24 May 2018

Remembering Bastion Pt: 'Straight out of a Nazi war movie'

8:49 pm on 24 May 2018

Tomorrow marks 40 years since Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei was forcibly evicted from Takaparawhau or Bastion Point in Auckland.

May 25th  2018 marks 40 years since the protest ended at Takaparawhau (Bastion Point).

May 25th 2018 marks 40 years since the protest ended at Takaparawhau (Bastion Point). Photo: Morrison, Robin. (1978) [Ngāti Whātua occupation of Bastion Point]. Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira. PH-1992-5-RM-N10-1.

Hundreds of policemen, military vehicles and the navy were called in to remove protestors who were occupying Bastion Point in protest to the Crown sale of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei land.

It became one of the defining moments in the battle for Māori land rights.

The famous catch-cry of 'not one more acre' from Dame Whina Cooper came to voice in the 1970s - with the fight for Maori land surging into the mainstream spotlight.

The most defining image of this fight was the 506 day occupation held at Bastion Point and the forcible eviction of protestors on 25 May, 1978.

On the orders of then Prime Minister Robert Muldoon more than 800 police officers marched up to Bastion Point to forcibly remove protestors and destroy their make shift camp.

Leading the occupation was Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei leader, Joe Hawke.

In January 1977 after the government announced a housing development on former Ngāti Whātua reserve land - the occupation began.

Joe Hawke talked to Maori broadcaster Whai Ngata about the importance of fighting for Maori land.

Joe's daughter Sharon Hawke was 16 years old the time of the occupation and can recall the tension leading up to the eviction.

"We had a month of false alarms of them coming - that was Muldoon's tactic to keep us on edge really coming then not coming ... it's to tire people out."

A sign says "Bastion Point Maori Land" 6 police officers are standing behind the fence and sign.

Bastion Point Protests Photo: 123RF

Ms Hawke remembers it was a clear wintery day on 25 May, 1978.

"There was a lot of singing there was reinforcement that this was a non-violent passive protest and we were here to be strong and stay staunch to that kaupapa of non-violence."

And she was shocked at the military might shown by the crown on that day.

"It was very disturbing the numbers and the military sort of operation - because there was also helicopters from the NZ Airforce."

"There was a ship out in the harbour - a navy vessel - those things aren't out there to go fishing they're there to be a threat."

She was arrested and taken to the police cells - and returned later that day to find the camp cleared out.

Eviction of Bastion Point occupiers,  May 1978

Aerial view at Takaparawhā (Bastion Point reserve) Eviction of Occupiers,May 1978. Photo: Sourced from website (treaty2U.govt.nz )

"We were grieving a loss of the battle that's how it felt - the show of force was never expected.

"So we stayed on the marae for a few months to sort of re-calibrate what the action was to be from then on."

Her brother, Taiaha Hawke was sent by his parents to St Stephens Māori Boarding School in Bombay before the evictions.

In 1982, Mr Hawke would experience being removed himself.

After an occupation which lasted 24 hours - the Crown evicted protestors once again from Bastion Point.

"There's two large floodlights that had a policeman and Alsatian on the either side of them - and it was straight out of a Nazi war movie that just scared the hell out of me."

Bastion Point

Still from 'Bastion Point - Day 507' Photo: Merata Mita, Leon Narbey and Gerd Pohlmann

Mr Hawke said recent protest at Parliament against the treaty settlement process - revealed the frustration of Māori having to continually compromise with the Crown.

"We want to be happy, we want to be safe, we want to build a future for our children and we want to do it our way - don't let Bastion Point be repeated again."

The occupation was the catalyst for the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal and the claims process.

The first results of the Ngāti Whātua claim was the 1991 Ōrākei Act which some land returned.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is now the third biggest landowner in Auckland's CDB - owning 28 hectares or prime city real estate.

It was vital for future generations to be able to own land, Sharon Hawke said.

"Māori are nothing without land, we don't have mana without land so getting the land back is about reviving that mana."

Commemorations for the 40th commemorations begin tomorrow with a dawn ceremony.