Ngpuhi protesters prepared to stand in front of bulldozers to stop development on whi tapu land – RNZ

Ngpuhi protesters occupying private land in the Bay of Islands town of Opua say they're prepared to stand in front of bulldozers to stop a housing development.

The Ngpuhi protesters camp on Puketiti, an old headland in the Bay of Islands town of Opua which was sold for a housing development earlier this year. Photo: Supplied

A group of 20 people have been occupying the site, which is situated on the headland known to local Mori as Puketiti, since Saturday.

They're trying to stop the construction of 17 houses by a private developer, after the commercial arm of the Far North District Council sold the public land in March this year.

Protest spokesperson Tony Williams, from the hap Te Roroa, said they had exhausted every other avenue but the council would not undo the sale.

"We're intending to camp or occupy on top of the maunga until we get a response or resolve the development," Williams said.

"We're willing to stay up here even if they bring bulldozers up here, we're willing to stand in front of the bulldozers, that's how far we're going to go."

A sign at the site. Photo: Supplied

He said the site was a whi tapu, or a significant cultural site.

His grandfather told him the maunga was a lookout point for their ancestors, who could see ships to the left of the lookout coming from Russell and Paihia, Ngti Hine waka coming from Taumarere to the right, and directly ahead, ships from Herekino.

"My tpuna used to put his warriors [there] to check, to keep an eye on any enemy ships coming towards their p."

A banner flying at the site. Photo: Supplied

It was also the home of Te Roroa rangatira, Pumuka, who was killed at the battle of Kororreka in 1845, and the hap have called for a pou to be established on the site.

The land is also part of a Waitangi claim submitted by Sir James Henare over 30 years ago, which calls for control of the whenua to be returned to Ngpuhi, and for all resource consents from April 1987 to be rescinded.

Williams said they had a lot of support from the community, who had brought them food over the last few days - and the principal of the local school wanted to bring children over to learn more about the history of the site.

The protest group also want a public reserve at Walls Bay to returned to them.

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Ngpuhi protesters prepared to stand in front of bulldozers to stop development on whi tapu land - RNZ

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