Minister for Crown Māori Relations Kelvin Davis has rebuffed protesters’ calls for the Prime Minister to visit Ihumātao after her return to New Zealand tonight.
Kelvin Davis denies Ms Ardern’s absence is a snub. / Richard Tindiller
Jacinda Ardern departed for a visit to the remote territory of Tokelau last week, but not before announcing a halt on building at the South Auckland site while a resolution to the Māori land dispute was sought.
Hundreds of people remain on the property near Auckland Airport to display their opposition to a major housing development by Fletcher Residential.
Ministers have been meeting with those involved, but protesters have told RNZ they’re disappointed Ms Ardern has yet to visit them.
Speaking to reporters at Parliament today, Mr Davis said he did not think Ms Ardern should go to Ihumātao once she was back in the country.
“We’ve got Māori ministers who are actually working on the issue, so we don’t want to overcomplicate the situation.”
Mr Davis denied Ms Ardern’s absence was a snub, saying both he and the Prime Minister were confident in the job Māori ministers had been doing.
“It’s a very complex situation. Let’s not try and complicate it further,” Mr Davis said. “We don’t want to undermine… the progress that’s been going on.”
Senior Māori minister Willie Jackson echoed Mr Davis, saying he did not see the need for Ms Ardern to visit “at the moment”.
“What’s the need for her to be there? We’re making progress,” Mr Jackson said.
“The protesters seem to be quite happy with the… communication that’s been happening.”
Mr Jackson said Māori ministers were in constant communication with the Prime Minister’s office.
“There’s been a lot of work done this week by our Māori ministers. Nanaia Mahuta went in yesterday.
Jacinda Ardern is visiting the remote territory of Tokelau. Photo: JULIAN SMITH / POOL / AFP
“Peeni Henare’s doing some work up there. I’m meeting with a couple of people over the next 24 hours.”
New Zealand First minister Shane Jones said Ms Ardern should “feel under no compulsion to go and see the protesters at Ihumātao”.
He instead issued a message to Māori King Tūheitia who last night announced he would visit the land on Saturday.
“King Tūheitia needs to stamp his authority over this political carousel that has arrived in his rohe,” Mr Jones told reporters.
“If the Kīngitanga want to uphold their status in that South Auckland area, then they have to bring some order, and they have to work with the protesters and the hapu to find a way out of the current imbroglio.
“You can’t just blame the Ministers of the Crown. What’s the point of being the customary leader of the Tainui tribe if you don’t generate a solution yourself?”
Mr Jones also fired a barb at the protesters, saying the Treaty settlement process was not perfect, but “just arriving with loud voices, flags, and massage tables is not an alternative”.
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