The occupation of Takaparawhau, Bastion Point lasted 506 days. (Photo: supplied)

On 25 May this year, it will be 45 years since police and army personnel invaded Takaparawhau, Bastion Point, and arrested more than 200 people.

Led by Joe Hawke and the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee, the protesters were there to uphold the rights of Ngāti Whātua to their land.

Their occupation of the site lasted nearly two years — and resulted in the eventual return of the land to tangata whenua.

Here, four women recall their involvement in the protest on the land, which some also refer to as Takaparawha. Their kōrero is taken from a commemoration book produced by Joe’s daughter Sharon Hawke, in 1998.

 

Puawai Rameka

Before we occupied Bastion Point, there was a Māori Committee meeting where Joe Hawke spoke to our people about the land. He had the full backing of all those kaumātua who were at that meeting. He was given their blessing and that is what he needed. He was not doing it for himself — he was doing it for the whole whānau.

I was at that meeting in the little hall up there. Uncle Bill and Uncle Tommy were there. Joe gave them a full account of the information he found from the research he’d done. He was so convinced that we could and should continue to fight for the land. Our tupuna had been through all the different avenues to secure the land and had got nothing out of it. The only thing to do was to go and stay on the land and claim it.

We moved onto the land and our kaumātua came up. There was Uncle Bill, Aunty Maudy, Aunty Bubby, Aunty Taku and others. They were all so happy that we had all gone to Bastion Point to stay. They supported us. They were amazed at the beautiful view — some of them had never been there before.

The occupation of Bastion Point was hard on our family. It was very hard, but you didn’t really notice it until after it was all over. Paying the bills and keeping the house going was not easy. A lot of things changed for me and the family. My husband, Michael Rameka, didn’t have any input into the children when they were growing up during that time. My children needed a father and a mother, but Michael was too busy on Bastion Point and didn’t have any time with the family. There was nobody at home for them. I had to work all the time.

I think they missed the family atmosphere we had before the occupation of the Point. We were always with them. The Point changed all that. Cherry was the baby and she stayed with us up there. Jack, our son, was up there on and off but he didn’t stay. I used to come home and cook kai for the kids and then go back up to the Point. I didn’t have to do that, it was just a force of habit. I wanted to look after my kids and feed them and cook them a kai because they went to work. I felt I couldn’t stop doing that.

There were some wonderful memories up at the Point. We got to know people we would never have met if it wasn’t for the occupation of Bastion Point. Without them, I don’t know what we would’ve done. All the people who came up there were always there for you. It didn’t matter what you needed done, they would do it for you. They were a wonderful crowd.

Diane Prince used to do a lot of work for Joe, a lot of writing. There was Colin. I won’t forget him because he was a bit like Michael. He tried to make people laugh and he succeeded in that. You needed people like that — someone to liven you all up. Colin was very good at that.

Who else was there? Steve and Maude, both kaumātua, were a backbone too. There was Ricky and his dog Ben. I thought he was lovely. His mum and dad were very nice people, and they would come up in the weekends and bring us cakes, lollies for the kids, and cigarettes for the smokers.

We had nicknames for some of our supporters. There was Aussie Bob, who came from Australia. He had mechanical skills which came in handy at times. I will always remember Margaret Peters who was married to our cousin Richard Peters. We called her Maggiebells. She used to bake beautiful scones on an old stove we had up there. Oh, Maggiebells! She would start the scone mixture and we would help roll it out and fill the trays.

Tim Shadbolt and his wife Miriam used to bring us vegetables and fruit — mandarins, feijoas, oranges and plums. The kids would have a good feed of fruit. Somebody brought us a lot of little chickens. When the chickens grew up, they used to chase the dogs. We were concerned the dogs would chase the chickens, but it was the other way around. The majority of the chickens grew into roosters.

It was the little things the people used to do for us that I thought was wonderful. I really appreciated what they did. Father Michael Shirrers and Father Terry Dibble often came up at different times to have karakia with us.

