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APEC / Maaori protest

8 September 1999


Whangarei, Sept 6

Disgruntled Maaori are set to occupy the historic Waitangi Treaty House grounds this weekend in a bid to draw world attention to Ngapuhi land claims.

The occupation will coincide with the start of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) forum summit in Auckland involving 21 world leaders beginning on Saturday.

The move to occupy the Treaty House grounds is the first stage in a series of rolling occupations throughout the North aimed at highlighting Ngapuhi land grievances.

Protesters are planning to converge on the Waitangi Marae at Tii Beach on Friday evening before moving on to the Treaty House grounds on Saturday morning, the time of the official start of the Apec conference. They said their protest would be peaceful. They have also pledged to leave the grounds if asked to by police.

Protest leader Kingi Taurua said today a hui at Oromahoe on Saturday was 100 percent behind the occupation. Police would be informed tomorrow of their plans.

``We want to let the Apec representatives know there is no harmony in Aotearoa between the Crown and Ngapuhi,'' he said.

The length of the occupation would depend on what response protesters received from the Crown and the police.

Oihi Bay, 13km north-west of Russell, was one site that had been targeted for occupation along with Anglican churches in Paihia and Waimate North. Maori believed the churches were partly responsible for Maori being dispossessed of their lands in the 1800s.

Mr Taurua is behind a recent claim lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal that demands the return of large tracts of Bay of Islands land -- some in private ownership -- which he claims was taken before 1840.

The claim includes the Treaty House grounds and Waitangi forest, the area between Waitangi and Opua, the Russell, Kaikohe and Kerikeri townships as well as land in Pakaraka and Hokianga. Foreshore and seabed resources up to 320km out to sea were also being sought.

He said he believed he had a mandate for the occupation from Ngapuhi.

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