Heritage / 5 January, 2015
Robin Morrison Robin Morrison

Occupation of Takaparawhā (Bastion Point)

Today marks the anniversary of one of the most pivotal land actions in New Zealand history—the 506 day occupation of Bastion Point.

On January 5th, 1977 Ngāti Whātua protesters, under the banner of the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee, began occupation of their former lands at Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) in Okahu Bay, Auckland for 506 days. Led by Joe Hawke, the occupation protested against the Crown's decision to build on and sell land that had been wrongfully confiscated.

In 1840, shortly after signing the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngāti Whātua chief Te Kawau invited Governor William Hobson to establish the new capital city of Auckland on 3000 acres of the tribe's land. Te Kawau had hoped this generous offer would safeguard the rest of the iwi's land and interests. By the 1850s, most of their land was gone, taken by the Crown for defence purposes against a feared Russian invasion that never materialised. The tribe was relegated to a small base at Okahu Bay on the shores of the Waitemata. More land was requisitioned for defence during WWII and Ngāti Whātua were hemmed into an even smaller area. However even their remaining land was highly desirable to the local council for its sea views and proximity to the city. In 1951 the remaining Māori families of Okahu Bay were rehoused and their dwellings and wharenui burned to the ground. 

Although they no longer needed it for military use, in 1977, the government revealed plans to build expensive housing on the land at Takaparawhā. By this time Ngāti Whātua ki Orākēi's ancestral land had been reduced to a quarter acre.

Two days before building was scheduled to start, the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee began their occupation of Bastion Point. In February 1978 they were offered some land back at a price—an offer they rejected, so on May 25th 1978, after one year and 141 days of occupation, police and army personnel forcibly removed 222 people from Bastion Point and their temporary meeting houses, buildings and gardens were demolished. Basic amenities were withheld from those that remained on the land.

Ten years later the Waitangi Tribunal, in the first historical claim to be heard, supported Ngāti Whātua's claims of grievance. The Wai 388 claim was a collective deed that grouped together five different claims. It was first lodged in 1993 with direct negotiations beginning in 2002. Most of Takaparawhā was returned to them along with other lands and compensation. One exception was the monument to first Labour Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage, erected at Bastion Point after his death in 1940. Savage had been an advocate of Māori land rights and had voted to keep some of the land at Bastion Point in Māori hands.

Watch Bastion Point—The Untold Story from NZ On Screen


From the Mana archive: 'Mana Tangata, Mana Whenua' by Qiane Matata-Sipu—Mana magazine, issue 108, OCt/Nov 2012.

See also Children of the Revolution.

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