Poor old Michael used to say: “We are the most blessed people of all. We have church in the morning, we have church before we have a feed, and church every night. I have never been so blessed in my life!”

The eviction day came, and Michael didn’t want me to come up to the Point. He said: “Don’t you come up, Mum.” I said: “I’m not going to sit down here.” He told me to go to work. When we saw the police cars and army trucks driving past the distillers where I worked, I just couldn’t stay at work. Eddie Hawke (junior) who worked with me, brought me home. When I went up to the Point, Dad told me not to come in.

I was there when Joe arrived back from Wellington. We were all at the gate. I felt terrible — it was a horrible experience. I hadn’t seen anything like that before in all my life. I don’t like policemen at any time. (Being brought up in a home where my grandfather was a policeman, I didn’t like it.) To see such a lot of them all at once, was very frightening. It was like something you only saw at the movies or read about in the paper. You never ever dreamed it would ever happen to you.

How do I feel now? I’m still very angry. I know I shouldn’t be. I should put it all behind me, but I hear things being said that I know are not completely true. Some things I hear being spoken of now, should have been spoken of at the time of the occupation. There are people who waited until we went through the trying times and now everything is to their liking, they are reaping the benefits of it. They talk about fighting for Bastion Point, but they weren’t there. I don’t know how long that anger will stay with me. It’s since Michael died that I feel this way.

I feel sorry for all the mothers with children who were on Bastion Point. People like Rachel and Rene. Some of my kids had grown up and were older. It was harder for those who had young ones at an age where they needed both parents. The stress, the worry, the anxiety, the hardship of bringing up kids and being supportive of your husband as well, is hard.

Roger Rameka, my brother-in-law, was deep in with the kaupapa and he wouldn’t waver from it. Roger was a deep thinker. I felt so sorry for him because he didn’t have a partner he could confide in. I’m sure that’s why he took his own life. He didn’t have anybody. In some things, Roger was more of a kaumātua at times than his brother Michael was.

Michael liked to act, have fun. And having children, too, he was able to relate to younger kids. He used to talk to them the way he talked to his own kids. Roger couldn’t do that.

Roger reminded me of a sentry. He was like a guard; he always wore a railway trench coat. Although he took his job seriously, he was also a great storyteller and an entertainer. He would often tell stories during the winter nights.

I was at work at Fisher & Paykel on night shift when we heard over the radio that there was a fire on Bastion Point and a young girl had lost her life. They didn’t give the name of the girl. I was frightened and couldn’t stop crying. I left work and came home. It was little Joanne Hawke, Mero and Alec’s daughter, who had lost her life.

I’m really glad I wasn’t there when the fire started. I don’t think I could have stood it — to see a fire burning and know someone was in there and you couldn’t get them out. It is a horrible feeling just thinking about it even now, and I get cold all over, just talking about it.

Even during the tangi, you say to yourself, “What’s happened? Why did this happen?” There’s a lot of questions that run through your mind at the time. I don’t know how Mero and Alec were able to bear up to it. When you look back and look at all the people who were up there, it made them draw closer to one another. It made them stronger in everything they did after that. They were so determined, they stood up for everything and they took everything that was thrown at them.

All the kids loved it up at the Point. They never ever came back to the street to play. They stayed up on the Point and played. They never bothered going anywhere else.

I used to bring my grandmother up to the Point. Her name was Mihiora Hetaraka. She used to like sitting up there looking at the scenery, and she used to say: “Pua, don’t let these Pākehā get hold of your fullas’ whenua.”

She would often say that to me. She would sit at the window of my caravan and look out at the view. It was beautiful. She loved it up there. She saw a lot of land go in her time.

Mike Rameka, from the Action Committee at Bastion Point, with supporters in 1977. (Photo: supplied)

Hilda Halkyard-Harawira 

Protest is a series of steps. We learn each step of the way.

The “Not one more acre” Māori Land March in 1975 had unified thousands of Māori from all walks of life. Joining the hikoi from Hato Petera, I became seasick from the swaying movement of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Waiata — Na te kore mohio i haere wehewehe and Ko nga waka enei i hoea mai ra — weaved people together.

