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Hone Harawira on Bastion Point

Hone Harawira on Bastion Point

Most people won’t know much about Bastion Point, but its history is worth the retelling, and lessons are for life. I don’t have the time or the space here to do it, so here’s a snapshot.

Bastion Point was the last remaining piece of land owned by Ngati Whatua – once proud owners of the whole of the Auckland Isthmus. Problem was, it was also the best piece of real estate in the whole country and Prime Minister Rob “Piggy” Muldoon had put it on the market for sale to developers.

Joe Hawke and his family occupied Bastion Point in 1976 and over the next 507 days, Bastion Point became the learning ground for thousands – gathering place for celebrities (including country music singer John Denver and diplomats from all over the world), a sharing ground for indigenous peoples, a recruitment ground for groups of all persuasions, a melting pot of all races in Aotearoa, a hotbed of political thought, and an opportunity to toss up theories and watch them survive for a week or get shot down in flames the second they’d left your quivering lips.

Bastion Point was in the news every day, it was the birth of many Maori land occupations since, and in my view it was the single action which forced the government to realise how seriously Maori took their land claims. The Treaty settlement process is the better for it.

I was just a young fullah back then, surrounded by other young hotbloods like Mangu Awarau and Ben Dalton, and soaking up the raw energy, knowledge, and power of those who dominated the movement back in those days: people like Tame Iti, Syd Jackson, Dun Mihaka, Joe Hawke, David Williams, Tim Shadbolt, and many, many others.

Hilda and I were arrested on May 25 1978 along with 220 others, and charged with trespass. We fought those charges, we beat them, and now Takaparawha is back in the hands of Ngati Whatua.

Bastion Point taught me heaps that I was able to bring back to the north. Strength of purpose, the need to think through and fight for my point of view, a willingness to step outside my comfort zone, how to stand strong against the power of the state, how to bind people to a common cause, and a commitment to a positive Maori future that has guided all my activities of the last 30 years.

Today I pay my respects to all those from the Far North who gave supported Bastion Point and helped pave the way for our Treaty claims today.


Hone Harawira

Tai Tokerau MP


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