All the key dates and critical communications between Sarah* and the Labour Party – including unambiguous references to ‘sexual assault’ from the complainant.
Jacinda Ardern has declared herself “deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated” over the allegations levelled at a Labour staffer as well as the party investigation into the man, who remains employed by the Labour leader’s office and denies wrongdoing.
The party president says he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”.
The prime minister says she had been assured that no complainant alleged sexual assault or violence. She says the first she learned of the nature of the allegations that Sarah (a pseudonym) insists she raised repeatedly with the Labour Party, was upon reading the Spinoff’s investigation published on Monday.
A crucial question is whether the Labour Party’s position, that it was not informed of the allegations, is tenable. Just as important is whether its process – for example in repeatedly failing to meet complainants’ requests to review the summaries of their oral evidence – is defensible.
Below, an incomplete chronology, based on public statements and numerous documents provided to The Spinoff.
The incident at the home of the staffer takes place, according to Sarah, as described in this feature.
Newsroom reports complaints about the handling of allegations relating to a Labour Youth Summer Camp, which had been held in February in Waihi.
Labour announces a review into the Summer Camp allegations, to be conducted by Maria Berryman.
“We failed the young people who told us they had been hurt – this failure left them feeling abandoned and I am deeply sorry for that. It’s not good enough, we let them down,” says Jacinda Ardern. “We handled this very, very badly as a party.”
Labour Party President Nigel Haworth invites anyone with other complaints to bring them forward. “I want this to be a safe party where everyone can go to any event and be sure they won’t be harassed or subjected to any of this treatment. It is utterly unacceptable.”
Sarah raises concerns about the behaviour of the man at the centre of the allegations for the first time in writing – having previously discussed with fellow party members – in an email to Maria Berryman.
Nigel Haworth writes to Young Labour members to “explain what the party has been doing in recent weeks”. He adds: “The NZ Council has determined that it will do all that it can to ensure the party is safe and inclusive in future,” and urges anyone concerned to contact him.
Sarah emails Haworth in response to the above, alleging “predatory behaviour” on the part of the individual, and asking whom to contact.
The Berryman report is provided to senior Labour members but not published. Recommendations include introducing a new open process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with appropriate specialist advice.
A Labour Party official contacts Sarah to set up a meeting to discuss her complaints, stemming from her email to Haworth.
Sarah meets the official and Haworth at the Wellington Central Library. Sarah, by her account, outlines the allegation of sexual assault. Howarth disputes this.
The New Zealand Council, Labour’s governing body, meets to assess whether an investigation should take place. It agrees that it should, and appoints a three-person “sub-committee” to investigate alleged misconduct. All three are members of Labour’s NZ Council.
A party official emails complainants advising that a sub-committee has been appointed.
Complainants receive written notification that interviews will take place on March 9.
Interviews are held with what is thought to be seven complainants at Fraser House, Labour’s base on Willis Street, Wellington.
An hour before her interview, Sarah emails the investigating panel chair, writing, “I want to be able to read off of a timeline and testimony I’ve created. Would someone be able to print this before my interview?” In a screenshot viewed by The Spinoff, there are two documents attached. One is titled “To print, sexual assault”. Labour says he received no attachments.
The panel chair emails Sarah asking her to send the documents to a party official who is providing access to the building. She does so. According to Sarah, four copies of the documents were printed and placed on the table where the interview took place. Sarah goes through the document, explaining her experience, including the alleged sexual assault. The panelists dispute that they heard such allegations.
Sarah emails the panel seeking “an update on the investigation”. She writes: “Just adding the seriousness of the situation here, an accusation of sexual assault, manipulation, bullying and emotional abuse.”
Having had no reply to the previous email, she emails again, forwarding the previous correspondence, asking “are we able to get a response?” and saying she is concerned “given his continued approaches to the members who’ve spoken on behalf of this investigation”.
A member of the panel responds three hours later acknowledging receipt but not offering any update.
Nigel Haworth writes to complainants advising that the investigation will be concluding in the coming days, with a report to be finalised and sent to the NZ Council, which will consider its recommendations at a meeting on June 15.
One complainant responds, concerned about the paucity of information provided since their interviews. The process has been “completely unacceptable”, he writes. “While this investigation was ongoing (which involved elements of predatory behaviour, sexual violence and physical violence) he was allowed to [provide] swipe card access for a Young Labour event at parliament … It is like the party has learned nothing in the wake of the Young Labour summer school”.
