Māori commentators often say that nothing has been achieved without protest and action. Progress towards tino rangatiratanga (self-determination) has been based on this belief.
Many activist, non-kin groups emerged, including Ngā Tamatoa, the Māori Graduates Association and the Māori Organisation on Human Rights. Ngā Tamatoa, together with Te Reo Māori Society, the Wellington Māori Language Commission and others, fought using sit-ins, parliamentary petitions and claims to the Waitangi Tribunal for Māori language teaching in schools and Māori language broadcasting.
Groups protested at Waitangi that the Treaty of Waitangi was a ‘fraud’ because successive governments had allowed historic grievances about breaches of the treaty to remain unaddressed.
Te Rōpū Matakite o Aotearoa
Early in 1975, a matriarch and founding president of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, Dame Whina Cooper, led an ad hoc organisation, Te Rōpū Matakite (the group of visionaries of New Zealand), on a historic 800-kilometre march from Te Hāpua in the Far North to Parliament in Wellington. The estimated 40,000 participants demanded that no further Māori land be alienated. Later that year, the Treaty of Waitangi Act set up the Waitangi Tribunal to hear contemporary grievances against the Crown.
Ōrākei Māori Action Group
For most of 1977 and 1978, the Ōrākei Māori Action Group led a 506-day occupation of prize Auckland real estate at Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) demanding recognition of past government promises that their land would be inalienable, and that land for sale be returned to the iwi. On day 507 they were removed by a joint police-army show of strength that left an indelible imprint on community relationships.
Other (usually kin-based) organisations have been formed to occupy disputed lands, in attempts to have them returned to their Māori owners.
Waitangi Action Committee
In 1981 the Waitangi Action Committee, a coalition of Māori activists, and Pākehā organisations against racism, sexism, capitalism and government oppression, disrupted celebrations of the Treaty of Waitangi at Waitangi, and later confronted students at Auckland University who performed a disrespectful ‘haka’ as part of the university’s annual parade. This confrontation and ensuing court action was supported by conservative Māori organisations, such as the New Zealand Māori Council and Māori Women’s Welfare League. Both organisations shared a wide brief of addressing social breakdown in urban areas. Both worked to change inadequate provision for Māori health, education, housing and welfare; to reduce crime and juvenile delinquency; and to fight discrimination in employment and accommodation – but both had initially thought these aims could be attained without confrontation.
Hīkoi to Waitangi
The Waitangi Action Committee, the New Zealand Māori Council, the Māori Women’s Welfare League and two century-old Māori political organisations, Te Kotahitanga and Te Kīngitanga, organised a peaceful hīkoi (march) to Waitangi in 1984with the aim of stopping the Waitangi Day celebrations. The significance of the hīkoi was more than the numbers who marched, it was the range of organisations (from the most conservative to the most radical) who joined together to express a pressing need to honour the Treaty of Waitangi. The consequences of their action affected Māori, Pākehā and the nation’s conscience. The hīkoi, like the land march a decade earlier, raised public and political awareness.
The government subsequently amended the Treaty of Waitangi Act so that the Waitangi Tribunal could investigate historic grievances back to 1840. Hundreds of historical claims ensued.