Pakaitore occupation (Moutoa Gardens)
Moutoa Gardens, so named to commemorate the Battle of Moutoa is an important landmark in Whanganui City adjacent to the Whanganui River. It has been used as a public park for many years. Prior to that however it was known as a down river sanctuary for MÄori. A place for them to stay when in town and a market place to trade goods. In older times it was the site of a marae kÄinga known as Pakaitore (Paikatore to some) commonly used as a seasonal fishing village for Whanganui hapÅ« coming from inland areas to harvest the bounty of the sea.
For 80 days in 1995, members of the Whanganui iwi occupied historic Pakaitore (Moutoa Gardens) to draw attention to their concerns. The protest highlighted the iwi Treaty of Waitangi Claim for the Whanganui River, the exercise of their “tino rangatiratanga” (self determination) and the right to make decisions over issues affecting them.
Many more issues were to be raised over the time of the occupation. The perceived offence to iwi caused by monuments erected on Pakaitore was a central issue along with the assertion of Whanganui kaumÄtua that Pakaitore was not included in the ‘Sale of Whanganui 1848’and in fact still belonged to iwi.
Leaders and spokespersons for the occupation Ken Mair Niko Tangaroa and Tariana Turia were supported by kaumÄtua and iwi members of every generation. The occupation drew support from other iwi and peoples from all over the world. Over the course of the occupation however opinion became divided within Whanganui and a lot of anti-MÄori feeling was expressed.
The Wanganui District Council with the then Mayor Chas Poynter came under immense pressure to resolve the situation.
On March 30th the Wanganui District Council decided to take court action which led to eviction orders being served on Mr Henry Bennett and two other occupiers.
On the 18th of May 1995 in the early morning the occupiers ended the occupation and walked off Pakaitore with quiet dignity.
Although the High Court ruled against iwi the impact of the occupation has heralded a new era of consultation. Formal relationships have been established between Wanganui District Council and iwi and hapu representatives to discuss matters of concern to all parties.
A tripartite agreement was put in place between the Wanganui District Council, Atihaunui-a-Paparangi (Whanganui Iwi) and the Crown, and relates to the ownership
and management of Pakaitore/Moutoa Gardens. This agreement was signed by the three parties at Moutoa Gardens on 28 February 2001.
Rauemi/ To find out more read:
The Militant : Vol.59/No.22 June 5, 1995
NZ History Online