Story: Ngā rōpū tautohetohe – Māori protest movements

Page 3. Land protests

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Historic land protest

Māori protest about land dates back to the 19th century. Māori protested against land loss through petitions and occupations and by destroying survey pegs. Pan-tribal movements, including the Kīngitanga (Māori King movement) and Kotahitanga (Māori parliament movement), were often formed to advocate for Māori land issues. One movement in Hawke’s Bay, the Repudiation movement, was formed specifically to repudiate land sales that had taken place as inappropriate and unfair.

1975 hīkoi

In 1975 a hīkoi (march) took place from Te Hāpua in the far north to Parliament in Wellington to protest about land loss. Whina Cooper, the inaugural president of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, led Te Rōpū Matakite o Aotearoa, the group that organised the hīkoi. The march was similar to the Trail of Broken Treaties, a protest by Native American organisations in the US in 1972. Significantly, the march led to alliances between many Māori organisations, including the Kīngitanga, the New Zealand Māori Council, Ngā Tamatoa, the Māori Women’s Welfare League and other groups.

The hīkoi left Te Hāpua on 14 September (Māori language day). Cooper took the first steps, holding the hand of her mokopuna (grandchild) Irene. The march reached Wellington on 13 October 1975. A memorial of rights signed by 60,000 people was prepared and presented to Prime Minister Bill Rowling, asking that all statutes that could alienate land be repealed and remaining tribal land be invested in Māori in perpetuity. Rowling promised that steps would be taken to address these concerns, but a group of protesters were not happy with his response. About 60 people set up a Māori embassy at Parliament and occupied the grounds.

Bastion Point

In 1977–78 Joe Hawke led the Ōrākei Māori Action Group during their 506-day occupation of Bastion Point (Takaparawhā). This land, which had once been declared ‘absolutely inalienable’ by the Native Land Court, had over the years been taken from Ngāti Whātua. 800 police and the New Zealand army evicted over 200 protesters from the ancestral lands they had hoped to get back. Over time, through negotiations and a successful treaty claim, Bastion Point was returned to Ngāti Whātua.

Raglan golf course

The Raglan (Whāingaroa) protest raged in the 1970s over the Raglan golf course. The government had taken the land from Māori during the Second World War to use as a military airfield. The land was not handed back at the end of the war to its former Māori owners – instead part of it became a public golf course. An occupation was led by Eva Rickard in 1978, and she and other protesters were arrested on the ninth hole of the course. The land was eventually returned.

Waitangi Tribunal

Partially as a result of protest, the Waitangi Tribunal was set up in 1975 to remedy breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. At first it could not look at historical grievances, and was largely ineffective in dealing with land issues. In 1985 the tribunal was given retrospective jurisdiction back to 1840, and became more relevant for the settlement of historical land losses. This change probably resulted in a lessening of protests about historical land issues.


From February to May 1995, Whanganui Māori occupied Pākaitore (also known as Moutoa Gardens), the site of the courthouse in Whanganui city, to protest lack of settlement of their treaty claims. Eventually the occupation ended and a tripartite agreement between iwi, government and local government was signed. The Pākaitore Trust was set up to manage the courthouse and surrounding land.

Ngāwhā and Te Kurī a Pāoa

In 2002 an occupation took place at Ngāwhā in Northland, where a new prison was to be built. For local iwi this site included wāhi tapu (sacred places) and the traditional lair of a taniwha (supernatural creature), Taukere. Ultimately the occupation was unsuccessful and the prison was built.

The sale to overseas buyers of Te Kurī a Pāoa (Young Nicks Head) on the East Coast led to concern from Ngāi Tāmanuhiri. Eventually, after negotiations with the new owner, the headland became a historic reserve and public access was retained.

How to cite this page:

Basil Keane, 'Ngā rōpū tautohetohe – Māori protest movements - Land protests', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 August 2022)

Story by Basil Keane, published 20 Jun 2012