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A Brief Description of the Key Issues

Discuss about the 1977 Occupation of Bastion Point.

The occupation of the Bastion Point by the Whatua people and subsequent confiscation by the New Zealand government marked the long land protests by its occupants (Harris, 2004: New Zealand History, 2016). The Bastion Point (commonly known as Takaparawhau in M?ori) is a coastal piece of land that is closer to the Waitemata Harbour. Due to the land proximity to the harbor, the New Zealand government took over its ownership by setting a defense base against the Russian army (Waitangi Tribunal, 2016). Between the 1940s and 1950s, the land was primarily used for public works and developments. In fact, in 1941 the land was allocated to the Auckland city council. Nonetheless, the major issue about the land occurred in 1967 when the government decided to sell the Bastion Point to the highest corporate bidder for development (Harris, 2004). The government, however, offered to return a portion of the land to the Maori people but the Maoris wanted the entire land given back to them. Consequently, activists Piriniha Reweti and Joe Hawke and other Maori people formed the Orakei M?ori Action Committee (OMAC), a movement that pushed for the reinstatement (Hawke, 1998). Later, a group of Maori was opposed to the return of the land's portion while another group agreed to the decision. The movement and the different views of the Maori people met numerous challenges. Primarily, this paper assesses the concerns, motivations, challenges and the consequences of the challenges that the Maori community faced in the struggle towards regaining their land.

Despite the Maori agreement to offer their land to the government for public use, mainly for the area defense purposes, the land was not returned to the Maori owners long after the government was done with her mission (Hawke, 1998). Instead, there was the proposal to transform the Bastion Point into a robust economic base by selling the land to the investors. The Maori Affairs Amendment Act of 1967 was perceived by the Maori as a conspiracy to grab the land from them. The implementation of the Act fueled protests among the Maori people (Moule, 2013).


The Bastion point was the ancestral land to the Ngati Whatua. However, the passing of the Treaty of Waitangi, first signed in 1840, by some of the Maori chiefs and the British Crown representatives was one of the major concerns of the Maori people (Hill, 2010). Additionally, the Maori was split upon the government's announcement that it would refund some land to the owners.  Consequently, activist Hawke and his followers adopted a nonviolent action while the other led by Reweti chose to compromise. The former was concerned about the houses on the land confiscated and that which the government claimed to own. For this reason, in 1977 the Orakei M?ori Action Committee arranged for the land occupation to prevent the grabbing of the Bastion Point. Unfortunately, a meeting that was scheduled to take place on 15th January 1977 was met with division among the Orakei M?ori Action Committee. While the elders complied with the government's offer that did not satisfy the needs of the Ngati Whatua, the young of the Bastion Point were opposed to the idea. Therefore, the Reweti's group wanted their ten acres while the action group wanted to have control over the marae (the sacred place that served the societal needs) as well as the under-developed government lands.

The Primary Concerns and Motivations of the Protesting Group

Following the dispute, the Action Group was adamant and driven by motivation. They, therefore, presented 243 signatures that supported the control of the marae shrine and reinstatement of the British Crown lands, 4800 signatures pushing for the return of the Bastion Point or make it remain in Auckland, and some 59 signatures supporting the actions of the Orakei M?ori Action Committee.

The protestors faced some challenges throughout their fight for the Bastion Point. Firstly, the break up between the Maori people and the Orakei M?ori Action Committee was a major setback (Morrison, 1999). The protestors and those who chose to compromise (Reweti moderates) had varying views. For this reason, each group was weakened, a factor that gave the government power over the protestors. Additionally, the Orakei M?ori Action Committee group was powerless, and this almost led to the total disintegration of the group. Nonetheless, the OMAC became stronger following the rejoinder of hundreds of the Maori people (Morrison, 1999). Their 507 occupancy of the Bastion Point abruptly came to an end in 1978 (Mita, Narbey & Pohlmann, 1980). According to Mita and the colleagues, the New Zealand government deployed a total of 800 soldiers and police officers who forcefully evacuated the Maori people from the Bastion point. Moreover, they destroyed the peoples' farms, meeting houses and the buildings and also arrested 222 protestors.  Even more alarming to the Ngati Whatua was the construction of the sewer within the village and that which disposed of the waste into the sea. The Ngati Whatua people were denied connection to the sewer and were no also allowed to improve their housing (Moule, 2013). In other words, it means that the Ngati Whatuas also faced economic challenges and their well-being undermined.


Another major setback was the government's failure to honor the people's petitions. Upon the submission of their three petitions, the government promised the Action group that she would return the land but in phases (Waitangi Tribunal Division, 1990). Nonetheless, the government crafted some poor bills that were not implemented whatsoever. Again, the dishonoring of the bills aggravated the differences between the Ngati Whatua iwi groups. However, 1975 was again met with another protest led by Whina Cooper took place. Whina led a match (hikoi) that took a month. It proceeded from Te Hapua in the far north. The climax of it saw the Iwi Maori people assemble in the front of the Wellington government premises. The match received a lot of publicity, and there were more protests against the government. Other protestors whose land had also been confiscated by the government joined the match. Unfortunately, the government retaliation was one that left the protestors with injuries and arrests.

