Protesters, police and the Government were at the heart of the dispute at Takaparawhau/Bastion Point 40 years ago and today the three parties will meet at the site for commemorative events.

On May 25, 1978, a cold autumn day, a massed force of police mounted Operation Bastion to clear the disputed site, overlooking Auckland's Waitematā Harbour at Ōrākei, of protesters.

They had occupied it since January 5 the previous year, 506 days, in pursuit of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei land claims against the Government and to foil the plans of Prime Minister Rob Muldoon's administration to build expensive housing at Bastion Point.

About 500 policemen - later estimates say 600 - were acting on behalf of the Government and its commissioner of Crown lands in Auckland, George McMillan, who called out to the protesters through a loudhailer.

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"This is Crown land," he declared. After the protesters defied his trespass warnings, police began removing and arresting them. Some 220 people were arrested.

The occupation, which followed the 1975 Land March, was a turning point in the Māori land claims movement, partly because of the TV news images of protesters being dragged off the site by police.

Today, following Waitangi Tribunal investigations, some land in the area has been returned to its former owners, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, and other blocks have been set aside as reserves managed by representatives of the hapū and the Auckland Council.

Before the 1977-78 occupation the hapū had become virtually landless. Now, following major Treaty of Waitangi settlements with the Government, the hapū has become a significant Auckland landowner.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust is organising public commemorative events today to honour the protesters, foster reconciliation and, the trust says, to reaffirm the hapū's footprint on the land in Auckland.

"We hope to bring together those that were arrested - representatives of the Crown, the police, as well as many prominent Māori, Pākehā and Pacific Islanders who played a role in supporting the Bastion Point occupation," said Marama Royal, the chairwoman of the hapū trust board.

The police said a number of staff would attend both the dawn service at Takaparawhau/Bastion Point and the commemoration event at Ōrākei Marae.

Kelvin Davis, the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations, will represent the Government.

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Ngāti Whātua said Joe Hawke, now 78, who led the occupation, will take part too.

"I went onto the point, not to invite and arrest, but to arrest a wrong," Hawke said, "and 40 years on, all of Ngāti Whātua are benefiting from that stand.

Events
• 6am today - Dawn ceremony at Joannee Cooper-Hawke Memorial, Takaparawhau/Bastion Point

• 10am - Commemoration event at Ōrākei Marae

• 6pm - 40th anniversary concert - Tuning Fork, Spark Arena

Not one more acre! Photographic exhibition of Takaparawhau's protesters - Auckland War Memorial Museum

• Films about the protest - Auckland Central Library