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Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei commemorate 183 years since Auckland land gifting

Mon, Sep 18

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei leaders congregated in four significant sites around the city centre on Monday morning, reciting karanga, karakia, whaikōrero and mōteatea, to commemorate 183 years since their ancestor Apihai Te Kawau gifted 3000 acres of land along the Auckland isthmus to establish the city’s original settlement.

Iwi leader Joe Pihema said the origins of the city could be traced to a meeting between Te Kawau and New Zealand’s first governor, William Hobson, in 1840 after envisioning a township that brought with it trading opportunities between new settlers and Māori.

“Apihai actually sent a delegation to the Bay of Islands to fetch Hobson, and there we have the beginnings of a friendship, a partnership, an arrangement that Hobson would come here, erect his fledgling government and you’ve got the birth of Auckland,” said Pihema.

However, in the 183 years since the establishment of Auckland, relationships between Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and the Crown have not always been positive.

By the 1950s, the iwi had been left virtually landless, and their decades-long fight for justice culminated in the Bastion Point occupation in 1977. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust Chairman Marama Royal said it was a long journey to get to where they are today.

“Back then in 1952, when the Queen [Elizabeth] and the Duke of Edinburgh [Prince Phillip] were visiting, the Crown at the time felt that our pā was an eyesore and they burnt it down to the ground.

“We only had our urupā left down at Ōkahu Bay and we’ve literally risen from the ashes,” she said.

The iwi has now set out the challenge to change the day of Auckland Anniversary celebrations from late January to September 18. For Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei leader Te Aroha Grace, it’s about recognising and reviving the true story of how Tāmaki Makaurau came to be.

“Lots of people give that credit to William Hobson, but it was actually the idea of Apihai Te Kawau himself to make a bargaining example of how Māori can connect with Pākehā.

“Today is really about how we desire and expect to expand the mana of Auckland, and it’s important that we share the stories that were significant to the foundation of Auckland,” he said.

Auckland Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson agrees that it could be time for a change to the annual public holiday, but she says it’s a change that has to be passed through Central Government.

“It’s certainly worth having a kōrero and a conversation around that without a doubt.

“We should really educate Aucklanders and make them understand exactly what the history was truly about.”


karanga – formal call, ceremonial call

karakia – prayer, incantation

whaikōrero – oratory, formal speech

mōteatea – lament, traditional chant

iwi – tribe

pā – traditional fortified village

urupā – burial ground, cemetery

Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland

mana – power, authority, prestige

kōrero – talk, discussion


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