Cambridge wahine join Ihumātao fight

Taaniko Nordstrom travelled with her mother Raewyn and two friends to suppor tthe Save Our Unique Landscape group at Ihumatao.

On July 27, Taaniko Nordstrom ascended a maunga at Ihumātao, looked out across land Maori have been fighting for years to save, sang a waiata to herself and cried.

“I understood then why SOUL is fighting for this place, for this land,” the Cambridge woman said.  “I could feel it from the bottom of my feet right up to the top of my shoulders.  I got a sense of what it must feel like for them.  The apprehension, the fear – and it’s very real – that they could lose that.  And the hopes and dreams they have for their people will go with that land.  I felt that fear and it made me cry.”

SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) is  battling to reclaim ancestral land at Ihumātao, which was taken by the Crown in 1863 and eventually sold to Fletcher Building.  Supporters have gathered at the site in Mangere, near Auckland Airport, to stop the company building 480 homes in a 33ha, $38 million subdivision beside Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve.

Taaniko and her mother Raewyn are not aware of any direct whakapapa links to Ihumātao, but are hugely supportive of SOUL.  They travelled to Ihumātao with two friends in late July to spend two days at the protest and loved the broad representation of people there.

“It wasn’t just Maori,” Taaniko said.  “There were Asians and Islanders and Pakeha.  So many times we focus on Maori versus Pakeha.  Well guess what?  The fight isn’t Maori versus Pakeha anymore.  The fight now, I think, has a lot more to do with what is right.”

There was a “beautiful” vibe at the protest site, she said, with people bringing koha (donations of food) to ensure everyone was fed and cared for, and prayers shared twice daily.

“It’s all a collective thing and if you go back to how we lived indigenously before colonisation it’s all about pakakainga, where you look after everyone,” Taaniko said.  “Everyone pitches in.  It’s a real Maori way of living.”

Taaniko said an earlier deal signed between iwi and Fletcher Building that would enable Maori to buy 40 Ihumātao homes at market value and have 25 per cent of their land returned was a joke.

“Obviously we’ve had experience with losing lots as Maori, so we’re afraid that we’ll lose everything and we take whatever deal we get – any scraps,” she said.  “And that’s pretty much what’s happened.  But now SOUL and local people are standing up and saying we don’t want any more deals.  We don’t want any more scraps.  We deserve more than that.”

Taaniko and Raewyn suggest moving the planned housing development to one of Auckland’s many golf courses.

“And that’s not so rich white guys have to go and play golf somewhere else; it’s because of the huge cultural and historical value of Ihumātao,” Taaniko said.

“It is the longest continuously occupied papakainga (village) in Auckland and people have lived and worked there for more than 1000 years.  It was once the site of huge gardens that fed both Maori and Pakeha and it’s home to sacred lava caves that were used in the burial of ancestors.

“So when my future kids say mum, so and so said that Maoris were dumb and they were lucky that we had white people come here I can go no, no, no, I’ll take you to this patch of land and show you what we did a long time before white people got here.  We were civilised and we were onto it and we were clever and we were pragmatic and we were problem solvers…I can show you the patch of land.  It’s so much different to going, it used to be here under this garage, can you imagine it?”

But both Raewyn and Taaniko believe the best solution would be for the Government to buy back the land from Fletcher Building and return it to the local iwi.

“I think it’s an important time for Jacinda Ardern, like it was for Helen Clark with the foreshore and seabed,” Taaniko said.

What’s stopping the Government from acting, she believes, is fear of the consequences.

“If they do this, they’ll have to put right every historical injustice and then we’d all be getting our land back.  It would open up every other private ownership of Maori land to protest.

“But my honest opinion is that if it doesn’t happen with this Government, when we’ve got more Maori representation than we’ve ever had, Maori are screwed.  Our fair treatment will never happen and we’re never going to have equal and fair compensation for the injustices that have been done to us in Aotearoa.”

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