Report from the Hikoi - a march by indigenous Maori from Northland down to parliament in Wellington to oppose the Multilateral Agreement on Investment.

Maori regard the MAI as a threat to the integrity of the Treaty of
Waitangi (1840)

Images will be available on the web site in the near future:

The site will also hold any other information on the Hikoi, and the 2 page statement which is being distributed. I will also post this statement seperately.

On Wed 22 April morning, the Hikoi left from AwaTaha Marae on the North Shore, Auckland to cross the Harbour bridge. Earlier a compromise had been made with the police and Transit New Zealand who administer the bridge, where the marchers were forbidden to walk but would get a police escort to traverse by car.

The Hikoi walked to the last on-ramp to the bridge and then joined about 12 - 15 cars some of which are travelling with them, some which came to help from Auckland. Cars left for the bridge around 10.30 am, on the on-ramp, but were pulled in to a side bar once on the motorway runup to the bridge. All the cars, which included at least 3 press cars, were told to keep up speed once on the bridge. The police-led convoy started up the bridge in one lane and we soon saw one person jogging on the outside edge. By this time the police had closed off the two outside lanes. Police quickly nipped up in a van and ran after this person, but others had by this time got out of cars that were stopped because of the disruption.

 Several arrest vans quickly arrived and people were put in, but one person we saw be held down on the ground quite vigorously for quite some time before he was hauled off.

 Traffic in the other lanes of the motorway seemed to be flowing steadily during this, although media reports mentioned people running in front of traffic. All we saw was people running in the two lanes which were closed off, not in front of general bridge traffic. We believe the traffic they referred to was in fact the Hikoi cars and police vehicles. Several people were dragged from cars to be arrested, some vehicles were searched, and a 13 year old boy put in a police van. Consequently, we spent almost 3/4 hour on the bridge.

 After considerable time idle because of either other cars stopped or because of police arresting and searching vehicles, we were allowed to continue over the bridge but as we went down the other side we were again stopped by the police, then told to change to one of the inside lanes. I was aggressively and repeatedly told to get into this lane, while police continued to walk in front of the car and watch the fellow indicating to me. Lack of coordination and support of fellow police seemed apparent. Once on the other side, at the end of the Ponsonby off-ramp people once again collected, along with the police and the vans of arrested people. There was a lot of emotion about the police heavy-handedness, and the arrest of the 13 year old, who was subsequently released. A kaumatua (Maori elder) gave a speech about the situation and how the Hikoi was to continue, followed by a short prayer, and the Hikoi continued up to Ponsonby Road, then down into central Auckland and down Queen Street, the city's main shopping precinct (and with recently restored electricity!). They spent the night at an Auckland Marae and intend to continue on the journey to Wellington, the capital city, about 600 kilometres away.

 Last night the marchers spent the night at the Bastion Point Marae where a presentation was given on effects of the MAI and other international agreements on indigenous Maori people. Discussion was also on the day's action and on the progress of the Hikoi following the arrests.

 While we were near the back of the convoy, we saw police being heavy handed on one or two occasions, but they were not very organised even though it appeared they had expected this to happen. News reports talked of 16 arrests, 8 men, 8 women, obstruction, disorderly behaviour, and resisting arrest (Seems like almost double this number may have been arrested, processed and 1/2 released immediately). Some allege that police over-reacted, and one has to wonder why they searched vehicles, and why they chose to do it on the bridge.

 Police have stated that 30 police officers were attending, but there seemed to be almost as many as the 60 or more. My guess is 40 or more.

 The media made a number of interviews but little of substance has been shown on television, only the bridge running and arrests. One channel did screen and interview with Saana Murray. National Radio has covered the action a little more carefully, with an interview with Wayne Lang in the morning, before the convoy, where he had a couple of minutes dicussing the reasons for the Hikoi. The bridge hold-up made top spot or second item on National Radio news from 10am until 2pm and was covered at 5pm and 5.30 but by this time they were only covering the disturbance. Most news items just said that "The Hikoi was to protest the MAI which the marchers believe will undermine ownership of their resources"

 This is probably the biggest police action on the harbour bridge since 1981 during Springbok tour demonstrations, and the first arrests in NZ demonstration opposing the MAI.

index of may 98