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Major reforms and land dispute

Opinion Piece

Two major developments in the Government’s “year of delivery” headed the news cycle in the past week but a cloud lingers on the horizon with a decision required on the future of a 32-hectare “special housing area” at Ihumatao.

The Government has launched a major revamp of the country’s tertiary education system, with 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics merging into one single entity by April 2020.

It also announced the results of its three waters review that will see a dedicated water regulator and new regulations from mid-2020.

There has been a mixed but generally positive acceptance of the two reforms.

There will be concerns, however, from local government about the financial costs of the new requirements and regulations that will emerge from the three waters review, and fears it will impact heavily on ratepayers.

While the announcements were indications of a government with a clear game plan, Jacinda Ardern and her Cabinet will be looking nervously at Ihumatao where “protectors” are fighting to prevent a housing development adjacent to sacred Maori land.

A major development at the weekend was a visit from Maori King Tuheitia supported by 800 Kingitanga people which saw his standard hoisted. It will remain until the issue is sorted out.

The “protectors” have been urging Ardern to meet them but so far she has stood back because the issue is not a simple one. The leadership of the local iwi is in favour of the project, while buying the land back would be seen by many as setting a precedent.

While all this is going on there is considerable interest and sympathy for Peter Ellis, who has won the right for his appeal against a 1993 conviction for child sex offences to be heard in the Supreme Court. Time is running out for Ellis who has terminal cancer.

There have always been doubts about his conviction because it relied so heavily on the evidence of very young children obtained in a manner that is now strongly questioned. The Supreme Court has been asked to give the case urgency but it could well be too late already for Ellis.