Another, Sarah, responds separately, writing in an email to Haworth and the investigating panel: “Are we able to see a confirmation [of] testimonies that are being handed to [inquiry subject] and his legal team? At least my own script from meetings?” And: “Are we able to see the full report before you share the details to all of NZC?”
She writes: “Forgive me for being panicked, I’m just completely lost at the lack of communication… to now being told the investigation report had been completed.” She reiterates unequivocally that the allegations include sexual assault.
Sarah writes again to the members of the panel, copying Haworth, to agree to a meeting to “clarify the allegations and the matters that the party is investigating”, adding: “but the question still stands, am I able to see a confirmation of the testimonies that are being handed to [the respondent] and his legal team? At least my own script from meetings? … Not really keen to continue to provide all this information if it’s not being checked, we’re not sure who’s seeing it, and it’s being handed to [NZ Council] without follow up … The process we’ve ended up with is retraumatising so many people.”
The chair of the panel writes to Sarah, saying: “I am happy to provide a copy of your notes.”
Sarah emails the three panel members asking again for the notes from her interview. She also sends them “my notes of testimony”. Her attached notes include clear and repeated references to her own “sexual assault” in February 2018.
The NZ Council meeting considers the report of the investigating committee, and approves its recommendation of no disciplinary action.
Nigel Haworth writes to complainants to say that at the last meeting NZ Council “received and endorsed a report from the investigating panel. The recommendation was that no disciplinary action be taken in this case.”
He advises that there is no appeal process in the party constitution, but “this does not, of course, preclude an approach to Council in relation to queries that arise following the investigation”.
He says they will today receive “the transcript of your statement to the investigating panel. I recognise that this is important for all of you.” No such transcripts appear to have ever existed. The handwritten notes that were taken are not provided for another 10 days to one complainant, and a further eight days later to another.
The Labour party general secretary, Andre Anderson, writes to complainants advising that the process of the inquiry will be reviewed by the party solicitor. It will “be limited solely to procedural matters” and “not reinvestigate whether misconduct took place” nor involve fresh interviews. That will mean sharing with him “the information that you provided to the investigating committee when you were interviewed”.
After that review is complete, “NZ Council will then be able to make an informed decision regarding any further steps”.
He adds: “I understand that the investigating committee may now have sent you the written record of your interview. If not we will send it to you on Monday [July 16].”
He says the staffer has been asked to “stay away from Fraser House”, and asks that complainants “stay away from Bowen House (not just from the leader’s office)”.
A Labour Party official sends Sarah her “testimony”. “With the caveat that we have not yet been able to establish whether this was the exact version that the respondent saw.”
There is no reference in the handwritten, abbreviated notes to any allegation by Sarah of sexual assault.
Another of the complainants receives their testimony from the party.
The first news of the allegations and the inquiry is broken by Newshub. Tova O’Brien reports: “Newshub can reveal the Labour Party has been forced to review an internal investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer. It follows complaints the investigation process was botched and traumatising for the alleged victims. At least four people have resigned from official party roles and cancelled their membership as a result.”
On an unknown date in early August, Jacinda Ardern is given a “heads up” over the complaints made to the Labour Party in relation to the individual. At this point, she will later tell media, she asks whether there are any complaints involving allegations that are “sexual in nature or physical in nature”. She is “advised that they are not”.
Jacinda Ardern says of the review: “This has been a test of whether or not we’ve now learnt from [the Summer Camp scandal] and the party is taking a good look at whether we’ve satisfied the natural process of justice and whether or not we’ve supported the complainants as we should have.”
Paula Bennett reveals a Beehive staffer has approached her to protest Labour’s handling of complaints in the case.
A spokesperson for the prime minister responds: “To the best of our knowledge, the issues raised by Ms Bennett have not been raised with us, Parliamentary or Ministerial Services.”
Jacinda Ardern attends a meeting of the New Zealand Council, the governing body of the Labour Party, where she “expressed complete dissatisfaction with the way [the inquiry] had been handled by the Labour Party”. She “very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour by members of the Labour Party, but particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault.”
Nigel Haworth issues a statement announcing the establishment of an “independent appeals process” to be conducted by an unnamed “independent and experienced expert”.
Nigel Haworth emails complainants in the investigation, saying “Council decided it was appropriate you be offered the opportunity to appeal”, providing a nine-day deadline for opting in.
The 21-year-old man facing allegations of sexual assault at the Labour Party summer camp agrees a plea deal, which sees the sexual allegations dropped and guilty pleas in relation to two amended charges of assault.
Stuff reports that complainants and witnesses in the case had been “barred from parliament offices”.
