at critics over its Māngere housing estate plans