In the Pacific defeated tribes traditionally identified with the great
white ships of the colonialists when they arrived, in the hope of
regaining their lost mana and their lost lands. Those who were secure
in their position had, of course, no need to form an alliance with the
The logic is obvious but history tended to be forgotten over time as the hopes of the dispossessed were realised. The colonialists transcended the rightful owners and then rewarded their friends. Eventually it seemed as though the new power structure has always been that way.
In Rarotonga, for example, the Makea family were hiding in the hills until they were rescued by the arrival of a new power. Now it seems that they have always been the dominant family. The front verandah of the Para-o-Tane Palace looks out to the cricket pitch and the new world, while the ancient gods look up to the mountains from the back verandah. Architecture has always been concerned with symbolising power.
History has followed the same path in Auckland, but with an interesting new twist.
The unusual characteristic of Aotearoa is that two nations met as equals. The British were willing to do a deal, but so were Maori. An alliance was thus initially formed between equals. Only later did the dispossessed change the game to their advantage.
Our founding document gives valuable insights into the original balance of power. The easiest way to determine those who were the rightful landowners of the Auckland Isthmus in 1840 is to browse through the signatories of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty was signed for the isthmus at Karaka Bay on two occasions, on March 4 and July 9, 1840.
On 4 March it was signed by seventeen chiefs. Wiremu Hoete (Ngati Paoa), Hokopa, (Ngati Paoa), Te Awa (Ngati Paoa), Te Tapuru (Ngati Paoa), Te Titaha, (Ngati Paoa), Kahu Kote (Ngati Paoa), Ruinga (Ngati Paoa), Hohepa (Ngati Paoa), Pouroto (Ngati Paoa), Inoha (Ngati Paoa), Hinaki (Ngati Paoa), Keka (Ngati Paoa), Paora (Te Taou hapu), Mohi, (Ngati Paoa), Anaru, (Ngati Paoa), Waitangi (Ngati Paoa), and William Korokoro (Nga Puhi, Ngati Wai).
On July 9 the Treaty was signed by a further seven chiefs. Karamu, (Ngati Paoa), Kupenga (Ngati Paoa), Ngahuka (Ngati Paoa), Te Rangi (Nga Puhi), Nga Manu (Ngati Paoa), Raro Maru (Ngati Paoa), and Te Hangi (Ngati Paoa).
It is possible to quibble over some of the signatories and some of the tribal affiliations, but it is not possible to dispute the clear message.
The Auckland isthmus was Ngati Paoa territory, and everyone saw it that way.
Ngati Whatua did sign the Treaty, but not for the Auckland isthmus. The three Ngati Whatua signatories, being from the Kaipara, naturally signed the West Coast copy.
Any world class city knows its whakapapa. If you do not know who you are how can you move forward? Any world class city celebrates its urban design history. Only a land agent would fail to recognise the sacredness of place.
Every USA child knows where their Declaration of Independence was signed. Every USA tourist goes to the place where it all began. When they do they discover respect for place, interpretation of history and re-enactment of rituals. Clearly in Auckland City something has gone wrong.
Anyone interested in conspiracy theory would suggest that someone has something to hide.
The new Local Government Act 2002 requires every city council to "conduct its business in an open, transparent, and democratically accountable manner" and to "take account of the cultural well-being of people and communities". When this is such a new idea it will naturally take the Auckland City Council some time to adjust. However making an apology for past wrongs might be a good place to begin.
In 1953, in a fit of patriotic fervour brought on by the visit of the Queen, the Auckland City Council did erect a badly designed memorial fountain at Karaka Bay. They saw no need to ask Ngati Paoa what they thought about the idea. When Ngati Paoa had been dispossessed of their land on the isthmus it seemed good enough to just celebrate just one Treaty partner. The fountain fell into disrepair when the fervour passed.
In the fifty years since then much New Zealand history has been rewritten. Grant Muir of the Auckland City Council is now seeking to build a new, well-designed memorial at Karaka Bay so that Aucklanders will not need to go to Hyde Park, London, to ponder their heritage.
Good design has never been the strong point of the Auckland City Council, but even ignoring that, in this case it is difficult to see how good design can spring from bad blood. Ngati Paoa need to set the protocol.
If the Crown is willing to apologise and seek to redress past wrongs is it too much to expect that local government should follow their example? Before erecting a monument the Auckland City Council needs to gift land at Karaka Bay to Ngati Paoa to give them once again a foothold on the isthmus, as they had in 1840. It would seem to be an essential first move before even beginning to talk about honouring the Treaty.
The Auckland City Council has a record of poor stewardship at Karaka Bay. The Resource Management Act offers a better alternative. It is called kaitiakitanga.
Tony Watkins is Te Rarawa. His relatives signed the Treaty of Waitangi at Mangungu in the Hokainga. However he now lives on the spot at Karaka Bay where the Treaty was signed in Auckland.