The Spinoff publishes a 4,000 word investigative feature detailing Sarah’s experience, headlined: “A Labour volunteer alleged a violent sexual assault by a Labour staffer. This is her story.”
A statement from Nigel Haworth provided to the Spinoff includes the following: “It’s important to be clear that none of the complaints the party investigated related to sexual assault. The person leading the original review made it clear to the complainants that the party would never be the appropriate body to handle allegations of that nature and that they would need to be investigated by the police.”
At her weekly Beehive press conference, Jacinda Ardern fields several questions on the issue. “I want to make it very clear that I am deeply concerned and incredibly frustrated by the process that has been undertaken by the Labour Party, but also obviously by the nature of the allegations,” she says. “I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual in nature. That is obviously directly counter to what is now being reported.”
She says the individual has not been on the parliamentary precinct for five weeks. She refuses to express confidence in Haworth, stressing that she wishes to wait for the fresh inquiry to be completed. Maria Dew QC will report directly to her, she says.
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The lawyer acting for the Labour staffer contacts The Spinoff saying the “serious claims” made about his client are “without foundation”, that the man has “agreed to cooperate fully” with the QC-led inquiry, and legal action may follow.
An “open letter to the prime minister” is circulated within the party by “Me Too Labour”, an unnamed “group of Labour Party members who are writing to you to urge you to immediately take action regarding the allegations” surrounding the staffer. It makes a series of demands including the resignation of Haworth. The letter, which The Spinoff has verified originates from party members, had by lunchtime attracted more than 100 signatures.
Nigel Haworth tells media he is “confident I have handled the process in a professional manner”. In a statement, he reiterates his position that “the serious allegation of a sexual assault, outlined in The Spinoff article and in other media, was not provided to the president and acting general secretary at a meeting in the Wellington Central Library or subsequently to the Labour Party investigation panel.”
Sarah tells The Spinoff she is adamant her account is accurate. Of the Labour Party, she says: “Standing by a process you know is flawed, a process you know retraumatised and put further young women at risk, is cowardly.”
Newshub has obtained emails that show Labour was sent details six months ago of sexual assault allegations against a party staffer.
The party continues to deny it knew the claims against the man included sexual assault, but on Tuesday the Prime Minister said the party President Nigel Haworth has to go if it’s proven he mishandled the allegations.
Newshub has been forwarded an email sent by a complainant to one the members of the Labour Party investigating panel on the day of her interview.
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She wanted to be able to read off a timeline and testimony. She asked if someone could print the document before her interview which was taking place an hour later.
A document “to print sexual assault experience” was attached.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was shown the document on Tuesday morning.
She told Newshub, “You’ll understand why we will want to take away this and look at it directly.”
Labour agrees the email was sent but claims there were no documents attached. The complainant says all three members of the investigating panel were given a printed copy.
National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett says she has “absolutely no doubt at all” that the panel knew.
“I think it is a cover-up. I think that it’s got to such a point that they know that their own heads will roll, that they’re actually almost doing the lying in unison, from what I can see.”
The attached testimony included details of the alleged sexual assault, and how she felt in the aftermath of the incident.
- “I would find myself crumbling down at the sight of him, I couldn’t sleep, [and] I couldn’t eat.”
- “Always thought of the Labour Party like a family, but the family just doesn’t want to talk about sexual assault or bullying.”
- “MPs who used to protect us, you – and then would turn away.”
Newshub revealed in August Finance Minister Grant Robertson was aware of the investigation and some complaints, but he’s refusing to say how much he knew.
“I am not going to comment any further than what I have on that because I will be undermining the privacy,” he told Newshub.
Jobs are now on the line.
The Prime Minister said she will expect Haworth’s resignation if he’s found to have done something wrong.
Haworth said he is “not resigning” but will “look into my situation as the process develops”.
National leader Simon Bridges suggested the blame’s falling on the wrong person.
“Whose employee is this person? It’s not Nigel Haworth’s – it’s Jacinda Ardern’s,” he said.
It’s one of the few facts not being disputed.
Past comments by the Prime Minister suggest she wasn’t telling the truth, writes Heather du Plessis-Allan.
We’ve asked the Prime Minister to come on the show this evening to answer questions about the Labour party staffer sex allegations.
Our requests went unanswered.
This is what we want to ask her: When did she know that the allegations against a staffer in her office were of an alleged sex crime?
She told media yesterday: ”I was informed in the very beginning that the allegations made were not sexual.”
She told RNZ this morning that she found out yesterday.
