Waikato War remembered as Aucklanders march from Otahuhu to Pokeno
A group of Aucklanders are marching on what is part pilgrimage, part protest, to honour the fallen of the Waikato War.
The Waikato War between the colonial government and Waikato maori fought from 1863-64 has been described by Wellington historian Vincent O'Malley as "the most important war in New Zealand's history".
He said the number of people killed in the war in the Waikato was higher per head of population than the number of New Zealanders killed during World War I.
The hikoi, marking the assembling of a colonial militia, is aimed to highlight a view that the inequality and racism which fuelled the war 154 years ago still exists today - in particular spurred by a south Auckland housing development forced through despite Maori objection.
On July 8, 1863, local militia assembled in Otahuhu under the command of Colonel Marmaduke Nixon who was a Mangere farmer and the MP for Franklin, said Brendan Corbett who is one of the organisers of the march.
He said Nixon was gathering men to join the British troops to invade the Waikato.
He believes there is not enough public awareness of the Waikato War - and the only memorial in the area is to Nixon, portrayed as a colonial hero.
"There's no mention of any of this sort of history, only this grandiose monument of a man who was killed in battle attacking women and children. Hopefully, we can peel back some of these layers of misinformation that's affected how we see our history and what shaped the development of South Auckland," Corbett said.
He hoped the hikoi would "open up people's eyes to what happened, and why New Zealand is the way it is".
"This is the seminal event that created modern New Zealand.
The monument to Nixon erected in 1868 stands on Great South Road in Otahuhu and was the starting point of the hikoi.
The group's route went from Otahuhu to Manukau on Saturday July 8. On Sunday the march aimed to go from Manukau to Drury.
On July 10, they plan was to march from Drury and continue to Razorback Rd and into Pokeno.
"We will stay the night at the Queen's Redoubt," Corbett said.
On July 11, they leave Pokeno for the Mangatawhiri river and camp there for the night.
"It was the dawn of the 12th of July when the invasion began. We'll have a ceremony there and come back to town," he said.
They planned to install plaques at all the war memorials down along t he Great South Road.
Joining the hikoi were a few families from Ihumatao, near Mangere. Fletchers bought land there to build 480 houses. Local Maori claim it is a sacred site.
Pania Newton, who has been leading the protest against the housing development, said the Waikato War may have happened in 1863, but "it is continuing to happen [even] now where we are being ejected from our lands".
Newton along with others opposing the development have been camping on a piece of land in Ihumatao. She said they were given a trespass notice from Fletchers.
"We've been there for 800 years continuously. They've been there for five minutes and they've issued a trespass notice," she says.
The groups plan to hold a bigger event next year to mark 155 years since the Waikato War.