The loss of the Orakei block

It took only a hundred years for the actions of other people to completely deprive Ngati Whatua of Orakei of their remaining block of land. The loss of their papakainga severely affected the identity and mana of the hapu. The mana of any tribe is linked to the land which is their economic and spiritual base, the source of their wellbeing and dignity for generation after generation. Once their mana was undermined by the loss of their land, it became almost impossible for Ngati Whatua of Orakei to work together as a tribe. These are the main actions that took place over those hundred years.

1. The Native Land Court Declaration (1869)

The troubles at Orakei really began when the Crown set up the Native Land Court. Its job was to award individual titles of ownership to native lands - the same ownership system that operated in Britain. In 1869, the court surveyed the Orakei block and awarded it to 13 people. The overwhelming majority of the more than 100-strong hapu were legally disinherited of their land. Their chief at that time, Tuhaere, had a plan to subdivide the block and lease it to settlers, whose rent would ensure that the hapu maintained an economic base. But when only 13 owners were named, tribal control of the land, and their ability to use the land for the economic benefit of the whole hapu, was lost forever.

The Response of Ngati Whatua of Orakei

When Ngati Whatua of Orakei realised that the Native Land Court had made only 13 people the individual owners of their tribal land, they began to protest. They wanted their land to be kept in tribal ownership, so decisions affecting it would be made by the whole hapu. Their peaceful and lawful protests would last for nearly a hundred years.

2. The Taking of Land for Defence (1886)

In 1885, the Government built a fort at Kohimarama, or Bastion Point, because it commanded a good strategic position on Waitemata Harbour. It was not built on Takaparawha Point, which had earlier been given to the Government for that purpose. In 1886, the Crown used the Public Works Act 1882 to take ownership of 13 acres of Bastion Point for defence purposes. The Public Works Act allows the Crown to take possession of any land, if the Crown says it is in the public interest. When, in 1941, the Crown no longer needed Bastion Point for defence, it did not return it but instead gave it to the Auckland City Council for a reserve.

The Response of Ngati Whatua of Orakei

When the land was taken in 1886, the chief Tuhaere immediately lodged a claim for £5000 compensation, because this was the land he had planned to subdivide as an economic base for the hapu. The Compensation Court ordered the Crown to pay £1500 for the land. All this went to Tuhaere's lawyers to meet their legal costs and expenses.

3. The Sewer Outfall (1908)

The Government passed a special Act of Parliament to take land at Okahu Bay so that a sewer pipe could be laid across the beach in front of the Ngati Whatua village. It discharged raw sewage from Auckland into the bay, which was the only access to the papakainga. The sewage outfall was unhygienic and highly offensive, it polluted the hapu's shellfish beds, and it turned the village into a swamp in heavy rain.

The Response of Ngati Whatua of Orakei

The hapu objected to the sewer development from the moment they knew it was planned. They were deeply offended when the sewer began discharging effluent in 1914. Many people left the village and the hapu began to break up.

4. Compulsory Acquisition of Land (1912-50)

Even though Orakei was not for sale, the Crown wanted it for European settlement, so it set about buying it anyway. It first decreed that only the Crown could buy land at Orakei, but it took many years to acquire it as the Ngati Whatua people resisted selling. Previously, land could only be sold on a majority vote of tribal owners. But tribal or group rights to the land had been wiped out by the Native Land Court, and in 1913 the Government changed the law to enable it to buy from individuals.

The sales began with the fertile farm blocks. By December 1914, the Government had acquired 460 acres, most of the farmed area. One by one, many owners or their successors sold their land, believing they would at least keep the section that their house stood on. But this was not allowed. Those who resisted had their land taken from them under the Public Works Act 1882. The Crown said it was in the public interest that the land should be used for a new housing development.

Some not named as owners stayed on the land as squatters. Others moved to the land that had been gifted to the Anglican Church, unaware that in 1926 the Crown had bought that land from the church. In 1939, the last of those people, 14 adults and 10 children, were evicted. A model suburb was developed on the land. Although Ngati Whatua sellers had not been allowed to keep their sections, Europeans were allowed to lease land for their homes, and later those sections were gifted to the Europeans by the Crown. In 1951, the Crown compulsorily took the remaining 12½ acres in the possession of Ngati Whatua. Apart from the Okahu Cemetery, Ngati Whatua of Orakei was now landless.