“The first I’ve seen the complaints of that nature was when I read then.” Asked when that was, she said “When I saw them in the Spinoff.”
That is very hard to believe. This has been reported in the media for the last five weeks.
If you believe that yesterday was the first the Prime Minister heard of this, then you must believe that the Prime Minister of this country does not watch, read or listen to the news reported in this country.
That she for the last five weeks has missed every bulletin, newspaper and programme that mentioned the fact this guy is alleged to have committed a sexual crime.
Like this on Newshub: “The Labour Party has been forced to review its own investigation into bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by a Labour staffer.”
Or this: “Two more of the seven people who laid complaints about bullying, sexual harassment and assault by a Labour staffer have told Newshub about their experience of the department’s internal investigation.”
You have to also believe that the Prime Minister didn’t ask what allegation was so serious that a staffer in her office stopped coming to work five weeks ago.
You also have to square it with this comment she made yesterday in her press conference”:
“A month ago I visited New Zealand [Labour Party] Council. Very seriously shared my view that they were not the appropriate place to undertake inquiries around concerning behaviour of members of the Labour Party. But particularly they are not the appropriate place to ever undertake an investigation into a sexual assault. And that would be their view too.”
Why would she say to the Labour Party council that they were not the right people to investigate an alleged sex crime, if she didn’t know the allegations were of a sex crime?
Because she did. She did know.
On the 6th of August, one day after the story broke in the media, Mike Hosking raised it with her right here on this station.
He asked her: “How many people have quit your party as a result of this investigation into this bloke who may or may not have sexual assaulted someone?”
Her response was: “I’m going to be very careful answering that question Mike because this is an inquiry and work is still underway and it is still a party matter.”
Exactly when the Prime Minister knew is important for a bunch of reasons.
Did she fail in her duty of care to staffers and volunteers? Was this supposed to be covered up? But mostly it’s important because this is now about her integrity
It’s becoming increasingly hard to believe her version of events, and possibly this is the first time that we’ve had reason to question Jacinda Ardern’s honesty.
I was not remotely surprised to read over the weekend Audrey Young’s revelation that internal polling for Labour has fallen to pieces.
They leak the good stuff but the leaks have stopped. For the casual observer, the reasons are obvious.
The fact the Labour Party don’t appear to understand what’s gone wrong is alarming. Cabinet papers show the KiwiBuild reset was always troubled. This is yet more advice the government was receiving, that was showing what most of us could fairly easily see, that their policy was fatally flawed from day one, yet they chose to ignore it.
Similar advice was offered to Julie Anne Genter and her mad fee bate scheme for electric vehicles. Treasury told her it wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t make a jot of difference, yet she’s still refusing to accept it.
The KiwiBuild reset of course is a tangible example of all that is wrong, although it’s a more realistic approach to housing. In other words, it’s a white flag. A few low deposits and next to no houses, the damage has been done in the sense they promised the world and delivered not a jot of it.
The transformational government is a hoax, and as each policy comes out, as each report is published, as each promise fails to be delivered, the transformational aspect is shattered. The year of delivery is increasingly a joke.
The year of delivery is in fact the KiwiBuild of intentions: the set up, the noise, the crickets chirping, the silence, the embarrassment.
Their health report last week, two years in the making, is only interim, without a single recommendation. It will be election year before we even see a final report. Nothing, literally nothing will happen to health in their entire first term.
What part of delivery is there in that? Even some of the so called new KiwiBuild measures have to go to cabinet and will barely be there before the end of the year. Yet again, election year and they’re still looking to resurrect their biggest individual cock up.
The cancer announcement. One, they were beaten to it by National, and two, no indication at all as to how they’re going to make cancer targets work, given they already have targets and they’re not working – and no one is being held to account.
For that apparently, according to the Prime Minister last week on this show, we have to wait for the health report – the report that had no recommendations.
You can’t get re-elected on waffle. Calling for reports, more yak ,and nothing at the end of it, is just filling time. Add to that the fact the economy is slowing at a rate of knots and lord knows how they spin this next year.
But, it’s not like the alarm bells aren’t ringing for them. The advice in front of their noses that half this stuff is ideology doomed to failure. Policies that have already tanked, and the ultimate test for any political party, the polls, means the truth is staring them in the face.
They either go down next year in righteous indignation that we just didn’t get them, or they wake up get real and set about saving themselves. I reckon they’ve got about eight months.
In April, after months of opposition from Kiwis, the PM finally folded on her plans to introduce a Capital Gains Tax. But listen to what she said just last week. You can’t trust Labour on tax.
