PDF print version (4.9 MB)

The Orakei Claim

For the benefit of Auckland

Ngāti Whātua's land at Orakei was the focus of one of the most famous protests in New Zealand history – the occupation of Bastion Point, also known as Takaparawhau.

In 1840, Ngāti Whātua of Orakei were major landowners in the Auckland area. A little over 100 years later they were virtually landless.

Today, as part of a settlement of the Orakei Claim, most of Bastion Point along with the Okahu Bay reserve and beach have been restored to their ownership – for the use and benefit of all the people of Auckland.

Enlarge image The eviction of the Bastion Point occupiers in May, 1978

The eviction of the Bastion Point occupiers in May, 1978. Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald

Fighting back

Between 1912 and 1951, Ngāti Whātua launched a stream of complaints and legal actions against sales. All failed.

In 1976, plans were announced to develop high-cost housing and parks on the land at Takaparawhau (Bastion Point) that the Crown had acquired. This sparked a protest by the Orakei Maori Action Committee, a group from the hapū. The group and their supporters occupied the point for 506 days before being evicted by a massive force of police and army.

The path to landlessness

  • In 1840, Apihai Te Kawau and two other Ngāti Whātua chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Apihai then invited the first governor to set up his government on the Waitemata Harbour.
  • Ngāti Whātua parted willingly with over 3000 acres of land for the new township of Auckland.
  • By 1855, the hapū had lost title to all their lands except the 700-acre (280-hectare) Orakei Block. The Native Land Court declared it to be inalienable in 1869.
  • In 1898, however, the Native Land Court partitioned the block among individuals. The hapū as a whole was no longer able to use the land. The Crown then persuaded various individuals to sell their shares. Once the Crown had a majority of shares in any one partition, it forced the remaining owners to relinquish theirs.
  • In 1951, the Crown compulsorily acquired the last 12.5 acres (5 hectares) of the block, including the marae and some homes. All the buildings were demolished except the chapel and urupā (cemetery). Those evicted from the marae were relocated as tenants to state houses in nearby Kitemoana Street.
  • Apart from the cemetery, the hapū was now landless. A final blow came in 1959 when the Crown used the ancestral lands of the hapū to establish a 'national marae', over which Ngāti Whātua had no control.
Enlarge image Poster about some of the issues and events that surrounded the Bastion Point protest

Ten years after the occupation of Bastion Point, this poster makes a statement about some of the issues and events that surrounded the protest. Artist unknown, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: Eph-D-MAORI-1988)

A first win

At the time of the Bastion Point protest, hapū elders were working for the return of some land taken under the Public Works Act and not used for the intended purpose.

In 1978, the land was returned – to be managed by the Ngāti Whātua o Orakei Māori Trust Board for the hapū as a whole.

Enlarge image Paora Tuhaere (1825?92)

Paora Tuhaere (1825?92), Ngāti Whātua leader at Orakei, hoped that rentals on leased sections would maintain an economic base for the whole hapū. The actions of the Native Land Court thwarted this aim. National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: F-733271/2)

Settling the claim

In 1986, Ngāti Whātua lodged a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal concerning the break-up of the 700-acre Orakei Block. In its 1987 report, the Tribunal found that the Crown had failed to protect the rights and property of the hapū, as promised in the Treaty, and failed to refrain from buying land the hapū wished to keep.

The government agreed with the findings. It paid an endowment of $3 million to the hapū and passed a law that recognised Ngāti Whātua o Orakei Māori Trust Board as the sole authority to represent the hapū.

An area of land was returned to the hapū – some for its communal facilities, some that could be used for new development.

Enlarge image Paora Tuhaere

National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (Ref: E-571-q-037-1)

Paora Tuhaere's canoe

Taheretikitiki, on the Waitemata Harbour in 1890. Ngāti Whātua had participated in regattas and other events since the founding of Auckland.

Enlarge image An aerial view of what is known as the ´Whenua Rangatira´ of Ngāti Whātua

An aerial view of Auckland's eastern suburbs showing what is known as the 'Whenua Rangatira' of Ngāti Whātua. The land's prominence encouraged its use for defence purposes. The Orakei hapū gifted some land in 1859. More was taken in 1886 under the Public Works Act. Courtesy of Jack Culverwell/PCL Imaging Ltd

Whenua Rangatira

The settlement restored the mana of the hapū. From this came an agreement that another area of land would be set aside as a reserve for the benefit not only of the hapū but also of the people of Auckland. It would be known as Whenua Rangatira.

The Ngāti Whātua o Orakei Reserves Board, comprising three representatives of the hapū and three Auckland City councillors, was established in 1992 for the joint management of this land.

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