The Protestors' Challenges

In general, the Ngati Whatua residents were unyielding to the New Zealand government decision to deny them the rights to their land (Morrison, 1999). The government, on the other hand, was also unwilling to let it go so easily. Consequently, it used incentives to the Bastion Point owners to allow the government have dominion over the land. However, some of the group especially the Maori elders and the Reweti moderates were quick to give in the offers while the Action group was against the proposal. In this case, therefore, there was weakened ally of the Whatua. Considerably, the different views and ensuing breakup of the group is what led the government's to have power over them at some point. It is thus evident that the Ngati Whatua people faced untold challenges in their struggle for the return of their land.

One would argue that the implications of the protesting were twofold (.Te Ara, 2016) That is, they were both positive and negative. The latter involved forceful eviction of the Ngati Whatua from their land, loss of property, police and army brutality, the breaking up of the once strong and resilient Maori group, and the government's failure to fulfill promises. The Ngati Whatua was highly concerned about their ancestral land, the sacred places of the Bastion Point as well as their culture (Morrison, 2013). Their land, argues Te Ara (2016) gave them identity and sense of belonging. Thus, any decision to deprive them of their land meant the loss of identity. On the contrary, the Ngati Whatua people, through unbound protests and petitions successfully regained their land and identity (Williams, 2009). This was one of the major positive consequences of their protests.


The Takaparawha was a significant ground to the Ngati Whatua people according to Morrison, (2013). The retention of the ground meant an important struggle that the Bastion Point dwellers faced (Barlow, 2012). Its loss, however, was equivalent to a death blow to the dignity and honor of the Ngati Whatua people. The Bastion Point turning point according to Barlow (2012) finally came in the 1980's when the New Zealand government apologized to the Ngati Whatua people. The 1987 report of the Waitangi Tribunal passed the return of the Bastion Point and the Okahu Park to the Ngati Whatua people (Department of Justice, 1990). The tribunal proposed the use of the land as public domain (Kawharu, 1989).According to Kawharu (1989) the sacred place, marae, urupa and the Okahu church were also returned. Additionally, the government also gave a $ 3 million compensation that was to be used for establishing the economy of the Ngati Whatua people (Williams, 2009).

In conclusion, it inarguable that the struggle over the Bastion Point by the Ngati Whatua people has a long history. It marked the most significant struggle over land in the history of the New Zeland. It is also evident that the Ngati Whatua people were met with numerous challenges in their journey towards regaining their land. However, the desire to regain their identity and re-establish themselves precipitated their resilience. Moreover, their struggle came to fruition when the New Zealand government through the tribunal ordered the return of the land to its owners.

References

Barlow, J. (2012, January 5). Today is the day … Protest a turning point for Maori. Wellington,

New Zealand: Dominion Post.

Department of Justice (Waitangi Tribunal Division).  (1990). Orakei, Bastion Point: Case study

of a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal. Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Justice.

Harris, A. (2004). H?koi: Forty years of M?ori protest. Huia Publishers.

Hawke, S. (1998). Takaparawhau: The people's story - 1998 Bastion Point 20 year commemoration book. Orakei, New Zealand: Moko Productions.

Hill, R. (2010). Maori and the State: Crown–Maori Relations in New Zealand/Aotearoa, 1950–

  1. 2000. Victoria University Press.

Kawharu, I. H. (1989) (Ed.). Mana and the crown: A marae at Orakei. In Waitangi: Maori andPakeha perspectives of the Treaty of Waitangi (pp. 211-233). Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.

Mita, M., Narbey, L., & Pohlmann, G. (1980). Bastion Point, day 507 [Documentary]. Auckland,New Zealand: Pohlmann Production.

Morrison, B. (1999). Bastion Point: The untold story [Documentary]. Auckland, New Zealand:

William Grieve & Sharon Hawke.

Morrison, R. (2013). Bastion Point/Takaparawhau: A decade of days – Auckland through Robin

Morrison’s eyes. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Moule, S., (2013). M?ori land protests: Hikoi and Bastion Point [video recording]. Bendigo,

Victoria: Video Education Australasia.

New Zealand Herald. (2008, June 27). After Bastion Point: Tribe wants solid economic base.

New Zealand Herald, n.p.

New Zealand History. (2016). Bastion Point. Accessed on August 25th 2017, from

<https://www.nzhistory.net.nz/keyword/bastion-point>

Te Ara. (2016). Bastion Point protest. Accessed on August 25th 2017, from

<https://www.teara.govt.nz/en/video/16199/bastion-point-protest>

Waitangi Tribunal. (2016). The loss of the Orakei block. Accessed on August 25th 2017, from

<https://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/waitangi-tribunal/resources/teaching-aids/resource-

kits/orakei/the-loss-of-the-orakei-block>

Williams, D. V. (2009). Seeking justice for the historical claims of indigenous people in

Aotearoa New Zealand. Marginalized Communities and Access to Justice, 109.

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