In April, after months of opposition from Kiwis, the PM finally folded on her plans to introduce a Capital Gains Tax. But listen to what she said just last week.
You can't trust Labour on tax. pic.twitter.com/auX6NFBxWv
— NZ National Party (@NZNationalParty) July 31, 2019
The former Government did quiet diplomacy with Australia in terms of their deportations of criminals who were born in New Zealand and had not become Australian citizens.
The current Government decided this was not the right way to deal with your friends and instead adopted a policy of having the PM denounce the Australian policy as corrosive.
Now what has been the result of this. Radio NZ reports:
In 2014, visa holders who had been sentenced to 12 months’ jail had their visas automatically cancelled. Since then, the tightened rules resulted in nearly 1600 Kiwi criminals being deported.
In a push to tighten the visas even more, the federal government is now hoping to cancel visas based on a potential jail sentence.
Australian Immigration researcher Henry Sherell said people would now fail the character test for visas if this bill passed.
“If they’re guilty of a designated offence which is punishable by at least two years jail, but they don’t need to be sentenced to two years jail, they just need to commit a crime where the maximum punishment is two years.”
The change would be also retrospective.
Well done Jacinda and Winston. All your grandstanding has meant that now even more criminals in Australia will be deported to New Zealand. What a wonderful display of foreign policy.
I came across this tweet at the weekend, and I really did not know what to make of it. Remember that the person who wrote it is a member of our elected government, and is supposed to uphold the law and represent all New Zealanders.
Initially, I thought she meant that no one had any right to be here, unless they were descended from Maori who were here prior to the arrival of the British. That, of course, is almost every New Zealander.
I questioned her on Twitter, and this was her reply.
So, I’m okay, because I am covered by Te Tiriti… although I thought I was covered by immigration law, but I guess she sees it as the same thing.
What does she mean then?
First, let us look at the definition of the word ‘indigenous’. Here is the Cambridge Englishdefinition.
Okay… so if you were born here, you are indigenous. So now we have most of New Zealand covered. The only people not covered, as far as I can tell, are illegal immigrants, and I am not going to argue with her over that.
So what was this statement all about?
I think Chloe was making the mistake that a lot of people make with the definition of the word ‘indigenous’. She seems to think it means ‘those who were here first’. It doesn’t.
What is more, as Maori arrived here in waka, they are neither ‘naturally occurring’ or even ‘indigenous’ by what seems to be her own definition. We are all immigrants, Maori included.
I think Chloe is saying that, if you are Maori, you have a right to be here, and if you have immigrated here since ‘colonisation’, you are also okay, because the Treaty covers that… but if you are descended from the dreaded ‘colonisers’ then you are a ‘conqueror’ and you have no right to be here.
Is that what she is saying? I cannot make sense of it any other way. Chloe also completely ignores the whole of European and world history, as those ‘colonisers’ were indeed ‘colonised’ themselves… by the Romans, the Visigoths, the Vikings and the French. Colonisation is fine for Britain, obviously, but not for New Zealand.
The other thing that Chloe misses completely is that none of the original ‘colonisers’ are still alive, and all of their descendants are ‘indigenous’, in the sense that they were born here. In other words, there is no one to whom the term ‘colonial convenience’ actually applies.
She also misses the fact that the Treaty was an agreement between the ‘colonisers’ and Maori. There may have been questions about the amounts of compensation given, which have been thrashed out for decades (and are still being thrashed out), but nothing alters the fact that the Treaty gave the ‘colonisers’ the right to settle here, in partnership with Maori, and that marked the end of any ‘illegal occupation’.
So, the only conclusion that I can come to is that Chloe Swarbrick, member of parliament in New Zealand, is deliberately trying to stir up racial divisions in support of a land protest that, in the end, is nothing more than a spat between 2 different Maori groups.
What we really need in this country is to be left alone to all just get along with each other, regardless of our racial origins, and just be allowed to be New Zealanders. Fuelling the fires of racism like this does nobody any good.
Nothing like ‘divide and conquer’, is there, Chloe?
P.S. a Note from me.
There were people here before the Maori.
Thanks to a knowledgeable commenter, Bryan, on Backchat the other night, this map was drawn to our attention. It is most informative.
The text under the map says:
This historical map shows tribal boundaries and the areas that were confiscated from Maori during the 1860s. The blue boundaries have been added in modern times to identify the areas in which the confiscations took place. It notes that Waikato, the domain of the Kangitanga (Maori King movement), had 1,217,437 acres (492,679 hectares) confiscated.