Through Queen Street, people joined in from everywhere, swelling the ranks. Pākehā workers leaned out top-storey windows watching the event. One could sense their fear of a Māori uprising. I was startled by the realisation that Māori and Pākehā were not familiar with Māori unity of purpose.

Only one Māori woman, Lyn Doherty, left university to go on the march. New relationships were formed. Māori personalities emerged. I watched television coverage of the march through Wellington. A document signed by representatives from supportive marae was handed over to the prime minister, Bill Rowling. I recall he mumbled a short speech before the crowd that he would pass the message on to cabinet. What an anti-climax. A wet blanket. It cost the Labour government.

Some marchers camped on Parliament grounds, dissatisfied with the outcome. Later, I saw a copy of the telegram from a prominent Māori person to the new prime minister urging Mr Muldoon to evict those in the Māori Embassy. Māori dynamics were at play.

The occupation of Takaparawha in 1977 and 1978 became a wānanga for many young urban Maori. We have continued to network with those we met at the Point.

I heard about Bastion Point through the grapevine and went there several months later. From listening to the kōrero, one was able to piece the story together of Ngāti Whātua o Tāmaki Makaurau. The tangata whenua had formed the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee to stop the Crown subdivision of Bastion Point. The 11-acre block was the remnant of a 2,000-acre block declared “inalienable” by a Land Court judge in the 1860s.

Situated in the heart of Tāmaki, people came to find out what was going on. Bastion Point was a living marae. Arohanui, the wharenui, stood strong, flanked by smaller buildings with personality. I was one of the many commuter supporters.

The kaumātua never lost their patience with ongoing manuhiri. After a while, we could lip synch the mihi, “tuia I runga, tuia I waho, tuia I roto, tuia I waho, tuia te here tangata”.

It’s the little things I remember with fondness. White-haired Sonny Waru was a staunch supporter and he always reminded everyone it was a peaceful protest. During his mihi, he would flash his tokotoko, walk side to side, and his teeth always dropped when he said “astronomical fortitude”. There were a few from the Māori Battalion with their hats and medals. They were learning Māori along the way. Ma and Pa Hawke were always present and quietly supportive.

Ricky had made a generator contraption for his tent from a bicycle wheel. Doc had a little black and white dog called Bastion, and every time someone clapped, he would bark excitedly. Sometimes, we clapped just to watch Bastion run around. The “pistol packing preacher”, Tom Herangi, delivered some radical karakia in his time.

There was an in-house competition over who could make the best porridge. Diane Prince seemed to have the best reputation for not burning the bottom of the pot. I think often of the times that food was spread around to feed manuhiri. Some of my best meals there was a piece of bread and jam with a cup of tea. It was well appreciated.

Eighteen years later, in an occupation at Whangapē, the women decided they weren’t there to cook kai all day long. Our whānau are overfed on the marae. The men freaked out a bit.

They were told to help themselves if they were hungry and to clean up their own dishes, and it was expected everyone would bring kai to share. If you didn’t bring kai, it was noticed. Cold bread pudding was laid out the day of the supposed eviction.

A lot of work got done behind the scenes by Diane Prince, taking minutes at the numerous meetings and helping with research for the court case. Titewhai and Aunty Hope were there to offer ongoing support. Planning meetings were held by the core group of the occupiers. Those who lived at the Point always had jobs to clean up and ensure kai was cooked. Some went to work, school and university during the day, and others were assigned to look after the manuhiri.

Up front, the hui were the most important gatherings. After welcomes, there would be updates on what was happening within and outside the camp. Joe Hawke always patiently outlined what was going on.

It became clear from many who visited that our role was to support the tangata whenua. The tangata whenua must lead their own take, or cause. Joe was torn between his loyalties to his kaumātua and the belief that occupation was necessary to stop the subdivision. He kept his feelings about his own whanaunga to himself. It was particularly hard for him, when his relations would publicly disown the occupation through the media.

