History of the Maori of Aotearoa - New Zealand|
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 1996 21:54:07 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
Subject: Maoris Celebrate Land Seizure
Maoris Celebrate Land Seizure
By Malcolm MaCallister, in the Militant
Vol. 60, no. 12 (March 25 1996)
WANGANUI, New Zealand - A year ago, Maoris here occupied the
local park Moutoa Gardens for 79 days. On February 24, local
tribes began a six-day gathering at the gardens to celebrate
the anniversary of the occupation.
At the end of 1994 the conservative National Party
government introduced a scheme to buy off all Maori land
grievances for NZ$1 billion [U.S.$670 million] hoping to take
the heat out of the myriad Maori claims and make sales of
government land and assets more attractive to capitalist
investors. The scheme met widespread opposition, including
several land occupations. For several months the occupation in
Wanganui was at the center of national politics.
The area where the park is situated had been a market place
called Pakaitore in the last century, where the local tribes
traded with the few British settlers. In a deal that rankles
with Maoris to this day, the settler government purchased the
block of land where the city now stands using trickery and
divisions among the tribes. Pakaitore, in Maori eyes, was
excluded from the purchase.
During the occupation tents and buildings were erected and
the park was fenced off in the manner of a traditional village.
The local City Council attempted eviction, but on at least one
occasion was prevented by supporters from around the country
gathering at the site. As police assembled for another eviction
last May the occupiers decided to leave the park with their
heads held high rather than face bludgeoning and arrest.
The strength of the occupation was indicated by the decision
of the City Council to allow the anniversary celebrations to
take place at Pakaitore, although it issued a ban on guests
staying overnight. A stream of visitors took part in the
In an interview, Maori leader Ken Mair talked about the
importance of the occupation. "Without your land you can't
assert your tinorangitiratanga [sovereignty]," he said. "There
has been much intense discussion from the time we came on here
a year ago right to now. I think history will judge that this
is the beginning of a renaissance in regard to the issues of
tinorangitiratanga - our young ones have become more aware of
the issues as well as the pakeha [white] community and the
community as a whole throughout the country."
After the celebration had ended, seven people were arrested
at a nearby park when Maoris set up a tent as a protest against
whites being allowed to stay overnight in that park while
Maoris were banned from staying overnight in Moutoa Gardens.
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