Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Assn. Volume 40 Number 2. Feb 7 1977
Battle at Bastion Point
Battle at Bastion Point
It had been a good weekend at Bastion Pt, over 4000 visitors bringing with them not only gifts of money and goods but messages of support from all sections of Auckland Community. It has been a long hard battle for the 150 or so people living in the 60 tents to gain recognition for their protest, but the size of the movement has staggered even the most optomistic of the supporters.
Now as the last of the supporters headed to their cars parked at the entrance the first spirals of smoke drifted out of the communal cook house. In the silhouette of the setting sun the gardens are being tended, 3 acres of land cleared, tilled, and tens of thousands of Kumera, Corn, Beet, Broccoli plants are now growing. Three more acres are soon to be cleared and 2 tons of potatoes are ready for planting.
A few months ago the only thing on the landscape was the occasional grazing cow and a few children flying kites. The occupation of Bastion Point by the Orakei Maori community came in response to the Government plan to subdivide and sell part of the undeveloped Crown land there. The Government announcement stated that, "the sections will provide high, class residential sites in a prime locality. They will command prices in the highest bracket." The Government immediately ran into trouble from the Ngati Whatua maoris who justly claimed that the few acres remaining at Bastion Pt was all the tribal land they had left, the rest being taken by force or fraud during the last 150 years of Pakeha history. As stated by the first Bastion Pt newsletter......"this defence of the last few acres of Ngati Whatua land is organised by the members of the Orakei Maori Committee Action Group, descendants of the original owners of Bastion Pt ......the Ngati Whatua people. We believe that all of Bastion Pt should be returned to the people of Tamaki as this land represents our last link with our ancestoral heritage and because the crown Title is defective and illegal".
The occupation became necessary to stop bulldozers moving onto the land on January 6th. A tent village was established the day before and has since grown to 60 tents in two campsites. This action has halted the subdivision plans and initiated widespread debate on what has been described as the most important Maori land struggle since Parihaka. Soon after the foundation of the tent-town support poured in. The Auckland Trades Council placed a "Green Ban" on the worksite which meant that construction on the site was unable to go-ahead.
A march was held 10 days later which drew over 1500 people. The protesters later heard speeches from a wide range of speakers including Sir Dove Myer Robinson, Mayor of Auckland, Mrs Whina Cooper, President of the Matakite O Aoteoroa, Jim Anderton, City Councillor. Resolutions passed at this meeting called for an end to the proposed subdivision plans and the returning of the title to the Ngati Whatua was passed without a dissenting voice.
The struggle by the Ngati Whatua people against the subdivision is now in reality an attempt to regain the title of their land. The wishes of the Ngati Whatua have brought them into direct confrontation with the ARA, The City Council and the daily newspapers, who see Bastion Pt as being kept as a reserve, an open space. Progress in winning over these sections towards the Ngati Whatua point of view has been slow but promising. An Auckland Star survey of the area found that 80% of the residents in Orakei opposed the subdivision, the Orakei Trust Board which contains out of its 16 members only 4 elected by local maoris has now dropped its public endorsment of the plans.
The camp has now been turned into a permanent settlement that reflects the determination to slay as long as necessary. Cook-houses, Store-rooms, toolsheds and toilets have been built. Areas for a play centre and a sports ground have been cleared and a stage built for the regular weekend concerts. Gates, signposts, a carved entrance have been erected and the whole area staked out with small white flags. Courses have already started on carving, basket weaving and Maoritanga.
It appears at the moment that the Ngati Whatua have gained the upper hand. The Government did not reckon on the amount of public outcry when the plans were announced. And slowly the Ngati Whatua are gaining the recognition for a land so unjustly taken from them over the last 200 years. As the leader of the Orakei Action Group, Joe Hawke explained: "give the Ngati Whatua the right to present any land they wish for a park or reserve. But it has got to be, not from the Government not from the ARA, not from the City Council, but from the tangatawhenua (people of the land). This is what has been denied us — The right to decide. This is why we are determined in our claim that it is the crown that are squatters on our land. We are not the squatters but the owners!!"
Dave Merritt,Adminisitrative Vice President, Auckland Students Assn.