Resolving the grievances of the past

In 1978, largely in response to the protest at Bastion Point, the Government made a settlement with some of Ngati Whatua. The Crown returned only some of the land taken under the Public Works Act - the land which had not been used for the purpose for which it had been taken. The tribe was to pay $200,000 for its return.

Significantly, the descendants of those whose land it was asked for it to be returned not to themselves but to the hapu as a whole.

In 1984, a group of Ngati Whatua of Orakei lodged a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal. A revised claim was lodged in 1986. The whole hapu supported the claim that:

  • Ngati Whatua were wrongly deprived of the 700-acre Orakei block.
  • The Orakei block ought to have been reserved in tribal ownership and control forever. They did not seek the return of the whole block. They asked only for the return of Crown land which had not been turned into roads or had houses built on it. They did not seek the return of any land in private ownership.

What the Waitangi Tribunal said in its Report (1987)

  • The Crown failed to keep its part of the Treaty of Waitangi, the promise to protect the rights and property of the hapu.
  • The Orakei block should have been kept as a reserve in tribal ownership.
  • The Crown made Ngati Whatua of Orakei virtually landless. Their mana and authority was destroyed by the Native Land Court and they were left without sufficient resources for their own needs.
  • Ngati Whatua of Orakei had no power to stop the Crown taking over their land and destroying their papakainga.
  • The Crown did not ensure that a marae site was set aside for Ngati Whatua of Orakei.
  • The protest at Bastion Point was inconsistent with the Treaty of Waitangi because the protesters broke the law by trespassing. The Waitangi Tribunal did not comment on whether the protesters' convictions should remain.

What the Waitangi Tribunal said should be done

  • Okahu Park and the headlands of Bastion Point (apart from the Savage Memorial) should be returned to Ngati Whatua of Orakei in tribal ownership. The land should be used as public parks, managed by the hapu and the Auckland City Council together.
  • The Orakei marae and the Okahu church and urupa should be returned to Ngati Whatua of Orakei tribal ownership.
  • The hapu should not have to pay the $200,000 for the return of land under the 1978 settlement.
  • A further three hectares of land at Bastion Point should be returned to Ngati Whatua of Orakei for development as they saw fit.
  • $3 million should be paid to Ngati Whatua of Orakei to fund the hapu's development.
  • The tribal authority of Ngati Whatua of Orakei should be officially recognised.
  • Members of Ngati Whatua of Orakei should have first option to occupy State houses at Orakei.

What the Government Did

The Government agreed with the Waitangi Tribunal's findings. It paid $3 million to Ngati Whatua of Orakei to assist it with housing and other development. It passed a new law, the Orakei Act 1991, to recognise the rights of Ngati Whatua of Orakei under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Act:

  • Recognises the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Trust Board as the tribal authority which represents all members of the hapu.
  • Returns to Ngati Whatua of Orakei an area of hapu land. Part of this land cannot be sold or leased, and will be used for a marae, a church, and an urupa. It will be the turangawaewae of the hapu, forever. Another part of the land may be leased for development by the hapu.
  • Sets aside an area of whenua rangatira, a Māori reserve for the benefit of the hapu and the people of Auckland. The trust board named this area Takaparawha Reserve. It will be looked after by the Auckland City Council and the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Trust Board together.
  • Hands back to the Ngati Whatua o Orakei Trust Board as hapu land some lands which were going to be used as roads.

The Government intended this to be a 'full and final settlement'. The Ngai Whatua o Orakei Trust Board may still negotiate settlement of any other outstanding claims it may have in the Auckland area which relate to the customary rights of the hapu.

The Orakei Block Today

In 1987, as they considered the sad history of the loss of land by Ngati Whatua of Orakei, the Waitangi Tribunal saw a spark of hope. They said that the Government settlement of 1978, though it gave back so little to the hapu, was the beginning of vastly better hopes for the people, and a vehicle on which to travel along a new route.

From that point, what little land Ngati Whatua of Orakei owned, it owned communally, like Māori land of old. The plague that individual ownership brought to the tribe was finally buried. As the Waitangi Tribunal said, 'Ngati Whatua of Orakei may have little land left, but it is the only tribe in New Zealand to own all that it has in the customary way'.

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