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OMUFC protest with uniform

An Auckland football club is showing its support for a group fighting a controversial housing development in south Auckland.

Onehunga-Mangere United wore warm up shirts with the words “Protect Ihumatao” before their Northern Regional Football League match against Waiheke United last Tuesday.

The club showed its solidarity for the Save Our Unique Landscape (SOUL) campaign which is seeking to stop the development of 480 houses near the Otuataua Stonefields Historical Reserve in Mangere.

SOUL had been fighting to protect the land around the reserve stating it had cultural, historical, and archaeological significance to the community.

The surrounding area has had a controversial history including the construction of Auckland International Airport’s second runway in 2009 which bulldozed through a 600 year old grave site on the Manukau Harbour foreshore unearthing 85 graves.

In December 2016, Fletchers Residential Limited obtained the land around the reserve and had approval to build 480 homes.

While Onehunga-Mangere United doesn’t have any direct ties with the campaign, head coach John Bennett said he realised its importance to the community and knew the club had a role to play.

“We’re very well known as a family club,” Bennett said.

“We’re very tight with our community. Our guys weren’t forced to wear the shirts, they were all behind it.

“A lot of the guys are locally based and very much a part of the community.”

Bennett said he stumbled across the campaign when he was looking for local sponsors for the club.

He picked the Waiheke fixture for the shirts to be worn as it coincided with two of SOUL’s members travelling to New York to make their case at the United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues.

Rebecca Hobbs, a member of SOUL, said the continual support from local community organisations helped to keep the campaign going.

“We’ve been really lucky to have community groups such as Onehunga-Mangere approach us to show solidarity for our kaupapa,” Hobbs said.

“When the community expresses support for our campaign, it is really motivating. It allows us to say that many members of the community have shared goals and interests in protecting these community spaces.”

Onehunga-Mangere lost the game 4-2, however Bennett said it was a metaphor for his side’s support of the campaign.

“Our boys put up a fight during the game, and we’re going to put up a fight to save the mountain as well,” he said.

“It’s part of our home, and we’re not going to let anyone beat us there, so good luck to Fletchers.”

Story reproduced courtesy of www.stuff.co.nz and can also be read here