Alien Weaponry, the Maori metal band, have dropped the music video for their song "Ahi Kā". The video is produced by Kwasnik Pictures & AW Noise, directed by Piotr Kwasnik, and touches on the eviction of the Ngāti Whātua people in 1952.
The song Ahi Kā is about a set of events that relate to Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei (the tribe living in Auckland when Europeans settled the area). Although a very recent chapter in New Zealand history, the story is part of the unspoken history of New Zealand and is not widely known.
Around the time the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, the Ngāti Whātua chief Te Kawau sold 3,000 acres of land to Governor Hobson, on the expectation that Auckland would become the seat of the colonial government. When parliament was moved to Wellington a few years later, he refused to sell any more land, but land acquisition continued through confiscation and similar legislation.
The land overlooking and including the site of the village – called Takaparawhā or Bastion Point – was annexed by the colonial government in 1886 as a defence post; but in 1941, when the Crown decided it was no longer needed for that purpose, instead of returning it to its owners, it was ‘gifted’ to Auckland City Council as a reserve.
In 1953 it was announced that the Queen of England (Elizabeth II) was coming to New Zealand. This was the first time a reigning monarch had visited our shores; and the country was sent into a patriotic frenzy.
The Auckland City Council embarked upon a ‘beautification’ program in preparation for the royal visit. Unfortunately for the local Māori people of Auckland (Ngāti Whātua), they decided that the native village of the Ngāti Whātua at Okahu Bay, was ‘unsightly’; and it should be burned to the ground so the Queen would not need to look upon it as her motorcade travelled around the waterfront.
As a result of the Auckland council’s decision, a work party was dispatched and Ngāti Whātua were evicted from their homes and forced to stand by as they watched their village burn. The dispossessed families were moved into State housing nearby, where they were required to pay rent. This crippled the once thriving community, forcing the younger generations into a life of poverty and servitude and making it difficult for many to care for and support their elders and community leaders that had been possible when they lived on their own lands.
In the years since 1941, Ngāti Whātua leaders applied constantly via formal channels to have their land at Takaparawhā returned to them. In 1976, when the government of the day announced they planned to sell the land to property developers for high income housing, hundreds of members of the tribe occupied the land. They lived in very difficult, makeshift conditions for nearly two years; and were eventually forcibly removed by police and army personnel in a very public action that was widely televised in NZ media. Over 200 ‘protesters’ were arrested.
In the 1980s, Ngāti Whātua eventually had a small portion of their land returned to them with an apology and some compensation, but the occupation and the use of force to end it played a major part in highlighting injustices against Māori, and the events surrounding it became a catalyst in the birth of Maori sovereignty and land rights protests in New Zealand.
Grab a copy of the song here.