Let’s zoom in a bit:
Well, that’s inconvenient!
What does the SOUL protest website have to say about this land?
In 2014 Auckland City, using the Special Housing Areas Act, designated 32 hectares adjacent to the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve (OSHR) as a special housing area (SHA. This land, known as Puketapapa, was confiscated ‘by proclamation’ under the New Zealand Settlements Act in 1863 as part of the colonial invasion of the Waikato that drove mana whenua of South Auckland from their lands ahead of the settler armies.
These protesters may have other valid reasons why they want the land protected:
It is important to understand that this land is a crucial part of one of the last remnants of the archaeologically rich stonefields landscape across Auckland and, as a natural component of the adjacent but legally separate OSHR, it holds the stories of the earliest inhabitants of our country. The OSHR protects the places where the first Maori gardeners lived and worked using the stones and the microclimates they created to grow their Pacific Crops. SHA62 similarly is one of the last surviving places where the land and stone walls used by Maori for growing new crops such as wheat and European vegetables for the Auckland markets prior to 1863, still exists. It is of special significance in that here the ancient and more recent gardens stand next to each other. These places are even rarer than the stonefields were at the time of the creation of the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve.
But, according to history recorded at the time, ‘confiscation’ of Maori land by Pakeha is not a valid reason. Revisionist history might want to claim something else but it seems that the facts are the opposite of what is being claimed by the rent-a-mob shambles in South Auckland.
Since when has fact or truth had anything to do with these radical protesting professional B/S artists.
After all IWI is an acronom for “I WANT IT”
Hooray! Jacinda finally achieved something that’s not a new tax or ban. She’s managed to turn a cluster of rocks into a cluster of other sorts and in doing so, given life to a whole new autonomous and diverse tribe.
That tribe definitely needs a name – encompassing Maori and non-Maori, Pacifica and even an occasional Australian; misfits, marxists and ‘activists’ (same thing) all; so an ancestral, mono-cultural inspired hand-me-down won’t do. It needs to be something which celebrates such diversity.
Dear Leader’s intervention has made things worse, much worse, for all concerned at Ihumatao with actual skin in the game. As for her plans to produce some form of magical compromise for all, if she could just figure it out, well, here’s a clue, Ms Ardern – there is zero compromise to be had. It’s a fight, there must be a winner and a loser, there are no prizes for participating.
With her intervention, Ardern’s only compromises on show are the compromised rights of private property owners and the compromised rule of law. Fletchers and actual, legally recognised mana whenua have already agreed on a way forward with benefits to all, but our new flash-tribe, having exhausted legal avenues, have decided belligerence is their new weapon of choice.
Fletchers want 480 homes on the site; their antagonists want none. The activists want the taxpayer to buy the land and give it back to them and, given Jacinda’s history of folding to demand where it’s only trifling taxpayers’ money concerned, they now believe they’ve got the opportunity to deny local iwi and Fletchers the gains of their endeavour.
The company will probably end up saying they don’t buy into disputes, they buy into developments, but if they are returned the land cost – $19,000,000, development costs so far (probably similar to the purchase price), forgone gains from the expected development and staff hours and huge barristers fees for the several years they have worked with archaeological experts and local iwi through resource consents and legal challenges including the RMA, the Environment Court and Maori Land Court, they will accede. Expect the total bill to exceed $90M.
Given an emotional argument, our prime minister folds, never mind reason and law; as compellingly factual as they may be, it’s all too much. Our new tribe of prickly protesters claims Auckland City Council’s efforts to buy the land “were thwarted by the landowner”, but is that true? From the landowner’s point-of-view: no. They wanted the best price for their land and after already agreeing to sell 21 hectares for the pittance of $1M, as much as Auckland City Council spends on afternoon tea in a year, to create the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve and feeling “that was our contribution to the public good”, they wanted a market rate for the remainder, and who can blame them?
Dealing with facts is not our protesters’ thing, nor Jacinda’s. So who are these unreasonable people and how should we address them?
And then it came to me, flashing from the pages of the Maori Land Court judgementagainst the protesters, the latest collective of sit-inners and fact-averse militants, whose ‘traditional claims to the land’ argument against the development were heard, failed, and described perfectly by Justice Armstrong…Ladies and Gents, please welcome Aotearoa’s newest pan-activist affiliation: ‘Te Unintelligible Dia-Tribe’
With our Dear Leader now imposing herself as their new, nominal, fledgeling and furiously nodding head, all I can say is good luck, prime minister.