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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University of Wellington Students Association. Vol 41 No. 1. February 27 1978

What Pricie Justice?

page break

What [unclear: Pricie] Justice?

The events at Raglan on the 12th of February 1978 stand as a blunt and searing reminder that New Zealand's present social system was brought about by the exercise of political chicanery, illegal trickery and, contrary to what our ex-Prime Minister now Governor General would have us believe, unbridled force of arms.

The recent attempt of the Tainui Awhiro people of Raglan to peaceably restate their rights to their ancestoral lands has suffered the same fate as did those attempts of Te Whiti o Rongomai's people of Parihaka, Taranaki in the 1880's and Rua Kenana's people of Maungapohatu, Eastern Bay of Plenty during the First World War.

As on those earlier occasions, the expressions of legitimate and heartfelt grievances of the people of Raglan were ruthlessly and cynically cut short by the powerful agencies of the State. The real attitudes of those in power to the genuine aspirations of the Maori people has not changed one jot in the last 138 years. We may all be better off in a way for having this fact re-emphasised at this time in our history.

The manner of approach of the Maori, in attempting to adjust to the imposition of the European political and economic system on the Maori, has been characterised by a gentlemanly deference and genuineness. Sadly the powers that be have interpreted this as being a sign of weakness and lack of conviction and resolve. The continued maintenance of such an attitude, as plainly reflected in the Raglan Police action, can only lead to further confrontations. The Government and the interests it serves must quickly realise here and now that they must at once cease treating the legitimate aspirations of the Maori people as matters of no real consequence.

In the realms of the mythology of the Tainui Awhiro people from pre-European times, the Taniwha, Te Atai Rongo, has been the tribe's guardian of the land and sea coast. Protection of the Taniwha was invoked by the Tohunga of the tribe during times of any threat to the land or the people. "He's the protector of the Maori people in the area - I've lived here all my life and have never known a Maori to be drowned" - Tainui Awhiro leader, Mrs Eva Rickard. (1)

Accordingly, during the era of the 19th century land confiscations in Waikato, the elders asked the Taniwha for assistance, being powerless themselves to do anything else against the might of the British military forces of the day.

In 1941, the then Labour Government requisitioned 88 acres of Tainui Awhiro land for an emergency wartime aerodrome. This action and the broken promises to the people are attested to by surviving Kuia (elder) Herepo Rongo now in her 90's (see panel centre). Once again powerless to prevent this further land acquisition, the tribal elders strengthened the invocations to the guardian Taniwha Te Atai Rongo. From that time onwards there has always been at least three drownings per year along the Raglan coast to most non-Maoris, this may be considered a chance coincidence. The expropriated land containing the Urupa (tribal grave site areas) and former dwelling places of the people, remained unused and in the hands of the crown. In 1962 Eva Rickard and other local Maoris failed in an attempt to obtain one acre of this land for pensioner flats. In 1969 a "public" meeting was held in Raglan to obtain community opinion on what should happen to this piece of idle "Crown" land. It was only by chance that Eva Rickard and her husband, Tex, heard that this meeting was being held. The local golf club, in need of land to establish new golf greens (the lease having expired on their previous property) had already drawn up detailed plans and diagram of new greens on the old aerodrome land. These plans were being-displayed and discussed by 200 golf club supporters as the Rickards walked in the door. Not surprisingly the meeting endorsed the proposals of the Raglan County Council to lease the land to the Golf Club - terms being a 33 year lease with renewal rights, $358 rental per year and full relief from rates. Curiously enough, the Raglan County Council's title to the land was not legally confirmed until 1970 !

Since this time the Tainui Awhiro people have been involved in making constant submissions and representations to a succession of government ministers beginning in 1969, with Maori Affairs Minister, the late Ralph Hanan. In 1970, Hanan's successor, Duncan Maclntyre while on an inspection tour, was heard to remark to a government official, 'Tell them (the Maoris) to fence it (the Urupa) off.' Mrs Rickard still awaits the letter.

