Five people were arrested on September 9th, ending a 28-hour occupation of Kaitāia Airport by sovereignty activists.
Although this has been widely reported, the reasoning behind the protest has not been reported in detail. The government’s offered sale of land to iwi in the region neglected original owners Ngāti Kahu.
In an interview with Waatea News, occupation leader Wikitana Popata described this as a “divide and conquer” tactic. Negotiator Margaret Mutu similarly explained in an interview that their dispute is not with other far North iwi, but with the government. Mutu underlined that Ngāti Kahu “never ceded sovereignty.”
We republish a statement released by occupation organisers on September 8th.
Owners Repossess Kaitāia Airport
The owners of the lands on which Kaitaia Airport and Rangiāniwaniwa Kura have been built repossessed their lands today. The government took the land from Kataraina Mātenga in the 1940s and is now attempting to sell it to a neighbouring iwi.
The government has never owned Rangiāniwaniwa – it belongs to the descendants of Kataraina Mātenga, the Erstich whānau. They still live on the lands they have left at Rangiāniwaniwa and are clear that they are the only people the government can return this land to.
The government took the land in the early 1940s as part of its World War II effort, promising to return it at the end of the war. They have refused to do that despite extensive negotiations. The Erstich whānau has been asking and waiting patiently for over 70 years. The government decision to sell the stolen properties has resulted in the family taking the only recourse available to them which is, repossessing their lands.
The Erstich whānau are Patukōraha hapū of Ngāti Kahu and are closely related to Ngāi Tohianga hapū also of Ngāti Kahu. The Erstich whānau, Patukōraha and Ngāi Tohianga have the support of all the hapū of Ngāti Kahu in the action they are taking to ensure that their land is returned to them and not someone else who is not mana whenua at Rangiāniwaniwa.
It is for the Erstich whānau, Patukōraha and Ngāi Tohianga to decide whether the neighbouring iwi, Ngāi Takoto, has any role to play in Rangiāniwaniwa, not the government. The government is being deliberately divisive in selling Rangiāniwaniwa to Ngāi Takoto when it knows the land belongs to the Erstich whānau.