10 Sep 2015

Airport protesters told to talk like rational adults

9:43 am on 10 September 2015

Ngati Kahu protesters who closed Kaitaia's airport were irresponsible and put the health of people in the Far North at risk, Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis says.

Screenshot from a Google Streetview of Kaitaia Airport

Kaitaia Airport Photo: Google Streetview

The airport was closed on Wednesday when protesters from Ngati Kahu marched in and locked the gate, forcing the cancellation of flights, including one bringing medical specialists to the town.

Yesterday afternoon, police evicted the group, who claimed the airport was being returned to another iwi. Five people were arrested.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

In Parliament yesterday, Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said the protesters had put people's health at risk, and doubted whether the occupation achieved anything, other than "letting people know that they've got a beef with the minister".

"I don't think that that's productive," Mr Davis said. "I think they need to sit down and start talking like rational adults and get to the settlement stage for the benefit of a whole tribe."

Mr Davis urged the protesters not to return to the airport.

Treaty Negotiations Minster Chris Finlayson said the protesters did represent Ngati Kahu, but were just miscreants and louts.

"I'm sick of their behaviour and sick of the way they treat the mana of their iwi.

"It is oafish behaviour."

Attorney General Chris Finlayson

Chris Finlayson (file) Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ngati Kahu and Ngai Takoto have been offered 50-50 shares of Kaitaia Airport in their respective Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

But if Ngati Kahu does not settle with the Crown within three years, 100 percent will be offered to Ngai Takoto.

Mr Finlayson said the protesters did not understand the treaty process.

However, New Zealand First leader Mr Peters said the minister was being arrogant.

"The minister should get off his high horse, and stop acting in the arrogant way he does.

"The reality is the High Court here in Wellington last month gave a finding that the [Waitangi] tribunal should reconsider its finding with respect to this matter."

Mr Peters said all Ngati Kahu was seeking was a fair hearing.

Wikatana Popata, who was one of the five protestors arrested yesterday, told Radio New Zealand News the group would continue to protest.

"We challenge this government, we challenge this Crown, that we don't care how many police they put up there, we don't care how many - we don't care if they get the army up there to stop us," he said.

"All we know is that we will be back up there. Watch this space."