3 Jun 2015

Māori Party asks for 'please explain' over land sale

9:36 pm on 3 June 2015

The Māori Party has waded into the stoush between the Government and Ngāti Whātua, over the sale of public land in Auckland.

Te Ururoa Flavell

Te Ururoa Flavell Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei has sought advice on the legality of the Crown's intention to sell the land.

Deputy Chairperson Ngarimu Blair said it was disappointing that the Crown did not engage with the hapū directly prior to announcing the plan to release the land, which has been earmarked for housing purposes.

"We recognise and are concerned about the significant shortage of land available for residential houses in the Auckland market," he said.

"We have experience in this area and would like to be part of the solution. We would be happy to evaluate the opportunity at market value."

Meanwhile, the Māori Party is demanding the Government honour its Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the iwi.

Co-leader Marama Fox said the Right of First Refusal was a standard provision in most Treaty settlements, but in this case the process initiated by the Housing Minister Nick Smith bypassed that requirement.

She said it was contradictory for the Crown to offer apologies and compensation to iwi through their Treaty settlements and then ignore them when it felt convenient to do so.

Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said the Party had already asked the Government for a "please explain".

"If the Crown is able to use other legislation to override the Right of First Refusal this will potentially have significant implications for all settlements," he said.

"Ngāti Whātua has offered up a number of options to the Crown and we expect the Crown to deal with them in good faith."

But Nick Smith rebuffed criticism of the Government's dealings over the situation.

Nick Smith at a housing development in Three Kings in Auckland.

Nick Smith pictured recently at a housing development in Three Kings in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

He said there was no First Right of Refusal in the specific Crown settlement with Ngāti Whātua.

However, he said there was a First Right of Refusal in the Tāmaki Redress Act that Parliament passed last year.

Mr Smith maintained the Tāmaki Redress Act made reference to the capacity for the Government to be able to develop and sell land for housing purposes.

"The Housing Act of 1955 and the Settlement Act of 2014 specifically makes the provision for myself as Minister of Housing to be able to declare land for housing purposes and that is exactly what we are doing."

Labour Party spokesperson for housing Phil Twyford said Ngāti Whātua was an active member of the Tāmaki Collective.

"I rate Ngarimu Blair as someone with integrity and he said they were not consulted," he said.

"Someone here is not telling the truth. I think that the Minister in his efforts to circumvent Auckland iwi's right of First Refusal under Treaty settlement arrangements is putting at risk of judicial review his whole Budget housing announcement around the use of Auckland Crown land."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said she believed Ngāti Whātua had the First Right of Refusal.

"The Government is wrong to find tricky ways of getting out of that deal. It is a legal entitlement that Ngāti Whātua have."

Ngāti Whātua said it expected to receive its legal advice shortly and in the meantime the hapū would not make any further comment.