The government announced that it had agreed to the Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendation that Bastion Point on the southern side of Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour be returned to the local iwi (tribe), Ngāti Whātua.
Protesters had occupied Bastion Point in January 1977 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 endorsed this finding.
Image: Joe Hawke (Te Ara)
See also Bastion Point: the untold story (1999), from NZ On Screen: