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Veteran celebrates historic Maori protest

Posted by te2ataria on May 24, 2008

“We are landless in our own land.”

By JOSEPH LOSE – Sunday News | Sunday, 25 May 2008

A defining moment in Maori land claims will be celebrated today, with the 30th anniversary of the forced end to the occupation of Bastion Point.

On this day 30 years ago, New Zealanders were stunned when an 800-strong force of police and army moved on to the Auckland landmark and arrested 222 Ngati Whatua and Pakeha supporters who had camped out on the site for 507 days to try to force its return to the tangata whenua.

One of the occupation leaders, Joe Hawke, will have mixed emotions when he stands on the precious land today to join other “patriots” in remembering the historic moments.

“It will be a time to remember and a time to celebrate,” Hawke, 68, told Sunday News. “But it will also be a time of sadness because of what we had to do.

“It was the price we had to pay for the whenua (land). New Zealand cried that day.”

The former Labour MP, now the Bastion Point kaumatua, stirred supporters to action to reclaim the land in 1977.

“We are landless in our own land. The struggle for retention of this land is the most important struggle our people have faced in a number of 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 legally we have the right to do it.”

Bastion Point, on Auckland’s waterfront, was owned by Ngati Whatua before the British colonisation.

In 1885, the NZ Government built a military outpost there because it commanded a good strategic position over Waitemata Harbour.

In 1941, when the Crown no longer needed the land for defence, it did not return it to Ngati Whatua but instead gifted it to the Auckland City Council for a reserve.

The last straw for the iwi was when, in 1976, the Crown announced it planned to develop Bastion Point by selling it to the highest corporate bidder for high-income housing.

Hawke led a group of 30 on to the land on January 4, 1977.

The occupation gained quick support and hundreds turned up to join. […]

Hawke said the stand they took at Bastion Point will be remembered for “awakening Maori”.

“It set the tone for the future,” he said. [More . . .]

Copyright author and the respective news agency. See NZ Fair Use Notice!

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