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Joe Hawke; advocate, rangatira, leader - legend

Joe Hawke, the Auckland builder whose biggest project was rebuilding his tribe and securing its future, died on Sunday at the age of 82.

Mr Hawke came to national prominence in 1977 when he started a 506-day occupation of Tākapawaha-Bastion Point to prevent it from being developed for expensive housing by the Muldoon National Government.

The action divided Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei but gave a focus to many young activists fired up by the 1975 Māori Land March, for which he was part of the organising group.

It was in connection with the Land March that Mr Hawke was arrested for collecting seafood for a hui, leading to him becoming the first person to lodge a claim with the newly-formed Waitangi Tribunal.

While that claim for customary fishing rights in the Waitemātā Harbour was unsuccessful, in 1985 when the tribunal’s jurisdiction was extended back to 1840 he was back on behalf of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to file the first historical claim.

The Tribunal’s 1987 report recommended the return of land to Ngāti Whātua, and the next year the government agreed.

Joe Hawke entered Parliament in 1996 as a Labour list MP and served two terms.

History of Bastion Point and the return of the whenua

Led by Joe Hawke, the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee occupied Takaparawhā (Bastion Point reserve), a promontory overlooking Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour. Ngāti Whātua maintained the land had been unjustly taken from them and were angered by plans to subdivide it for a private housing development.

In April 1977, a disused warehouse was re-erected on the site as Arohanui Marae, but facilities were rudimentary and in winter the exposed promontory was a bleak place to live. In February 1978, the government offered to return some land and houses to Ngāti Whātua if the iwi paid $200,000 in development costs. The occupiers stayed put, but on 25 May – 506 days after they had arrived – a large force of police moved in to evict them, arresting 222 protesters and demolishing buildings.

When the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal was widened to cover retrospective issues, Joe Hawke’s Ōrākei claim was the first historical claim to be heard. The Tribunal’s 1987 report recommended the return of land to Ngāti Whātua, and the following year the government agreed

Police and army personnel removed 222 people from Bastion Point, above Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour, ending an occupation that had lasted 506 days. Local iwi Ngāti Whātua were protesting against the loss of land in the Ōrākei block, which had once been declared ‘absolutely inalienable’.

Protesters occupied Bastion Point in January 1977 after the government announced a housing development on former Ngāti Whātua reserve land. The reserve had been gradually reduced in size by compulsory acquisition, leaving Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei holding less than 1 ha.

Following a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry in the mid-1980s, much of the land was later returned to or vested with Ngāti Whātua.

There were similar protests during 1978 at Raglan, where Māori land had been taken during the Second World War for an airfield that was never built. Instead of being returned to its former owners, some of this land had been turned into a golf course in 1969. The land was eventually returned to the Tainui Awhiro people.

The government announced that it had agreed to the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendation that Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) on the southern shore of Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour be returned to local iwi Ngāti Whātua.

Protesters had occupied Bastion Point in early 1977 (see 5 January) after the government revealed that expensive houses would be built on former Ngāti Whātua reserve land. The reserve had been gradually reduced in size by compulsory acquisition, leaving Ngāti Whātua ki Ōrākei tribal group holding less than 1 ha. The protesters, under the banner of the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee, refused to leave their ancestral lands and occupied Bastion Point for 506 days.

On 25 May 1978, when the government sent in a massive force of police and army personnel to evict the occupiers, 222 protesters were arrested and their temporary meeting house, buildings and gardens were demolished. The Bastion Point occupation became one of the most famous protest actions in New Zealand history.

Ten years later the Waitangi Tribunal supported Māori claims to the land, and the government accepted this finding.


Home of the Ngāti Whātua tribe from the 1840s, when land sales reduced their holdings to 700 acres (283 hectares) around Ōkahu Bay. In 1914 the bay became the site of Auckland’s main sewer outlet, polluting traditional fishing grounds. During the 1920s land above the Ngāti Whātua settlement was taken for housing – Ōrākei became a state housing suburb in 1938. Finally, in 1951 Ngāti Whātua were systematically evicted from Ōkahu Bay, their houses demolished and meeting house burnt.


In the 1980s the tribe sought redress for their land losses. A successful Treaty of Waitangi claim in 1991 awarded the Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei Māori Trust Board $3 million compensation and led to resettlement of their marae area.

Bastion Point

This promontory above Tāmaki Drive, known to Ngāti Whātua as Takaparawhā, has come to symbolise Māori land issues. It was given to the Crown by Ngāti Whātua as a defence site during the Russian scare of 1885. In 1977–78 a 506-day protest against a proposed Crown sale was held there. The obelisk in Savage Memorial Park on Bastion Point commemorates the burial place of Michael Joseph Savage, first Labour prime minister, who died in 1940.

Kohimarama, Mission Bay, St Heliers, Glendowie

Series of marine suburbs lining Tāmaki Drive on the southern shore of the Waitematā. Back from the sea lies the former ‘Bishop’s Auckland’ where Bishop George Selwyn bought 538 hectares and founded an educational complex at St John’s College in 1844. The theological college and several fine Gothic revival wooden buildings remain. The re-siting of the Melanesian Mission on the Waitematā shore in 1859 gave Mission Bay its name.

In the early 20th century a rail line to Westfield was built across Hobson Bay, and ferries took picnickers to beaches along the shore. A new era of suburban development followed the construction of Tāmaki Drive, completed in 1932. In 2013 residents were predominantly affluent white New Zealanders. They include small communities of recent southern and eastern European migrants. Beaches, cafés and views of Rangitoto make this a popular area.

Tāmaki River

River flowing from Māngere East to a tidal estuary on the Waitematā. It was a vital link (by way of the Ōtāhuhu portage) to the Manukau for Māori. At Karaka Bay, the first bay on the western shore, Captain Hobson met with Ngāti Pāoa in 1840 to collect signatures to the Treaty of Waitangi. The Tāhuna Tōrea sandspit, reaching across towards Buckland’s Beach, has been a protected wilderness area since the 1970s. Half Moon Bay Marina is on the eastern shore. The first Panmure Bridge was built to span the Tāmaki River in 1866, and the current bridge in 1959.


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