Maori welcome and history, wine and olive tasting, and multinational gardens
Our short bus tour of Auckland took us to the beach at Mission Bay, about 8 km (5 miles) east of our downtown hotel. From there we walked to Bastion Point (Takaparawhau) where we met Dane, a family member of the traditional owners of the area, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. After a traditional welcoming ceremony Dane told us of the history of his land. We learned of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between the Māori and the British, recognizing Māori ownership of the lands and giving them rights of British subjects. Dane’s ancestors then gifted the governor of New Zealand 3500 acres for the new capital city. Over the years Auckland expanded far beyond the original gifted land and many of the original inhabitants were forced from their homes.
In 1976 the government announced it would seize and sell Bastion Point for high-income housing. Over the next two years the Orakei Māori Action Committee organized a 506-day occupation of the land to prevent its development. The army and police eventually forcibly removed the occupiers and arrested over 200 people. However, this brought a lot of attention to the injustices suffered by the Māori, and ten years later the government returned the land to Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, with compensation. It remains under Māori ownership to this day.
The next day on our 40-minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island we were thrilled to see a pair of Orcas (“killer whales”) heading into the harbor. In addition to beautiful scenery, our tour of the island included lunch at a local winery and olive oil tasting at the Allpress Olive grove.
We left early the next morning for Rotorua, stopping halfway for a guided tour and lunch at the world-famous Hamilton Gardens. The 54-hectare (133 acres) park focuses “showcasing the cultural meaning and context of gardens over the past 4,000 years.” We were able to experience most of the 20 separate themed gardens ranging from ancient Egypt to a contemporary sustainable backyard.
Next: Rotorua Area