Throughout all the hui, there would be the interplay of different whakaaro. There were socialists, communists, atheists, Christians, nationalists, vegetarians, human rights activists, singers, actors, writers, housewives, farmers, doctors — all kinds of people. The kōrero that came forth set challenges and gave tautoko. The debates went on for years after.

Luckily, the Hawke whānau were strong among themselves. They were subjected to the pressure of leadership, iwi ties, mortgages, forced unemployment and financial management of the occupation. We were all proud when Sharon Hawke passed five school certificate subjects. She was only a kid, and she passed her exams in trying conditions.

Part of the government ploy at the time was to discredit the protest by saying the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee were too thick to think for themselves, that they had been overtaken by reds under the beds.

Sure, there were a lot of personalities who voiced their opinions. We’re not silly. Some people wanted to convert the Point to their particular left-wing belts. A whole lot of jargon is meaningless, without relevance. But there were Pākehā like Roger Fowler, Tim Shadbolt, Janet Roth, and Mrs Jones who shared much insight and labour in the struggle. Without their contribution, many Māori could have seen Bastion Point as a Māori versus Pākehā battle.

An Irish neighbour from Kupe Street, Jim O’Dea, urged everyone at the “Pint” to look at the wider struggle. Down the road, poor families were being evicted from state houses. But in the end, everyone understood Takaparawhau was a Ngāti Whātua issue that had serious implications for all Māori. Despite the Māori Land March, the Crown wanted to steal the remaining acres of Māori Land.

Drugs and alcohol were not allowed on the site. It’s a practice that has carried on to many other struggles. It cuts out a lot of crap and provides some safety to the kaupapa and to those taking part. Some valuable people were asked to leave the camp because they didn’t heed the rules.

The death of Joanne was a severe hit to all, especially to the whānau. The tangi was a critical point for the occupation. The Hawke whānau had already been tested beyond endurance. Suffice to say, they were encouraged to continue — that her death should not be for nothing. The first time I heard Ana Meihana’s Irish ballad voice singing “Oh Joanne”, I loved the lyrics:

We are the people of the land, through troubled times we will stand . . . the sun will shine through cloudy skies and brighten our pathway as we unite for our land for our land, Oh Joanne.

Eviction Day. Someone had overheard on the radio, the police and army trucks were spotted. It was still dark. A karakia was held. Te Arohanui was full. Willy Wilson and Tiata Witehira reminded everyone to be disciplined. The Action Committee didn’t want anyone to respond to any arrests with violence. They asked all supporters inside and outside the wharenui to respect the tikanga for the day. No one knew what to expect.

The waiata started outside. Simple waiata that everyone knew. “Pa Mai”, the song used to welcome soldiers back from the war. “E hara i te mea”, a short song reminding us that compassion stems from our ancestors. “Tama Ngakau Marie”, an Anglican hymn. We knew Roger Fowler and Doc were on the roof, but we couldn’t hear them. Willie and Tiata were walking around saying: “Do not react to the police . . . you are free to leave if you do not wish to be arrested.”

My husband, who was very square in those days, took time off work for that day and consequently lost his job. I wonder what he would be today if he had stayed at work.

Eventually, the police came into the wharenui in pairs, arresting people one by one. They tried to say something to each person, but everyone kept singing. “Keep cool,” someone would remind us. The army trucks were parked to one side, we were lined up, numbered and photographed with the arresting officers. I was escorted by Māori and Pacific Island cops. All appeals to their conscience were lost. I asked them not to manhandle me as I was hapū.

The army and contractors demolished all the buildings. By removing the buildings, they thought they would stop the congregations. A friendly minister, Reverend Hone Kaa, allowed us the use of his parish hall.

Hui were held to plan strategies for the 222 arrested. We were encouraged to defend ourselves. So often, Māori plead guilty to get the matter over and done with. Defendants wanted to challenge the right of the court to proceed with a case, given they’d been invited to Takaparawha by the owners, so how could they trespass.