The Minister of Lands in the present National Government, Venn Young, finally announced in May 1976 the Crown's agreement in principle for the return of the land to its rightful owners. Whether the Crown's intentions are made in good faith, is debatable however. If the land is returned, the Government is insisting on the payment of $61,000 in "compensation" monies by the Maori people. The Government is also adamant that the golf club lease must run to its full expiry year of 2035!

It is said that 500 pounds was paid by the Crown in 1941 to the Tainui Awhiro people as 'compensation' for the loss of their land. In actual fact this money was paid into the Waikato-Maniapoto Maori Land Board, a quasi-governmental body. Few of the beneficial owners of the land have received any share of this 500 pounds although in the last two or three years there have been reports of Maori owners receiving small cheques in the mail representing their share of this compensation money allocated thirty six years ago !

A stalemate was reached, the Crown insisting on these conditions to be fulfilled for the land to be returned and the Tainui Awhiro people insisting on the unconditional restoration of title (see letter to Venn Young) seeing the government's inflexible attitude in response to the reasoned and low key approaches and initiatives of the Tainui Awhiro people it has become obvious that firmer measures have had to be used to try and move the Government from its stand. For the past 4 years Mrs Rickard and her people have been attempting to spread the news of this land struggle amongst the Maori people and the general public of New Zealand. Late in 1974 the case of the Tainui Awhiro people was sensitively portrayed in one of the widely acclaimed Tangata Whenua series, produced by author Michael King and filmed by Pacific Films for the then N.Z.B.C. Tainui Awhiro members participated in the great Maori land march in 1975 - a manifestation of a concern from the heart of the many Maoris who participated that land grievances were still very much alive. From the land march arose the organisation Te Matakite O Aotearoa with which Tainui Awhiro have identified and have turned to for help. In late April 1976 a regional conference of Te Matakite was held at Raglan during which the local elders and participants ceremoniously staked out the Urupa (gravesites) around the 10th and 18th greens. In this incident, widely reported in the media, no confrontation was provoked by any opposing groups although the police were present.

Since this time there had been no progress in resolving the stalemate between Tainui Awhiro and the Crown over conditions of the land's return.

In the latter half of last year a small ceremony was held by elders of Tainui Awhiro on the Urupa on the golf course. The spirit of the Taniwha, Te Atai Rongo was again contacted. Shortly after seven whales appeared in the Raglan Harbour and Kuia Herepo Rongo in her dreams saw ancestral war canoes drawn up on the beach opposite to where the golf club is now. Such manifestations are considered 'tohu' (signs or portents of awesome happenings to come).

In the last few months freak high tides have shattered a raw sewerage pipe outfall, recently installed by the Raglan County Council over the strenuous objections of the Tainui Awhiro people, who were particularly upset at the pipes being sited right on the reputed lair of the Taniwha Te Atai Rongo. The same high tides have caused serious coastal erosion especially on the ocean beach frontage of the golf course block. Most tragically of all, there have been twelve officially confirmed drownings (all non-Maori) along the Raglan-Kawhia coast since Christmas 1977. Unofficial reports put the number as high as seventeen.

The coincidence of these with the invocatory Karakia (prayers) of the elders to the Taniwha has provoked an extremely spirited public debate throughout the whole Waikato area and extensive coverage in the Region's daily newspaper "The Waikato Times" (see footnotes) To many Pakeha people, all of this is an uneasy coincidence. To the Tainui Awhiro people however, there is no mystery.

"The drownings in Raglan are a curse by the people for the things done to the Maori people. Te Atai Rongo is the guardian Taniwha - our people still revere our Taniwha. But these people (i.e. the golfers) reject it. They've desecrated our graves and sacred places so what do they expect?" - Mrs Rickard (2) The local elders do not feel responsible for the drownings for they see them as the work of supernatural agencies over which they have no control and which most pakeha do not recognise as even existing. It is held amongst the elders that Karakia to neutralise the Taniwha may be performed at anytime but this will not happen until the land is given back. "Drownings will continue as long as the land is in other hands" comments Mrs Rickard (3)

