Much has changed with King Tuheitea (Kingitanga movement) becoming involved at Ihumatao but some things remain the same. I first met Pania Newton, the co-leader of SOUL Save our unique landscape out at Ihumatao in 2016. I had just started teaching an Indigenous Research paper and at our local Wananga (Maori higher learning institute) and wanted to learn more about why the land at Ihumatao needed protecting.
Pania was gracious and shared with me and later my class/es about why this whenua was important to preserve and also the tragic historical background of how the land came out from mana whenua (designated indigenous people of the land) hands to being sold to Fletchers, a corporate that is ready to build 480 houses on this designated land.
At that time she made a commitment then that she would stand as Kaitiaki (guardian) of the whenua (land) that was taonga (treasure) to her whakapapa (genealogy) with many of her whanau (family) with other supporters. That commitment is unwavering despite the death of her father last year of whom I was privileged to meet in one of the classes that I took and despite the flack that she has received from some Maori leaders (some of whom she is related to).
In 2017, I received a grant from Mangere Otahuhu Arts funding on behalf of the Mangere Otahuhu local board to edit a book called ‘Mana Mangere Voices’ and I asked Pania if she would be able to be one of those voices that needed to be heard. Pania graciously agreed and also wrote the mihi (acknowledgments) at the beginning of our collection of short stories and poems.
This is her voice, her poem for the legacy of her late father, of her tipuna/tupuna (ancestors), for her future whanau to continue…
He mamae-aroha mo Ihumaatao
A historic place slowly defaced by toxic, industrial and sewage waste.
A historic reserve for us to preserve but yet we learn it will soon be yearned.
How can it be that corporate creed is put above the needs of both you and me?
As this sacred place, a cultural basis is threatened by the replacement of sprawls of disgrace.
So sad to see, for the generations to come, that the beauty of our landscapes will be destroyed and plundered for the profit of some.
E tu, maranga, whaiwhai mo te whenua.
by Pania Newton (2017)