The initial defendants took up much court time cross-examining arresting officers and reviewing the history of Ngāti Whātua. Eventually, 180 charges were dropped. The courts could not deal with the overload of work. Those who’d already been charged with trespass appealed their convictions. It was a major victory.

By this time, everyone had tried to resume normal lives. Some had massive mortgage bills, some had lost jobs, but everyone saw the world differently. In 1979, the Waitangi

Action Committee led its first march from Auckland to Waitangi to protest the Crown celebrations of the Treaty of Waitangi. That same year, Eva Rickard was arrested at Raglan for trying to reclaim land taken during World War Two.

I took the Bastion Point movie to the Pacific Island Belau and showed the film to a community group of kuia who were trying to stop the US military taking Trident submarines into their deep-sea harbours. The people had been colonised by the Spanish, the Japanese and handed over to the Americans.

The matriarchs, who at that point had never spoken to me, clearly identified with the still shots of Ma Hawke, holding on to the main post of Te Arohanui. For them, it was a powerful image. They wanted to know who she was. They gave me a present of women’s money and a tortoiseshell dish used for a baby’s first meal. I returned the koha to a member of her whānau. I give credit to Merata Mita who had the foresight and guts to make such a movie as a part of our historical journey.

Three years later, the Crown through another agency tried to subdivide Bastion Point again. They had hoped it had all died down, and the Māori would have forgotten. Fences were cut and road pavings were pulled up overnight. I can’t remember in what order, but two further arrests were made against a group of 121, and later a group of 11 women.

Again, we went back to court. We didn’t believe we could ever win justice, but we could use the court as a forum to raise the issue of Bastion Point and to recognise Ngāti Whātua ownership of Takaparawhau. Unfortunately, it brought all the old wounds up again. It’s funny how Māori bury their pain and we carry it around with us. One minute, Father Michael Shirres was talking to the prosecutor about something ordinary, hello, the next thing, ka tangi pai au i nga maumaharatanga o nga mamae o Takaparawha.

We were all charged again with trespass.

A couple of years later, we were called back to a Tribunal sitting at Ōrākei. Just as well Sir Graham [Latimer] had read the court transcripts. He prompted me to say things I had forgotten.

I was happy to hear the land eventually came back. Typical Crown, they gave it back under joint ownership and wanted Ngāti Whātua to pay some exorbitant bill. The thief charging the victim. I don’t know what the final negotiations are, that is the business of the local tangata whenua.

It is my hope that Takaparawha remains in Māori ownership forever, and that, like all remaining Māori lands, it stays in Māori hands.

Special tribute must be made to the whānau who led and supported the occupation. We all want to be nice and accepted. But someone had to step out. There were huge personal costs and growth. The winning of the land benefited more people than those whānau who fought for it. Many of the oldies have passed on and never saw the victory.

I am proud of being arrested three times at Bastion Point.

For me, it was tautoko for my Ngāti Whātua side. It was also clearly an issue of justice. Last year, I got a reminder for unpaid fines for the Point. Hey, Bastion Point is Ngāti Whātua Land. I’m no trespasser.

Life at the Point. (Photo: supplied)

Diane Prince

The struggle for Takaparawhau during 1977–78 was like a Tale of Two Cities — a “rural” occupation camp, with no electricity, Tilley lamps, long-drops, makeshift housing and wooden stoves; cut off from the rest of Auckland by a history many people worked to overcome.

For many of us, our involvement with Bastion Point was the beginning for recovering the right to create within ourselves the possibilities of our own political boundaries.

To be part of a take, a cause, 24 hours a day for such a long period of time meant that as the take grew and evolved, we too grew into it and developed a new sense of maturity and a new sense of direction.

The camp was situated right on the edge of the city. It straddled both the wealthiest suburbs of Auckland and a significant working-class enclave. The wealthy communities surrounding Bastion Point had a highly developed sense of grievance about having a Māori land occupation within their sightlines. This visual interaction meant they found themselves reinvolved in a history with a people they thought would accept their “defeat” and remain silent.

While the Bastion Point take belonged specifically to the tangata whenua of Ōrākei — the mobilisation of so many people from around the country meant it didn’t exist in isolation from other Māori take.