The controversy that has arisen around this facet of the Raglan case has attracted comments from Dr Ngapare Hopa, a Waikato Maori and an anthropologist lecturing at California State University, Fullerton Campus. Recently graduated PHD from Oxford University (the first Maori woman to do so) Dr Hopa draws parallels between the struggle of Tainui Awhiro and that of the American Indian movement in the United States. Resorting to supernatural agencies, as the elders of Tainui Awhiro have done, is an expression of frustration with the lack of success in working through the "proper channels". Dr Hopa comments that it is not the responsibility of the Maori elders alone to remove the invocations to the Taniwha as there are two parties involved and the root cause of the confrontation, that of land repatriation must be resolved. (4)

" I have listened to the meeting and all [unclear: hat] has taken place. I am glad. Just recently I gathered my family, I [unclear: ve] numerous children and grandchildren, the Earth is covered with [unclear: chdren] from my body. I told them that I am growing old and when I leave [unclear: his] Earth I want them to care and to love one another. I am a direct [unclear: des ndant] of Hounuku, Tupuna of these people, and I would like to know what happening to Te Kopua. I am worried my children will not know where their [unclear: ttle] bit of land is. I listened to you all talking about the land the [unclear: Pak] a took during the War. I am the only one alive of the Elders that were here when the Pakeha came to talk about our land. They said they were [unclear: go g] to pay for the homes we had lost and our Marae but the land would come [unclear: ck] to us after the War. The Meeting House was bulldozed down, we gathered [unclear: e] scraps of timber. We lost our homes and our gardens, and I left with [unclear: ll] the other people. We did not spend one penny of their money. They [unclear: c] not give us anything. I want Te Kopua back before I die and then I[unclear: ll] know my children have somewhere to live. I want you all to hurry [unclear: becau] my days on this Earth are few and I know I will soon depart. "

Herepo nongo, [unclear: t] of Jainui Awhiro, speaking at a special marae meeting of the Tainui Awhirop [unclear: p] on Sunday February 15. 1976

The arrests in Raglan on Sunday 12th Feb, indirectly came about as a result of the Taniwha side of the affair. Late last month a leading elder of Maniapoto (a kindred tribe to Waikato) from the Taumarunui area read of the happenings and contacted the Tainui Awhiro elders to suggest a special ceremony to be held at 12 midday on Sunday, February 12 upon the Urupa on the 10th and 18th greens of the golf course. This was arranged and letters were sent to the golf club and the local police in advance, notifying them of the intention of holding this religious service which would involve only the Kaumatua (elders) from the area plus a few from Auckland. A request was made of the golf club officials to leave aside the 10th and 18th greens from tournament play for that day. Mrs Rickard also telegrammed the Minister for Justice, David Thomson, notifying him of the time and nature of the impending ceremony and inviting him to attend.

It may be pertinent here to note that the area, where the ceremony was to take place, was the subject of a Ministry of Works designation (delivered 29/7/1941) which set the Urupa sections apart from the lands appropriated for defence purposes from the Tainui Awhiro people. Nevertheless the golf course appears to have enveloped this area in the course of its expansion by the club from a nine hole course to an 18 hole course.

Police [unclear: Off] Act 1927

Drawing of arms in handcuffs

[3c. Disturbing public [unclear: woip]— Every person commits an offence, and is liable to a [unclear: fit] not exceeding [[$200]], who wilfully and without lawful [unclear: stification] or excuse disturbs or interferes with the orderly [unclear: nduct] of any religious service or any meeting lawfully [unclear: nbled] for religious purposes, wherever that service or [unclear: ting] is held, or in any way disturbs or molests any [unclear: prea] teacher, or person lawfully officiating at any such [unclear: ser] or meeting or any persons there assembled.]

This section [unclear: d by] Police off [unclear: >dment]

For European [unclear: cmonies] only?

Drawing of arms in handcuffs

On Thursday February 9th Eva Rickard received information that the golf club people would attempt to prevent the elders from carrying out their proposed ceremony. In addition to this, the police began to make enquiries as to the identity of the elders taking part in the proposed service. The police obtained the name of one of the elders and, visiting him, seriously suggested to him that if he knew what was good for his health, he had better reconsider his involvement in the Sunday page break service. It was becoming apparent that opposition to the Kaumatua's planned service would not be limited to the golfers alone and plainly the assistance of all supportive locals of Tainui Awhiro and members of Te Matakite O Aotearoa from the four corners of the country, would be needed.