The Response of Ngati Whatua of Orakei

Ngati Whatua of Orakei firmly resisted the sales between 1912 and 1950, continuing all the while to ask the Government to stop buying the land. As well as other complaints and actions, they took eight actions in the Māori Land Court, four in the Supreme Court, two in the Court of Appeal, two in the Compensation Court, six appearances before commissions or committees of inquiry, and 15 petitions to Parliament seeking the restoration of tribal ownership of their land. All failed.

Above all else, they sought the return of the papakainga and the church land. The Acheson inquiry of 1930 backed the hapu's claims to these areas, but the Government simply ignored it.

During the 1940s, Princess Te Puea of Waikato, who was related to Ngati Whatua of Orakei, tried in vain to persuade the Government to build a model pa for the hapu on the papakainga.

5. The Evictions (1952)

The old village site was wanted by the Crown for a park, so in 1952 the remaining inhabitants were evicted from their homes and relocated as tenants of State houses in Kitemoana Street on another part of the block. The marae and some homes were destroyed by fire. The remains of the village and marae were demolished by the Crown. One reason for this was that the village was considered 'a dreadful eyesore and potential disease centre' which was on the route the Queen would take on her official visit.

The Response of Ngati Whatua of Orakei

For the remnants of Ngati Whatua remaining at Orakei, the final evictions from the papakainga were extremely traumatic. They resisted being relocated to the end. Many were physically carried from their homes, and one man threw himself back into his burning home. The houses in Kitemoana Street were small, each built for a nuclear family, so the extended family life of the hapu was broken down still further. Many of their elders died within a year of being evicted.

6. The National Marae (1959)

The Crown had set some land aside near the State houses in Kitemoana Street for a Ngati Whatua marae. But there were many Māori from other tribes who had migrated to Auckland, many Polynesian immigrants, and many Europeans who wanted a multicultural marae in Auckland for all to use. In 1959, the Government gave the site for a national marae, even though it was on Ngati Whatua's ancestral lands. Ngati Whatua found they had no control over the new marae. There were only four of them, and no kaumatua, among the 16 trustees appointed to run it. The trustees embarked on ambitious development plans, raising money through public appeals.

Ngati Whatua of Orakei were very uncomfortable about these developments, but felt they were outnumbered and that, as tangata whenua, the marae would at least allow them some way to provide hospitality.

All along, they still hoped for the return of the papakainga so they could rebuild their tribal marae there. By 1974, the shell of the new meeting house was completed. The building was, in accordance with custom, opened by another tribe and was duly named after Ngati Whatua's tribal ancestor, Tumutumuwhenua. This meant that Ngati Whatua, who had not been consulted about the naming, were committed totally to the house. They could not set up a tribal marae elsewhere.

The Response of Ngati Whatua of Orakei

The people of Ngati Whatua of Orakei went along with the development of the multicultural marae but soon became ashamed of it. The way the marae was built did not allow them to hold important tribal rituals such as tangi with appropriate dignity. They were taunted for having a tourist showplace instead of a marae. They began to voice their opposition to the marae, calling it a 'Pakeha marae'. In 1990, Tumutumuwhenua was gutted by an accidental fire. It has since been restored.

7. Plans to Subdivide Bastion Point (1976)

In 1976, the Crown announced that it was about to develop the remaining land at Bastion Point for high-income housing and parks. This was the last 60 acres of uncommitted land at Orakei that the hapu still hoped to get back.

The Response of Ngati Whatua of Orakei

In January 1977, some of the hapu, calling themselves the Orakei Maori Action Committee, took direct action to stop the subdivision. They occupied Bastion Point for 506 days, refusing to leave their ancestral lands. The protests caused a split within the tribal ranks as this was the first time their protests had broken the law - by trespassing on Crown land.

On 25 May 1978, the Government sent in a massive force of police and army to evict them. Two hundred and twenty-two protesters were arrested and their temporary meeting house, buildings, and gardens were demolished. The Bastion Point occupation became one of the most famous protest actions in New Zealand history.

Next: Resolving the Grievances of the Past

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