Everyone had a common goal to unify the struggle to make the thrust stronger. Māori and Pākehā people from the entire country, students, old age beneficiaries, the working class and professionals threw their support behind it. The people supplied what they could, and in some instances gave more than they could comfortably afford.

Every take also comes fully equipped with contradictions. I saw a lot of our own people who’d experienced land rip-offs but were too timid, too confused, and too colonised to make the transition to support Joe’s stand.

Other reasons were even more simplistic and steeped in tradition. An old uncle of mine refused to support Bastion Point or anyone else’s point of view from Ōrākei because he’d seen a woman from Ōrākei sit on a piece of wood destined for the meeting house. After that, he refused point blank to ever visit the place again.

In the beginning, I went up to a few meetings at the Point. They were crowded and intense meetings charged with passionate rhetoric and quiet logic. It didn’t take me long to realise how ignorant I was. How much learning I had to do. I felt that, up to that time, I’d lived a counterfeit existence.

After my second meeting, I threw some books and clothes into a suitcase and arrived, facing up to it with a rare stamina and compulsion. I trudged through the waiting puddles (it wasn’t an El Nino year and it seemed to rain all the time that summer, or was it my imagination?). My long, beautifully-sewn dress trailing in the puddles. My dainty shoes squelching in the mud and an arrogant young chook pecking at my stockings.

I felt that if I organised myself properly, I’d be able to lend my support and still carry on my studies, but my plans didn’t include being subverted by candles, smoke, and a deepening sense of commitment.

I found out that keeping clean was a truly difficult business (although the guys later installed an outdoor shower). I seemed to spend a lot of time flapping my hands around in the vain hope of preventing my long dresses and my body from being lovingly embraced with smoke and ash through standing over the stove, poking lids on pots of boiling food. I would then diligently swirl down the hill, hop on a bus and go into my lectures looking like a smoked herring. Still, the cause was right and before every lecture I’d rub lemon juice on my face and hands to get rid of the blackening that seemed to take permanent occupation on my skin.

In a very short time, my beautiful long dresses looked more like limp flags to my past (l soon gave up my studies) and overalls and gumboots quickly became the order of the day. One night, at one of our regular camp meetings, I must have been doing an essay and as usual, I threw myself into the work wholeheartedly. Apparently, the members at the meeting had worked out by a process of elimination that maybe Diane, who was not a creative cook, whose takakou broke false teeth, and who was an indifferent gardener, should be more profitably employed elsewhere. (Out of harm’s way?) They promptly seconded me into keeping minutes and paperwork with Rene and Joe.

It was then that I became a learner all over again. I attended meetings to take notes, and if it was a precarious path negotiating the garden, I could see it was definitely a precarious course leading a take that was not exempt from continual interference from all quarters (not just the government). It also meant deflecting the blows from our own people.

Maintaining the camp in pristine order was imperative, and keeping the kaupapa intact was a necessary condition to protect the take.

Within this environment, the planning and organisation took place in Joe and Rene’s caravan, or in Arohanui over the kitchen table. For the Action Committee and everyone in the camp, it was a 24-hour alert — a vigil from which there was no break. The barriers between home and public confrontation had been firmly torn down.

Because Bastion Point was the first tribally-based land occupation of its kind since Parihaka, there were no blueprints to follow. No protocols or ethics were as yet firmly established in people’s minds. And I remember several heated meetings when individuals from other areas challenged the right of the Bastion Point Action Committee to lead the take. They, too, wanted to be on the committee. There were even challenges thrown at them on the basis of whakapapa. Some people felt that their descent lines were higher and therefore they were better equipped to lead the take.

Now, of course, it’s an accepted thing that land take are shaped and led by tangata whenua and everybody comes in to support them.

I remember four distinct incidents, totally unrelated to each other but which left an impact on me.

One night, out of the blue, I was summonsed to someone’s place — it turned out to be with Whina Cooper. Propped up in bed, she wanted me to convey to Joe and the others to leave Bastion Point before any of us got hurt. She was scared of the violence that she felt could erupt and it would be our people who would suffer.

