Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Mike Butler: Herald's shoddy Bastion Point history

Reporter Suzanne McFadden’s over-egged account of the Bastion Point story in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday failed to mention how the land was taken, how the issue was resolved, or the numerous settlements the Orakei Ngati Whatua group has received since.

I was at Bastion Point on the morning of May 25, 1978, mainly because I lived nearby, and saw much of the eviction. I later filed two news reports, one to New York and one to Tokyo, where they were published as briefs.

About 30 years later I started researching Auckland land history as part of the Treaty Transparency project published at the New Zealand Centre for Political Research site

McFadden equates Ngati Whatua history with Auckland history which is to an extent true although the tribe is just one of the 19 tribal authorities in the Auckland area. The tribe has hugely benefited from a relationship with the government since 1840 yet still pushes a story of grievance. Here are some basic facts:

Ngati Whatua can only really claim to have lived in Auckland for 72 years before British settlement. They occupied Auckland from around 1750 before being driven out by Ngapuhi warriors in November 1822. From then to 1840, the Tamaki isthmus was largely unoccupied because it was too dangerous for tribes to live there.

Ngati Whatua chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi on March 20, 1840, after which a delegation of chiefs invited Governor William Hobson to settle at Tamaki, which made the area safe for Auckland tribes to return.

In September 1840, Ngati Whatua sold the 3500 acres (1416ha) that became the central city of Auckland for £50 in coin and goods amounting to £215, or $24,000 in today’s money.

Over the next two years the tribe sold a further 29,000 acres (11,736ha) to the Crown for around £640 plus other goods. By the end of 1842 Government agents had purchased from chiefs land totalling 92,000ha (227,200 acres) the price being £4,196.25.

The Crown allowed direct dealing in land between Maori and settlers between 1844 and 1845, when around 47,000 acres of land in which Ngati Whatua had interests were sold.

From 1846 the Crown carried out further purchases, including around West Auckland, and by 1855 Ngati Whatua held only 700 acres (283ha) of land at Orakei, which were subsequently sold.

Ngati Whatua hosted a month-long conference at Kohimarama in July of 1860, at the time of the first Taranaki war. Most of the 200 chiefs attending emphatically supported the colonial government. Ngati Whatua appeared happy at that time.

A perceived threat from Russia in 1886 prompted the government to take some land at Bastion Point headland for a gun emplacement under the Public Works Act. Ngati Whatua leader Paora Tuhaere sought ₤5000 compensation for the 5.3ha taken and received ₤1500 ($290,000).

When the Crown decided, in 1941, that it no longer needed Bastion Point land, it gave the land to Auckland City for a reserve. At the time of a royal visit in 1952, the remaining run-down village and marae at Orakei were burned to the ground after the residents were re-housed in state houses. The old waterfront village was to become a public park.

In 1976, about a year after the Maori land march, when Maori feelings about Maori land were close to the surface, the government somewhat ineptly announced that it was about to develop the remaining land at Bastion Point for high-income housing and parks.

This decision led to the 507-day occupation that McFadden wrote an emotive account of. The dispute was settled in 1978 with an agreement to keep most of the area as a reserve and sell a small area. The issue was settled again in 1988, when the land was given to Ngati Whatua with compensation and an apology.

Bastion Point protest leader Joe Hawke and others lodged a further claim (Wai 9) in 1986 over the 700-acre Orakei Block sale. The Orakei Act 1991 gave 65ha to Ngati Whatua.

Ngati Whatua’s Wai 388 claim, lodged in 1993, covered the sale of 32,000 hectares in the Tamaki Isthmus, parts of the North Shore, and West Auckland, plus the seabed, foreshore, and reclamations in the Waitemata Harbour, and northern parts of the Manukau Harbour.

This led to a settlement was signed on November 5, 2011, which Ngati Whatua received financial redress of $18-million plus interest, which enabled the tribe to buy a number of Auckland properties and rent them to the government.

Ngati Whatua are not needy. Ngati Whatua deputy chairman Ngarimu Blair told 3News this week that the tribe has assets worth $700-million.

My message to Suzanne McFadden and readers is that if you are going to talk about Ngati Whatua grievances, you should also mention the significant redress that has been given.

Auckland's 175th anniversary: Season of discontent, NZ Herald, May 30, 2015.
Iwi calls urgent meeting over Crown land sell-off.


mitch morgan said...

Rob Muldoon refused to acknowledge Ngati Whatua claims to Bastion Point on the grounds that it was taken by conquest just a few decades prior to the Treaty of Waitangi being signed and was not the ancestral home of that tribe. Research revealed that the Ngati Paoa tribe had been the prior occupants - that is until they allowed a party of Ngati Whatua warriors to take overnight shelter. During the early hours the Ngati Whatua warriors rose up and slaughtered many of the Ngati Paoa inhabitants and the survivors fled. So that is how this prime area became the 'traditional' land of the Ngati Whatua. This part of history appears to have been deleted from available records, along with many other 'inconvenient truths'.
At the time of the Joe Hawke occupation I was an employee of the Lands and Survey Department. There occurred a very sad event when children were burnt to death in one of the protesters' tents when a candle was knocked over. The Ngati Whatua spokesperson stated that the adults had been absent as they were attending a very important meeting. The Commissioner of Crown Lands at that time called all staff together and advised us that there was a witnessed report that the "important meeting" consisted of playing housie at the Mission Bay cinema.
Truth is not always palatable.

Barry Tomlin said...

Mitch Morgan, thank you for that informative comment.