Orakei, which includes Okahu Bay, Orakei Domain and Bastion Point, was home to Ngati Whatua, a hapu of the Ngati Whatua iwi of Kaipara.
As the number of European settlers increased in the mid 1800s, so did their demand for land. Ngati Whatua was happy to oblige, gifting land to both the Anglican Church and the Crown.
Still the demand for land grew. Ngati Whatua sold land to the government in exchange for protection, education, and medicine. A few years on, and various transactions with private settlers were also completed.
However, Ngati Whatua’s understanding of these deals was based on the traditional Maori belief that land is a communal asset. Naïve to European ways, they were unaware of the finality of these transactions.
In the late 1850s, the government not only acquired more land from the hapu, but confiscated land sold to private settlers. Selling some of this land for a massive profit, revenue was used to fund the city’s roads, bridges and hospitals.
By 1854, all Ngati Whatua had left were 700-acres. They secured an agreement via the Native Land Court, ensuring this remaining acreage would stay in communal ownership and would not be sold. The government kept their agreement for a number of decades, before reneging on the deal and taking the land in 1898.
It got worse. The remaining members of Ngati Whatua who still lived in Okahu Bay were evicted in the 1950s. Placed in state housing, their original homes, marae and communal buildings were pulled down. It would be another 40 years before Ngati Whatua had their own marae again. All they had left was a cemetery situated on a quarter acre of land.
In 1976, some members of Ngati Whatua took a stand against the Crown. Occupying Bastion Point for 506 days, they protested the sale of the last Crown-owned land left in Orakei. This resulted in the largest internal mobilisation of police in New Zealand’s history and, in 1978, the protestors were evicted. Over 200 people were arrested for trespass.
Some eight years later, Ngati Whatua lodged a claim with the Waitangi Tribunal and was awarded compensation, title to returned lands—and is once again recognised as the tribal authority of the area.