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Qiane Matata-Sipu, Kiingi Tūheitia and SOUL leader Pania Newton. Photo/RNZ/Eden Fusituá

Ihumātao dispute resolution expected by Waitangi Day - Kiingitanga

The Kiingitanga flag at Ihumātao has come down and Kiingitanga representatives say a positive resolution is expected ahead of Waitangi Day.

Kiingi Tūheitia arrived at Ihumātao this morning after a fence was removed by Fletcher Building yesterday sparking talks that a settlement was close.

About 60 people from both the Kiingitanga and protest group Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) were at the ceremony for the return of the flag.

The King had visited the site - which neighbours historically significant Ōtuataua stonefields and has been occupied by mana whenua protesting the construction of 480 homes for years - last August, and raised his manawa as a symbol of peace and unity.

The protests had gained momentum last July after some of the occupying mana whenua were served eviction notices on the land, which was confiscated from Māori in 1863.

Related article: What Ihumātao reveals about NZ's protection of Māori heritage sites | Ihumātao and the Ōtuataua Stonefields: A very special area

The Kiingitanga gathered the different groups involved together in September, and it was made clear mana whenua wanted the land returned to them.

Details of a resolution are yet to be confirmed but in a statement this morning, representatives of Kiingi Tūheitia said the King's work was largely concluded with the expectation of a positive resolution ahead of Waitangi Day.

"There's still some work to do, but Kiingitanga is satisfied that now is the time to retrieve the flag from Ihumātao.

"In essence, Kiingi Tuuheitia's work is done. He has successfully interceded on behalf of his people to find a pathway to a resolution that is outside of the Treaty process."

Kiingi Tūheitia at Ihumātao.

In the release the Kiingitanga acknowledged the patience and hard work of others, particularly Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"It's been a challenging process and we will be better for it as a people and a nation."

The government has said it acknowledges the significance of the Kiingi Tūheitia's decision today to lower his flag at Ihumātao.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he recognised the king's expert leadership in a complex situation and commitment to finding a way through that all parties could be happy with.

He said the government would continue to work with all parties to reach a resolution, and were mindful of Fletcher Building's position as the legal owner of the land.

He said a satisfactory settlement with them was an important part of a resolution.

A spokesperson for Kiingi Tūheitia, Rukumoana Schaafhausen, said the resolution to the Ihumātao land dispute would not include funding from Waikato-Tainui.

"The King, as you've heard in the whaikōrero this afternoon, this is his iwi, this is his whānau, this has been his focus over the last six months," she said.

"He is working closely with mana whenua from this area to work through a resolution that does not include compensation or funding from Waikato-Tainui."

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said he was confident a resolution would be reached soon.

He said the council had been involved in discussions with the Crown and Kiingitanga, on behalf of mana whenua, to find a long-term resolution to the issues raised at Ihumātao.

He said once a draft agreement was reached by all parties, it would then be subject to final approval by all councillors at the governing body meeting next month.

Construction of 480 homes has been on hold since July after hundreds of protesters occupied the land to stop the development.

This article was first published on Radio NZ.