Thus we had the gathering at the Raglan Marae of fifty or more local people and 100 or so supporters for the ceremony on the Sunday. That day, indications of the trouble to come appeared early on. At about 9.30 am a leading elder from the Ngati Ruakawa tribe (Horowhenua) was walking with Tex Rickard across the greens when a golfer took the most irresponsible action in deliberately aiming a ball at the two Maoris from a range of 12 yards. Fortunately he sliced the shot and neither was hit. However, someone who witnessed this incident must have been so upset about it that shortly afterwards four greens were seen to have a series of rabbits' hole sized gouges over them. A couple of sprinklers were also broken. One can say that this damage was done by some person or persons unknown and such being the case, Tainui Awhiro cannot be accused of being party to it as the golfers have since alleged.

As the time set down for the ceremony drew nearer, police demands for the gathering to disperse or be arrested grew more insistent. The Kaumatua and Kuia, around whom the ceremonies would be centred were seated in the Whare Tapu, a structure constructed the previous evening, out of Manuka branches and Nikau palms, especially for the service. Clustered about the Whare, awaiting the arrival of two more Kuia were the fifty local people (including those dispossessed in 1941 and living elsewhere) and the hundred supporters. Overseeing all this was the police contingent under the control of one Inspector Butter worth. Originally numbering between four to six men, the police were reinforced up to a strength of 25. A paddy wagon was also at their disposal.

Shortly after midday, prayers were led by the elders and Mihi (speeches of welcome) were exchanged. Members of the police were already attempting to interrupt the proceedings and, according to eye witnesses present, the activities of one particular Maori policeman were causing the elders some distress. Just as the gathering was beginning to sing the hymn "Tama Ngakau Marie" the arrests began. All eye witnesses state quite catagorically that certain persons were deliberately singled out for attention with a particular selectiveness on the part of the police for certain well known people who, with the sole exception of Eva Rickard, were all in the visiting supporters group. Many of those arrested have been active in various ways in working for the benefit of the Maori people and attacking government policies detrimental to their well being. Every one of those arrested had been on the Maori Land March. The whole police action bears all the hall marks of a well planned military operation reminiscent of that staged 93 years ago by the colonialist military with its 5000 troops and Armstrong guns against the pacifist settlement of Parihaka when Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested. The proud tradition of the Maori people to face oppression and discriminatory treatment with unbending pride and determination lived once again that day at Raglan. Those arrested offered no retaliation to provocation and walked or were carried, unresisting to the waiting black maria. Having apprehended their preselected quota of "ring leaders" the police found they were having to shoo away the shocked and grief-stricken elders converging on the black maria in an attempt to be arrested in their turn.

It is an act of blatant cynicism and deceit for the acting Prime Minister Peter Gordon to slur the whole Raglan ceremony by implying that, because 16 of the 17 people arrested were not local people, the ceremony and those involved in it lacked any credibility. The governments tactics of attempting to split and divide the Maori people amongst themselves and confuse their supporters never seems to end.

For the record, 150 people remained on the golf course for nearly two hours after the arrests, doing exactly the same thing that the 17 in custody were apprehended for. One must, of course have a little sympathy for some of the policemen and women involved. It became clear to many of those arrested that individual policemen were unhappy about what they were being ordered to do. Some police expressed their distaste to individual prisoners during the processing of the detainees at the Te Awamutu police station. "We're only doing our duty, we're only doing what we were told" said a policeman to one of the Maoris.

One can only say this - those in power who gave those orders have created a massive blunder - the "might is right" mentality of this National government and those who stand behind it in the shadows may intimidate and oppress those with weaker influence for a time but inevitably, finally, the Rights of the Tainui Awhiro people, the Maori people, the people of New Zealand who oppose this present government and what it represents, will prevail for as Eva Rickard says in her own words:

'All we have is the truth on our side.'

John Miller

Liaison/Research Officer, Te Matakite O Aotearoa.


Waikato Times (1), (2), (3) - 10 January 1978

(4) - 12 January 1978