Another night, “the night of the kitchen knives”, a well-known academic came to urge us to leave. Joe wasn’t there, he was at a meeting. Titewhai was there and she stood up to him in her usual manner and kept at him until he up and left. I’d already heard of the dilemma some of our academics had in supporting the take. I have since come to the conclusion that these “unravellers” of the truth, these historians, are only capable of interpreting the truth after a take has finished.

To top it off, one day at a meeting, the Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands, McMillan, who was so sick of the “squabbles”, said: “Joe, why don’t you and your lot move your camp across the road behind the marae. You can stay there as long as you like.”

The Crown agents had carefully engineered the people of Ōrākei into opposing camps and, in their negotiations with each faction, they had created these “squabbles”. Behind McMillan’s statement, you could read “Then we, the government, and the developers can get onto what life is really all about. Making money.”

In between all this, Uncle Eddie and Aunt Didi kept us all on track at the camp. Ricky, an inventor by nature, devised a solar heating shower and electric light for himself using a bicycle. Aussie Bob made a skylight for his whare and devised a washing machine for the camp. Because we didn’t have to worry about building permits, the sky was the limit, so Maggie built her whare using the trig station on the camp as her base. I became a better weeder under Uncle Eddie’s supervision and Ricky’s alert eye, and became a buddy cook with Ricky, Rene and everyone else.

I was a single person with no responsibilities and had no trouble adapting to the conditions — and I could get part-time jobs. Some of the women, though — Puawai, Rachel, Rene and others — had to go out to support their families.

One day, I went with Rene to her home to collect some papers. Well, I thought I’d always roughed it but at least my family home was untouched. Joe and Rene’s home was virtually stripped of everything. While the house was still standing, they were under threat of losing it.

The children at the Point were neat. Especially Paulie, Sharon, Parata and Joannie. Joanne, a little girl who died for the land, whose blood nurtured a struggle still in its infant stages. If everyone lost something, then Alec and Mero lost the most, and as we became more determined, we found reality was not always a friendly ally.

Crunch time came with the court case over which Justice Speight presided. Need I say he brought a predictably colonial perspective to the court and affirmed the government’s “inalienable right” to steal the guaranteed “inalienable” rights of Ngāti Whatua of Ōrākei.

Peter Rotherham, Joe, Mike, Colin and I had two weeks to research the case from files that had been extracted from who knows where. They lay in dusty piles from floor to ceiling. An impossible task. It was not possible to research the history of Takaparawhau of Auckland and frame adequate questions in time.

The time limit was extended to two weeks. We couldn’t take the files back to camp. We had to make our notes there or photocopy like mad. We ended up dividing the research into chronological order, but, first, finding what file fitted what time frame was the order of the day.

Having spent all day there, we would have to rush back to camp to resume our work. Right through the night, everyone gave a hand. We even had a generator installed so we could have a few lights on. Joe wouldn’t let us rest. We ploughed on revealing a history so blatantly ugly, so contemptuous, sometimes we’d cry.

The first day of the court case, while Dave Williams had prepared the legalities of the case, we became “McKenzie friends” to Joe, Grant, Mike and Roger, who were the defendants. For days, we devised as many questions as we could (we’d never done this sort of thing before). Morally, we knew we were right. I now know justice doesn’t mean right, and it has nothing to do with morality.

Aunty Hope was a key witness. She was living testament to the fact that it was a large-scale practice for Crown agents to buy land off children. The history of Takaparawhau was no longer a sterile record of incidents. It revealed the depths to which the state would stoop to achieve its ends. Aunty Hope had testified that a Crown agent would be waiting for her outside the picture theatre to get her to sign a piece of paper in exchange for cash. She was not aware that she was selling her land and was under-age.

The hui leading up to the final months were hectic. People from around the country kept on coming. They’d all spent months mobilising support in other areas throughout the country for this moment.

