May 25 marks 45 years since the arrest of more than 200 people at Takaparawhau, Bastion Point. In 1977 Joe Hawke, with the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee, led an occupation to protest the loss of Ngāti Whātua’s land rights. The following extract is from a commemoration book produced and edited by Sharon Hawke in 1998. (Read part one here.)
Matt Maihi (Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei; deputy chair of the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee)
Ko Matepuri Maihi toku ingoa, ko Pateoro toku Papa, ko puti toku Mama.
I remember the first day I walked onto Takaparawhau; I had a feeling of awe, an awesome sensation. What we were doing gave me the shivers because ordinary people taking on the government just was not done in those times. At the Māori Committee meetings we spoke about the issue of the government planning to move in and take control of what land we had left. Everybody agreed we should occupy the land in protest. In the end everybody wanted to be heard but not seen.
Pitching our tents on the first day caused a few problems. I had this large container box and a large tarpaulin I had acquired when I was with a particular company. I couldn’t make it stand up properly and rather than having a box shaped tent, it ended up looking like a wigwam. I made sure the owner’s name was on the inside, for obvious reasons. When it stood up along side about four other tents, that was a proud moment for me. I felt I was doing something for our hapu and our iwi.
One of the good things about it was that support came from many diverse groups and organisations. Joe Hawke and I told all those who came up, “No matter what group you have come from we only fly one banner”, and I am glad to say that saw us through and I am proud of what took place.
In the early stages, it was my role to help set up the camp site. I also attended meetings around Auckland with Joe and others. We would explain to these people that we were not squatters, we were standing up for what we thought was our right. Whenuatanga was the important thing. We had a lot of support from different people. There was the likes of Jim Anderton, Bill Anderson, and Cath Tizard. They were offering their experience on how to deal with the government.
I give credit to Joe who did all his homework. We were able to create a hell of a lot of support which turned the tide on the government. The public were hearing the truth from us and rallied to support. At the same time we were meeting with our whānau here and our kaumatua were giving us heaps of support.
The government strategy was to talk our kaumatua into siding against us and one by one they swayed some of them to their way of thinking but that did not alter our stance. We discussed our position with the kaumatua and told them the stand we were going to make and in the end we got their full blessing. But there were a couple of our whānau who were in paid government positions. These people swayed our kaumatua to accept what the government were offering and so the media wrote that we were not listening to our kaumatua and there seemed to be a rift.
At the end of the day, we were given the blessing by our kaumatua to continue with what we felt was the right thing to do.
One of the hardest things for me at the time was when Connie and I had our baby Bernadine who had brain damage. Being involved with the Point took a lot of time away from having to care for her and Connie used to bring her up to Bastion Point. I was too busy with Bastion Point issues and there were times when Connie felt a lot of stress. That was a sad time for me too. We got through it. Little things, like taking our baby away from the Point and doing things with her as a father, kept me going. When she passed away that was very hurtful and hard for us, a sad moment. I give full credit to my wife Constance, for doing what she did. You cannot replace that sort of motherly love and that brought us closer together. It made it hard too that Joannie passed away a week later, in the fire on Bastion Point. That was very sad and hard for us all, may they both rest in peace.
The government was putting pressure on the people they were dealing with to get us to leave the Point. My Dad came up to ask us all to come home.
He did not want us to get hurt by the eviction. In respect to my Dad, I came off. I explained to my Dad I thought he was wrong but I came off because of my respect for him. In hindsight, I felt I may have done the wrong thing. Looking back I now wish I could have stayed there. I would not go against my Dad.
We had support from our people but I really believe that had we all gone up there and left all our homes empty, the job would have been so much easier.
My heart was still there with Joe, Aunty Didi (Piupiu Hawke), and Uncle Eddie (Hawke). My heart goes out to all the family for doing what they did. There was Mike Rameka and Roger Rameka, all the Hawke brothers, who were young then. The young people did all the heavy mahi while I went out to make speeches at different work sites. They were keen, young, energetic, and good on them for being there. My heart goes out to all those who participated and gave support to the cause.
Rene Hawke was the backbone to a lot of things up there. How she did it I don’t know. But she stood by Joe and she gave everybody everything. They went through hardships at the time and yet she was there for them. I am proud to say she did a great job. What’s that song? “Stand by your man.” She deserves that honour.
People supported each other with aroha. They supported the way the organisation did things. They had belief and trust in each other. That came from Eddie Hawke. Eddie was like that. He was a very supportive guy. When times were hard, he was the guy who would help everyone. He would pick them up and encourage them to go forward. That was a great experience for me — the way those who were on the Point supported each other and looked after each other.
At the time of the eviction, a truck driver called me on the RT to inform me about the police vehicles and army trucks that were loading up over the Shore. He suspected they were getting ready to come up to the Point. By the time I put the phone down and got into my car, the eviction was already in progress and they wouldn’t let anyone through the gate. It was sad seeing Nanny Hope and a few of our oldies being lead off the land before the arrests. There was a lot of people giving support and they were strong and faithful to the cause and that showed all the way down through the court cases.
On reflection, the decision to stay on the land when our kaumatua asked us to leave, was the right thing to do after all. We have to go together as a people, kotahitanga, as one people. Never again should anyone ever have to put up with what happened at that time. We have got things back now and okay it may not be the ideal thing but for all the hurt and the pain we suffered at the time I certainly hope we have learned as a people.
There is a proverb which says:
E rua tau ruru,
E rua tau wehe
E rua tau motu,
E rua tau kai.
Two years of wind and storm, two years when food is scarce, two years when crops fail, two years of abundant food. After long waiting, prosperity comes at last. Kia ora.
On Thursday 25 May a concert to commemorate the forced eviction of protesters at Auckland’s Bastion Point 45 years ago will be held at the Spark Arena Tuning Fork. Headline acts include Ardijah, Annie Crummer, Herbs. Tickets at Moshtix. For information on other commemoration activities, visit Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s Facebook page.