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The Manukau Claim

Restoring the Manukau

The Manukau Harbour was once the dumping ground for waste and sewage from the rapidly growing urban area of Auckland. Māori living on the Manukau despaired at the despoiling of their harbour, long treasured for its fisheries.

Public concern over this environmental mess grew. But the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the Manukau Claim in 1985 was the catalyst for major change. It laid the basis for new relationships between Māori living near the harbour, local government bodies, businesses, and the wider community.

Enlarge image Manukau Harbour

Courtesy of Watercare Services Ltd, Auckland

Manukau renewed

A walking track, new beaches, plentiful bird life, and the revival of fishing grounds are part of a restored harbour. The thousand-year human history of the area has been protected and reserved in the Otuataua Stonefields.

Auckland protected

Māori living at Mangere and other Manukau settlements were part of the Waikato-Tainui confederation of tribes. They sold varying amounts of land for the mutual benefit of Māori and settler, and helped protect the early town of Auckland. The town was a market for their produce, and its merchants benefited from Māori trade.

Enlarge image Tamati Ngapora, Ngāti Mahuta chief of Mangere

Tamati Ngapora, Ngāti Mahuta chief of Mangere, showed a way that Māori and settler could happily live together before the Waikato war. In the 1840s, he asked for a law to strengthen chiefs' authority over their people, as he understood the Treaty allowed for, but the governor declined to act. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr H E Partridge, 1915

Enlarge image St James Anglican Church at Mangere exterior

St James Anglican Church at Mangere was built in the late 1850s with the help of local Māori who quarried stone from Mangere Mountain. There were already Christian missions at Ihumatao, Pukaki, and other Māori settlements on the Manukau Harbour. Courtesy of Howick Historical Village and Manukau Libraries

War and confiscation

As settler numbers grew, the Tainui tribes in the Waikato decided to resist selling any more land and to establish a king, Potatau Te Wherowhero, in 1858. Governor Gore Browne and his successor, Sir George Grey, as well as the settler government, viewed the Māori King as incompatible with British sovereignty and prepared for war.

Grey's troops moved to invade the Waikato on 12 July 1863. Most Māori on the Manukau Harbour were forced to abandon their settlements and retreat into the Waikato.

Government policy treated Waikato Māori as 'rebels' – that included those from Manukau. Te Akitai, Ngāti Tamaoho, and Ngāti Te Ata lands on the Manukau were confiscated as 'punishment'. Related tribes – Te Kawerau and Ngāti Whātua – were also affected.

New century, new issues

After the wars, some Māori returned to the Manukau Harbour. However, urban growth in the twentieth century meant that their remaining lands and fisheries were severely affected by industrial and agricultural developments, reclamations, waste discharges, commercial fishing, and the blocking of access to the harbour.

Enlarge image A scow on the Oruarangi Creek picks up passengers

Courtesy of Mangere Historical Society, Auckland War Memorial Museum Library, and Manukau Libraries (Auckland Museum Ref: M575.144)

Oruarangi Creek

A scow on the Oruarangi Creek picks up passengers from Makaurau Marae in the late nineteenth century. The creek was blocked off from the harbour in the 1960s by Auckland's sewage works. In 2001 the removal of the settling ponds began. By mid 2005, the water could flow once more from the harbour, into the creek, and along to the marae.

Enlarge image The Wilson family group with horse and gig at Pukaki Marae

The Wilson family group with horse and gig at Pukaki Marae in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. Reclamation of Pukaki Lagoon in the 1870s was one of many moves leading to loss of the traditional fisheries. Courtesy of Mangere Historical Society, Auckland War Memorial Museum Library, and Manukau Libraries

Fragments of land

Some land was soon returned where claimants could prove they had not been 'in rebellion'. But the war, confiscations, and the label of 'rebels' left a legacy of deeply felt injustice among Māori on the Manukau.

Healing the past – looking forward

The Waitangi Tribunal's Manukau Report of 1985 found that the Crown had failed to recognise Treaty rights to land and traditional seafood resources and had not provided the protection promised.

Māori, local government, service companies, and environmentalists have worked together ever since to restore the Manukau Harbour and Manukau's historical and cultural treasures.

For the several hapū involved in the Manukau Claim, the spiritual and physical well-being of the harbour was, and still is, all-important. Today their role as guardians of the Manukau Harbour is maintained, though not formally recognised, as they work to secure a future in which cultural values and benefits are shared.

Enlarge image Makaurau Marae at Ihumatao on the Oruarangi Creek

Makaurau Marae at Ihumatao on the Oruarangi Creek has the longest continuous occupation of any Māori settlement on the harbour. Courtesy of Watercare Services Ltd, Auckland

Enlarge image Kaumātua Jim Rauwhero recites a karakia (blessing)

Kaumātua Jim Rauwhero recites a karakia (blessing) as the sea begins to flow back. Courtesy of Watercare Services Ltd, Auckland

Tāu rourou, tāku rourou, ka mākona te iwi.
Your contribution, my contribution will bring satisfaction to the people.