Story: Ngāti Whātua
Page 4 – Ngāti Whātua and the Treaty of Waitangi
Signing the treaty
The chief Āpihai Te Kawau signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Manukau Harbour on 20 March 1840. He did so after inviting Governor William Hobson to live in Auckland, hoping that he would protect the land and its people. Unfortunately, the relocation of the capital from Russell to Auckland meant there was extra pressure for land. Ngāti Whātua sold 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) to the Crown for cash and goods worth £341; six months later, 44 acres (17 hectares) were sold by the Crown at public auction for £24,275. The remainder was sub-divided and sold for over £72,000, mostly within two years. By 1850 most of the tribe’s accessible land in Auckland was gone.
By 1900 Ngāti Whātua were reduced to living at Ōkahu Bay in Ōrākei. The government and the Auckland City Council continued to apply pressure to remove them. A main sewerage pipe was built across the front of the village at Ōkahu Bay. That same village was refused connection to the city’s fresh water. The last inhabitants were evicted in the early 1950s, their houses demolished and their meeting house burned. Only the church and cemetery remained.
Bastion Point and beyond
Ngāti Whātua have been at the forefront of action over tribal land loss since 1881, when Paora Tūhaere hosted a pan-national assembly of Māori chiefs at Kohimarama. Nearly 100 years later, in 1977–78, Joe Hawke led a 506-day occupation of Bastion Point. However, Ngāti Whātua protesters were evicted from the ancestral lands they had hoped to get back. Media coverage of that protest raised awareness among New Zealanders of Māori grievances over land issues. A great deal of progress has been made since then. In 1992 the Waitangi Tribunal released findings supporting Te Roroa’s claims, and the tribe now plays a significant role in their region. Action from the Crown has also been positive, offering guardianship of Tāne Mahuta, the largest surviving New Zealand kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest, north of Dargaville.
Treaty claim settlements
Te Uri-o-Hau settled their grievances with the Crown in 2000. Te Taoū claims were before the Waitangi Tribunal in 2004. Ngāti Whātua received financial compensation for their losses at Ōrākei, and the tribe now play a prominent part in the cultural and political life of Auckland city. The tribe have also lodged a further claim over much of Auckland. At perhaps one of the most poignant events in Auckland’s recent history, over 15,000 people gathered at Ōkahu Bay at dawn on millennium day, 1 January 2000, to welcome the modern Ngāti Whātua canoe Māhuhu-ki-te-rangi into the same bay from which, 50 years earlier, the tribe had been evicted.