Flashback: Final stand of Ngati Whatua begins at Bastion Point in January 1977

Thirty years on , in 2008, Joe Hawke reflects on the 506-day occupation of Bastion Point that he led in 1977-78.
FAIRFAX NZ

Thirty years on , in 2008, Joe Hawke reflects on the 506-day occupation of Bastion Point that he led in 1977-78.

It was a small bit of land, but it represented everything to one Auckland tribe. 

On January 5, 1977, Joe Hawke and about 30 other angry Ngati Whatua marched on to Bastion Point, at Orakei, Auckland, set up camp and refused to leave. 

It was a 506-day protest that was described years later by Hawke as the "Maori awakening" and was a refusal by the Ngati Whatua community to continue to let the Crown have its own way.

A boy sits on the fence of the occupied Bastion Point settlement, watched by police.

A boy sits on the fence of the occupied Bastion Point settlement, watched by police.

For 100 years the Crown had been relentlessly stripping the Auckland iwi of its land. 

In 1840, Ngati Whatua chief Apihai Te Kawau signed the Treaty of Waitangi and gifted some land to the Crown to establish Auckland.

After watching the Crown sell the gifted land for a profit, he tried to enshrine Bastion Point (Takaparawha) and Okahu Bay as non-transferable, but the government and Auckland City Council swept the legislation aside and gradually sold all of the tribe's land, save the Okahu village and marae near Tamaki Dr.

A protester is evicted from Bastion Point in May 1978.
FAIRFAX NZ

A protester is evicted from Bastion Point in May 1978.

Bastion Point became military property, but when the army relinquished it in 1941, the Crown did not give it back to the iwi, instead it was given to the council for use as a reserve.

Two royal commissions condemned the Crown and the council's actions to no avail.

Further insult came in the 1940s when a sewer was built in front of the village, pumping excrement into the sea. The Ngati Whatua people were not allowed to connect to the sewer and were denied construction permits to improve their housing. 

The police and army personnel encircle the Bastion Point camp in May 1978 before evicting all 222 protesters.
FAIRFAX NZ

The police and army personnel encircle the Bastion Point camp in May 1978 before evicting all 222 protesters.

In 1952 the seeds for the Bastion Point protest were sown when the council used Queen Elizabeth II's visit to destroy the settlement - the people were evicted and the marae and houses were burnt. Only the chapel and cemetery remained.

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About 27 years later, the Ngati Whatua people learnt the council planned on building luxury houses on the ancestral land at Bastion Point.

Fed up, Hawke and his group moved in.

Kaumatua Henare Sutherland (left), Matiu Tarawa (centre) and Robert Pene lead Ngati Whatua and supporters on a march in ...
FAIRFAX NZ

Kaumatua Henare Sutherland (left), Matiu Tarawa (centre) and Robert Pene lead Ngati Whatua and supporters on a march in 1988 to mark the tenth anniversary of the eviction at Bastion Point.

"I was 10 years of age when the government burnt our marae down. I saw 30 homes being fire bombed by flame throwers," he said in 2011.

"I saw my people running into the burning villages, their burning homes, to retrieve their personal items."

Mr Hawke said the proposded land sale was seen as a threat by many.

"They were going to do the same thing they did in the 1950s, " he said.

"That's the reason we had to make a stand."

The occupation gained quick support and hundreds turned up to join, including now Labour MP Phil Goff, Green MP Sue Bradford and Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

"We are landless in our own land. Takaparawha means a tremendous amount to our people. The retention of this land is a most important struggle, which our people have faced for many years," Hawke said at the time.

"To lose this last bit of ground would be a death blow to the mana, to the honour and to the dignity of the Ngati Whatua people.

"We are prepared to go all the way, because we have the legal right to do it."

The peaceful protest lasted 506 days, until Prime Minister Rob Muldoon ordered the police and army to end the occupation led by "communist" Hawke.

Protestors got wind of the government force's imminent action three days before they moved in.

"We had to make sure it was a peaceful protest and no one resisted or started trouble, " Hawke said on the 30th anniversary of the protest.

"You are talking about some tough bar brawlers in Auckland not starting trouble.

"We got the children away. But people were crying everywhere and old kuia and kaumatua were asking young Maori and Pacific Island police officers why they were arresting their own people."

Officers targeted kaumatua first, who were taken along to Auckland central police station, where emotional and chaotic scenes broke out.

As each new group arrived, they were greeted with hakas and waiatas, as one by one the 222 were charged with the illegal occupation of the land.

It was a decade later that the tribe finally won the day. 

In its 1987 report, the Waitangi Tribunal recommended Okahu Park and Bastion Point be returned to Ngati Whatua with the proviso the land be used as public domains. Orakei marae, Okahu church and the urupa were also to be returned, along with a $3 million payment for securing an economic base.

Hawke said in 2012 that the stand they took at Bastion Point will be remembered for "awakening Maori".

"Maori were not going to be treated how they were previously being treated. It was the real beginning of a turning point."

TIMELINE

1840: Ngati Whatua is the major landowner in Auckland. It's chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi and invited the first governor to set up his government in Waitemata Harbour. The iwi willingly part with 3000 acres of land for the creation of Auckland.

1855: The tribe has lost all but about 280ha (700 acres) of land in Orakei. 

1869: The Native Land Court declares the remaining land to be non-transferable.

1885: The Government establishes a military outpost on Bastion Point because of its strategic position on Waitemata Harbour.

1898: The Native Land Court partitions the land among individuals and the Crown then persuades various individuals to sell their shares in each portion until it owns much of the Orakei block.

From 1912 and 1951: The tribe launches a series of complaints and legal challenges against the sale and aquisition of its land.

1941: The military outpost is disbanded, but Bastion Point is given to Auckland City Council for a reserve, instead of back to Ngati Whatua.

1951: The Crown makes a compulsory aquisition of the last 5ha (12.5 acres) of the Orakei block, including the marae and some homes. All buildings were destroyed except the chapel and cemetery.

1959: The Crown uses the land to build a national marae, of which Ngati Whatua had no control.

1976: High-cost housing developments and parks are announced for Bastion Point.

January 5, 1977: Joe Hawke, the Orakei Maori Action Committee and supporters occupy the 1ha of land the tribe still owned on the Bastion Point reserve and refuse to move.

May 25, 1978: About 800 army and police officers evict 222 people from Bastion Point after the 506-day occupation and destroy all the buildings.

July 1, 1988: The Treaty of Waitangi tribunal decrees that the Crown failed to protect the rights of the Ngati Whatua community. Some land is returned to the tribe, to be managed by a trust board, and the Government pays an endowment of $3 million.

Source: Te Papa and Fairfax NZ archives.

 - Stuff

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