Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk
New Zealand police have pepper-sprayed two dogs and arrested three more people at the site of a controversial land dispute in South Auckland, reports RNZ.
The site at Ihumātao near Auckland Airport is zoned for housing development but has been the subject of a bitter dispute between local iwi and private construction company Fletcher Building.
Yesterday three people were arrested after police and kaumatua (elders) arrived on site to deliver eviction notices to the demonstrators, some of whom had been occupying the land for months.
While protesters remained overnight, peacefully singing waiata and sitting around a campfire, tensions again erupted when Fletcher trucks began entering the site at 8am this morning.
A spokesperson for the protesters group SOUL, Pania Newton, said that was despite an agreement with police that no more vehicles would go through.
Police ‘breach trust’
“The police have breached our trust. We no longer have any confidence in the New Zealand police,” she said.
According to RNZ, police said protesters attempted to obstruct a truck from gaining access through the cordon and two were arrested.
One woman will face charges of obstruction and being unlawfully on a vehicle, police said. A second person will be given a pre-charge warning for obstruction before being released.
Police said the dogs were pepper-sprayed because they were “uncontrolled and aggressive.”
Ihumātao is part of land considered wāhi tapu (sacred) by local hapū and iwi as it sits next to Ōtuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve, home to New Zealand’s earliest market gardens and a 600-year-old archaeological and burial site.
While 32 hectares of the land is owned by Fletchers Building, protesters have been occupying the site in a gesture of resistance against the planned housing development.
During yesterday’s confrontation, Spinoff reported one protester criticising police for their participation in evicting kaitiaki [guardians] on behalf of the foreign-owned Fletchers.
“Complicit in colonisation”
“You’re complicit in colonisation. The armed constabulary at Parihaka were just doing their job. Apartheid police in South Africa were just doing their job,” she said.
Videos on the SOUL Facebook page shows more demonstrators arriving at the site, singing songs and performing haka before a growing police presence.
Meanwhile, 300 protesters descended on Parliament in Wellington today in a show of solidarity with the people of Ihumātao, reported RNZ.
Protest organiser Tamatha Paul was urging the police force to stand down and all parties to get together to resolve the issue according to tikanga Māori.
Yesterday, Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson spoke in support of the occupants saying they were on the right side of history and her heart went out to them.
“Unjust land confiscation”
“I wanted the government to come to a better solution and negotiate directly with mana whenua, so I’m really sad that it has come to this, which is a continuation of unjust land confiscation,” she said.
Stuff.co.nz has been criticised on social media for referring to the demonstrations as an “illegal occupation” despite the fact that the Crown confiscated the whenua (land) from Māori during the invasion of the Waikato in 1863.