Pania Newton Taking up the Fight for Ihumatao
Pania Newton, 26, a descendant of Ihumatao has been integral in helping to establish Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL Ihumatao), the group at the forefront of the Auckland land struggle.
Ihumatao is one of the first places in New Zealand that humans called home. About 800 years ago Polynesian adventurers pulled up their waka and set up gardens on the edge of the Manukau Harbour. Today, the land is scattered with stones that once made up the great walls around their plots. From the outside, the green expanse is one of the few tranquil open spaces in Auckland city. On the inside, it’s a site of dispute.
SOUL Ihumatao has occupied the land, gathered support, held events, and educated as many as possible about the struggle. In May, Newton and her co-campaigner Delwyn Roberts, took their cause to the international stage, appearing at the United Nations in New York to present their case.
Newton says: “My whakapapa extends as far back as 28 generations, to my tupuna, Hape. Puketapapa, the area that we are occupying, is where my tupuna Te Aho o Te Rangi once was settled. I’m connected throughout all these whenua and it means a lot to my identity. It has shaped the person I am today, and who I will be in the future.
“We aim to constantly exercise our right as kaitiaki and uri of these lands, and to resist and oppose SHA62.
“The support has been overwhelming. Other indigenous groups are very supportive of our kaupapa, despite the atrocities they are facing in their own communities around the world. I felt humbled to be there amongst the different indigenous leaders present. What we hope to achieve is international visibility and for the UN to put pressure on the New Zealand Government to fix the mistake that they made. We also hope that the Special Rapporteur will take up our invitation to visit Ihumatao in the coming months. We were glad when they agreed to lodge individual communications with the New Zealand government. We have also been invited to present to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in Geneva in July.”
Original article by Liam Ratana, VICE, May 31, 2017.
Photo by Cam McLaren.