NZ Race Relations

Page 5 – Māori and Pākehā relations after 1960

During the 1960s a new generation of urbanised Māori leaders emerged. Many were university graduates with a clear sense of who they were as Māori and a strong sense of the impact of colonisation on their people. Ngā Tamatoa (‘the young warriors’) came from a cross-section of iwi and worked together on numerous issues. Seeking to revive the Māori language, Ngā Tamatoa petitioned Parliament to promote te reo Māori. A Māori language day had by 1975 become Māori language week and in 1978 New Zealand's first officially bilingual school opened at Rūātoki in Te Urewera. During the 1980 Maori Language Week a march was held to demand that the Māori language have equal status with English. It was not until 1987 that te reo Māori became an official language of New Zealand.

The issue of land loss became headline news when thousands of Māori and supporters from all over the country marched on Parliament in October 1975. Led by Whina Cooper, the march (hīkoi) left Te Hāpua in the Far North on 14 September under the slogan ‘not one more acre of Maori land'.

In January 1977 protesters occupied Bastion Point in Auckland after the government announced a housing development on former Ngāti Whātua reserve land. The land had been gradually reduced in size by compulsory acquisition, leaving the Ngāti Whatua ki Ōrakei tribal group holding less than one hectare. In May 1978 police and army evicted the occupiers after 506 days. Following a Waitangi Tribunal inquiry and recommendations, much of the land was returned to or vested with Ngāti Whātua.

In 1978 Eva Rickard became the face of protest at Raglan about the use of Māori land for a golf course. A group of protesters occupied land which was originally taken during the Second World War for a military airfield. It was not needed for this purpose, but instead of being returned to its former owners, part of the land had been turned into a golf course in 1969. The land was eventually returned to Tainui Awhiro people.

The Raglan and Bastion Point protests helped to change land legislation. If land taken for public works is no longer needed, the government is now required to return it to the original owners.

Māori dissatisfaction with the policies of both of the major political parties led to the formation of the Mana Motuhake (Māori self-determination) party in 1980. The party was established by former Labour Cabinet minister Matiu Rata, who resigned from the party after being dropped as chairman of the Labour caucus committee on Maori Affairs in 1979. Mana Motuhake advocated, among other things, Māori autonomy.

The 1970s were a watershed for Māori. Many of those championing Māori issues drew their strength from the leaders of the past. Many of the positive steps forward for Māori in the closing decades of the 20th century and opening years of the 21st were achieved as a result of actions taken in the 1970s. From 1985 the Waitangi Tribunal was empowered to investigate Treaty claims dating back to 1840. The tribunal also gained the ability to commission research and appoint legal counsel for claimants. This enabled the historical dispossession of tribal estates to be examined. The management of tribal or Māori-owned assets was reorganised as a result. A Māori-language education system was established and iwi launched major economic initiatives including fishing, aquaculture and farming. In 1987 te reo Māori became an official language of New Zealand.

How to cite this page

'Māori and Pākehā relations after 1960', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 4-Aug-2014