The question was, would our stand remain non-violent? It did. Only a few months before the assault on Bastion Point, the army and the police had been conducting anti-terrorist exercises in a local neighbourhood. The government stated that they needed to be alert for any civil insurrection that could happen.

The day arrived. All the papers and personal gear were quickly placed in homes around Kitemoana Street. We watched as the long line of army trucks and helicopters and the police came to take back what had never been theirs in the first place.

Joe Hawke with Whina Cooper. (Photo: supplied)

Sharon Hawke

It was a cold winter’s day and I had spent most of the night awake in Arohanui (wharenui) being close to everyone who had gathered in support of the “take”. I did not want to believe the government would invade and eventually remove us from our sacred lands.

Early morning karakia had begun and people were murmuring softly as they stirred from their beds. I don’t know how many were in Arohanui but I became transfixed with the fear of being hurt by this encounter. I gave no thought to where my parents might be. I had become very independent in my 16 years. I had found myself hanging out with other Māori women, who recognised the importance of struggle and unity. My heart was full to the brim with love. It became my armour for that day that was to become “te rā pouri o Aotearoa” — the day New Zealand cried.

Many had spent the nights before speaking till dawn about the procedure for the “arrest” that was to have come weeks ago.

“This is to be a peaceful protest. Remember to remain calm. The police will ask you to leave this place and you will either choose to stay and be arrested or walk off. You only have to give your name, address and occupation. Under no circumstances shall you resort to violence. This is a peaceful protest. Bastion Point is Māori land!”

These words became entrenched in my dreams. Before I knew it, I was facing a cop who’d mistaken me for a boy and gone looking for a woman constable. I had been standing on the small bridge of Joanne’s memorial, next to Anna Jones.

The police had already surrounded the camp. There were hundreds of them wearing black coats and white helmets. Some wore black hats with striped bands. They had already arrested my brother, Parata. He had two cops on either side of him escorting him to the processing line. He wiped his eyes. I knew he’d been crying but his strength glowed from within, and it gave me the courage to meet the two officers who had returned for me.

They told me to get off the bridge or they would come and get me. I walked off and sat down on the ground, passively resisting their advances. They carted me off with my feet dragging behind. I saw Nanny running out towards me. She had remained staunch in the front of the wharenui, Arohanui, where all the waiata and haka were happening. She somehow had broken her resolve to run after and protect her mokopuna. Her sons caught her in time and led her back to the front of the whare to continue the protest. I felt the tears fall heavily from my eyes, and for the first time since we moved on to the land, I wanted my mum and dad.

We were put into buses and carted off to the “pig” station (Auckland Central Police Station in Pitt St). We filled the cells, all 222 of us. The processing took hours. There were people organised to take us back to the Point on our release from the cells.

I was anxious and tired. I returned to the Point. The gates were locked and the police barricade had been replaced by army personnel. Every building had been removed. The clearing of the buildings tore at my heart. I was staring at an empty paddock in disbelief. I felt the loss so deep. My body shook with uncontrollable sobbing. My father held me. He was telling me it would be all right. He comforted me until I could cry no more.

I was arrested two more times, both in 1982. The Crown was set on developing the land for high profit margins which excluded tangata whenua involvement. After lengthy submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal, a comprehensive report was released by the Tribunal. The report offered recommendations in favour of the return of Bastion Point to Ngāti Whātua. The government gave back the land in 1987.

There are 13 new homes built on this land for Ngāti Whātua beneficiaries. This is how it should be. For the first time, my people are recognised as tangata whenua. This is a good feeling.

The fight is not finished. We must rally and evaluate our worth as guardians of Papatūānuku. The lessons have been paid for in advance and we will continue to fight for justice.

Ka whawhai tonu mātou. A struggle without end. Ake ake ake.

 

Sharon Hawke (Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei) is the second child and only daughter of Rene and Joe Hawke. She is the organizer of 45 Years of Resilience commemorations being held in Tāmaki Makaurau on 24 and 25 May.

The kōrero here are excerpted from Takaparawhau – The People’s Story, a 20 year commemoration book published in 1998.

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