Whatungarongaro te tangata toitū te whenua
As man disappears from sight, the land remains
Indigenous cultures around the world have very strong connections with land. Their connection is spiritual, cultural, social and physical. Land is not something to be pillaged – taking all the natural resources from it and leave it barren and turned into a concrete jungle.
Māori are no exception to this worldview. Land is part of the DNA of Māori identity. Ancestors are connected to certain places. “This ancestral connection is one reason for the spiritual connection that Māori feel with the land and which obliges them to care for it on behalf of all generations yet to come.” (Jim Williams, Ki Te Whaiao, pg 50).
So what has provoked action about land over the 50 years?
In 1975 frustration over land loss came to head and a hīkoi (march) took place from Te Hāpua in the far north to Parliament in Wellington. The hīkoi left Te Hāpua on 14 September (Māori language day) and reached Wellington on 13 October 1975.
The Prime Minister (Bill Rowling) was presented with a memorial of rights signed by 60,000 people that asked that all statutes that could alienate land be repealed and remaining tribal land be invested in Māori in perpetuity.
He responded promising that steps would be taken to address these concerns, but a bunch of people were like ‘yeah right’ and about 60 people set up a Māori embassy at Parliament and occupied the grounds.
In 1977–78 there was a 506 day occupation of Bastion Point (Takaparawhā) by the Ōrākei Māori Action Group Here’s something to wrap our heads around. The Native Land Court had declared this land ‘absolutely inalienable’. It had been slowly taken from Ngāti Whātua leaving them with less than 1ha of land. Suddenly the Govt announces a housing development was to be built. That sounds a bit fishy right?
800 police and the New Zealand army evicted over 200 protesters from the ancestral lands they had hoped to get back. Makeshift buildings and structures were torn down or burned. I want to acknowledge Joannee Hawke (5 yr-old) who died in the fire of the makeshift whare (house) her family had been living in.
Over time, through negotiations and a successful treaty claim, Bastion Point was returned to Ngāti Whātua.
Raglan Golf Course
The Raglan (Whāingaroa) protest raged in the 1970s over the Raglan golf course. The land was taken from Māori and had been turned into a military airfield by the government during the Second World War. Instead of handing the land back to its former Māori owners at the end of the war they decided to turn it into a golf course. This did not go down well with Māori .Eva Rickard led an occupation in 1978, and she and other protesters were arrested on the ninth hole of the course. The land was eventually returned.
The Waitangi Tribunal was set up in 1975 to address breaches in the Treaty of Waitangi. It was pretty useless really because it couldn’t look at historical grievances, and was pretty ineffective in dealing with land issues. Then in 1985 the tribunal was given retrospective jurisdiction back to 1840, and became more relevant for the settlement of historical land losses.
Moutoa Gardens / Pākaitore
From February to May 1995, Whanganui Māori occupied Pākaitore (also known as Moutoa Gardens), to protest the lack of settlement on their treaty claims.