Social media is abuzz. Ngati Whatua have decided to close Okahu Bay today so that it can hold a Mokopuna day. The rednecks are saying that this is the end of civilisation as we know it. It is claimed that this is the start of apartheid where white folk will no longer be able to use beaches or roads or footpaths or anything and the next thing is that we will all be transported back to Europe. They need to get a grip and they need to get an understanding of the history.
The beach is part of a 48ha “Whenua Rangatira” block, including the reserve behind the beach where the tribe once lived and Bastion Point above the bay, which was returned to Ngati Whatua in 1991 under the Treaty of Waitangi. It is managed jointly by the tribe and Auckland Council through the Ngati Whatua Orakei Reserves Board.
Ms Hawke said 400 to 600 people were expected when the mokopuna day was first scheduled just before Christmas, but it had to be postponed then because of bad weather and she did not expect so many people now that the summer holidays were over.
“It’s a family day,” she said.
She said it was the first time the tribe had exercised its right to use the beach for a tribal event, apart from “civic events” such as ceremonial canoe visits.
“It’s unique in that the way they have designed the event requires the use of the land that they have asked for. It’s well within their rights,” she said.
“It’s not the intention of the family to close out the public. It [the beach] is always accessible to the public.”
The beach has been closed in the past for things like triathlons but apparently if the original owners want to use it for a few hours this presents some sort of crisis.
I suspect these events become flashpoints because the right and the rednecks think that Maori will behave like them and get all possessive over areas they have rights to. Certainly the rhetoric of the right suggests that everyone will behave in the same venal selfish way as them if given a chance. My experience of Maori however is that they are several cuts above the right and the rednecks and we have nothing to worry about. We just need to be respectful.
If you want an Auckland contrast think of Puketutu Island, owned by entities associated with the Kelliher Family, early beer barons in Auckland. Access has historically been difficult and there was for a long time a gate preventing access to the Island unless you had a code. For all I know the gate is still there. Compare this with Okahu Bay which has been used by many Aucklanders without restriction for many decades.
And if you really want to get upset then a brief reading of the history of Okahu Bay will achieve this as long as you are human. The original problem was that the Maori Land Court awarded the Bastion Point land to 13 individuals, despite there being a hapu of over 100 that owned the land. Tribal control of the land was lost. Then to really kick things off the Government took land at Okahu Bay and built a sewer pipe across the beach in front of the Ngati Whatua village. It discharged raw sewage from Auckland into the bay, which at that time was the only access to the papakainga. The sewage outfall was unhygienic and highly offensive, it polluted the hapu’s shellfish beds, and it turned the village into a swamp in heavy rain. Many people left the village and the hapu broke up.
Can you imagine what would happen if the humans of Remuera had received similar treatment? Imagine the response if Mission Bay or Kohimarama or St Heliers faced the prospect of raw sewerage being pumped into their bays.
And complain? Every time we use Okahu Bay or Bastion Point or Mission Bay or any piece of Ngati Whatua land we should express our gratitude to their generosity and apologise for the appalling treatment they have suffered.
I hope that Ngati Whatua have a great Mokopuna day. And I appreciate their generosity in allowing all of us to use land and foreshore which under the Treaty of Waitangi should be theirs.