Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Govt tried to hide Ihumātao link to Treaty settlements

“Jacinda Ardern’s Government has been caught red-handed, saying one thing about potential Treaty of Waitangi implications of spending $30 million of taxpayers’ money to buy its way out of Ihumātao and trying to cover up the truth,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“When the deal was announced on 17 December Ministers were adamant this was a one-off deal that would have no implications on past or present Treaty of Waitangi settlement claims.

“The Government was warned from the get-go that if it butted into the Ihumātao issue – a dispute over private land – other iwi groups would inevitably feel that their full and final settlements with the Crown were neither full, nor final.

“Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on Radio NZ on 18 December ‘It’s very clear to us that this does not affect the Treaty settlement process.’

“But the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Cabinet paper that Ministers discussed on 14 December clearly states otherwise in two places, paragraphs 31 and 32:

  • ‘Crown Law and Te Arawhiti have been working through the Treaty implications of a purchase through the Land for Housing fund, and the use of the MOU to determine the future use of the land,’ and;
  • ‘This is due to the fact that the land is being purchased by an agency (whose land is not generally available for use in Treaty settlements) for a specific purpose (e.g. housing).’
    “But you weren’t meant to know that. Those two passages were redacted to keep them secret from the public.

“However, copying and pasting the PDF file of the Cabinet paper into a Word document removed the redactions.

“Another revelation from the redactions is that there may never actually be any housing on the Ihumātao site.

“Hidden paragraph 21 states [emphasis added] ‘Funds received from the sale of the land for housing or support for housing, or any other uses which are deemed to be more suitable than housing, will be returned to the Crown.’

“So despite the 17 December announcement saying ‘the parties have committed that there will be housing on the site,’ the advice says the new owner could decide not to build houses there.

“That’s very important, because this damning information follows yesterday’s revelation that Treasury advised against using Housing and Urban Development’s Land for Housing fund to buy the land off Fletchers because it was ‘at odds with Land for Housing’s intent, operating model, and scopes of related appropriations.’

“Treasury believes the Government’s auditors may decide the money used to buy the land at Ihumātao ‘does not fit within the appropriation scope and is unappropriated spend.’

“Indeed, if the new owners did determine the land was suitable for something other than housing Treasury would be proved more than right.

“The Land for Housing fund is money appropriated for Kiwibuild. Treasury advice was clear: using it for potential housing at Ihumātao was tenuous at best. If it’s not used for housing at all it will be more than tenuous, it will have been misappropriated.

“This sort of behaviour is expected of Governments far from here with fewer democratic rights and freedoms. It deserves much greater scrutiny.”