Ihumātao: National would have 'dragged those Māoris out by the throat' - Willlie Jackson

The AM Show 29/11/2019

Labour MP Willie Jackson has defended the Government's handling of the Ihumātao standoff, saying if National was in power, "they would have dragged those Māoris out by the throat about three months ago".

Protesters have been occupying the south Auckland site for months, trying to prevent the construction of a planned subdivision. 

Local iwi made a deal with building company Fletcher, which saw some of the land handed back and iwi get a share in the housing project. They described it as "better than anything we have ever achieved from Housing New Zealand or the Crown". 

But protesters want the land, confiscated in 1863, returned to Māori in full.

Jackson, co-chair of Labour's Māori caucus, has previously said while he understands the protesters' point of view, the deal was done. 

On Friday however he said the Government was close to coming to a deal with the protesters, iwi and Fletcher.

"We obviously can't tell you how that's looking," he told The AM Show. "I just wish some of the critics would appreciate what we're doing."

Good on what Jacinda is doing.

Jackson defended Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's handling of the affair so far, including a halt to construction in July, despite renewed criticism from the protesters.

"Some of her behaviour is becoming tokenistic, wearing a beautiful feathered korowai to meet the Queen and using te reo Māori in her [United Nations] speech," protest leader Pania Newton told Newshub on Thursday.

Ardern was advised to visit the protesters two years ago, long before they hit the headlines earlier this year, but didn't. A hikoi to her office in August also failed to convince her. 

"It shows that her priorities aren't the issues that Māori are facing," said Newton.

Jackson said he is disappointed with the protesters' attitude.

"All she's getting is a boot in the guts from some of the people out there... You've never had a Prime Minister more committed to the language and culture than this Prime Minister. I remember John Key opening the 2011 World Cup - he couldn't even say 'kia ora'...

"She's working on a settlement for Ihumātao, which is much more than what National would have done. If National was in, they would have dragged those Māoris out by the throat about three months ago." 

Willie Jackson. Photo credit: The AM Show

Jackson says they hope to have a deal settled by Christmas. 

National MP Judith Collins, also appearing on The AM Show, said Ardern should never have gotten involved.

"It is really important that we understand the mana whenua - who have lived there for a long time - have done a deal with Fletcher, and post-Treaty settlements, and we need to respect those."

Ardern told Newshub on Thursday she "absolutely" will visit, but getting "some resolution" is more important. 

Only a third of Kiwis in a recent Newshub-Reid Research poll believe she should have visited the site by now.