Titewhai Harawira's car had tino rangatiratanga flags out front, Government style. She waved with her left hand at the crowd, like the Queen - the British Queen, that is.

She was regal but congenial, calling out "kia ora, kia ora" to the people.

Her son Hone's vehicle was built for protest. The four-wheel-drive had two blowhorns, four custom-made poles for Maori independence flags and a trailer for the luggage.


Four generations of the Harawiras were on the hikoi against the Government's seabed and foreshore legislation, each generation raised to protest, immersed in Maoritanga since birth, even before birth.

They form one of New Zealand's most notorious families. If there is trouble at Waitangi, the Harawiras are involved. If there are land occupations up north, the Harawiras are involved. If there is something on Maori issues to be said, one of the Harawiras says it.

In turn, they are called everything from the Clampetts [the hillbilly family in the Beverly Hillbillies] to "professional activists" and "militants". They are described by some as passionate and driven, by Prime Minister Helen Clark as wreckers and haters, and with the odd expletive by others.

Love them or hate them, this royal family of protest demands respect. Whether it is through intimidation or by natural-born leadership, through genealogy and character, is another matter.

We tried to talk to them for this article but during the hikoi one of the family gave one of our reporters the brush-off and Hone, though willing and amenable, was far too busy.

He was a main organiser and told the crowd the hikoi was about more than the foreshore issue - it was about Maori unity.

"The foreshore and seabed issue gives us the opportunity to get together, but if we don't carry on beyond that we will have achieved nothing."

The Harawiras are of high-ranking Ngapuhi genealogy, proud to descend from the great Ngapuhi warrior chiefs Patuone and Tamati Waka Nene - who, ironically enough, fought on the side of Pakeha against Hone Heke.


On the march people from different tribes said it was hard not to admire the courage of the Harawiras - especially Hone, Titewhai's second oldest son.

"At least he has the guts to say what a lot of us won't," says Herbie Hapeta of Te Arawa, from Rotorua.

"He is simply articulating the issues we see as important. Behind it all I actually believe he is a warm person, believe it or not. Titewhai, though, can piss a lot of people off, but she has her principles and I respect her for that."

Titewhai is the Harawira matriarch. She is described as the self-appointed high priestess of Ngapuhi.

Although in her 70s, she is still formidable. She was the cause of Helen Clark's tears at Waitangi six years ago and she was jailed 15 years ago for assaulting a psychiatric patient when she was head of then Carrington Hospital's Maori Health Unit.

Once upon a time her house was searched for a missing rocket launcher. No weapons were found but it showed her reputation as a fierce fighter for Maori independence.

She has called for Pakeha to pay rent and in the 1990s wanted Zeeland province in the Netherlands to reclaim its name so New Zealand could be called Aotearoa.

One man in the hikoi crowd said he appreciated what the Harawiras were doing but his mana was insulted when Titewhai told him he could not take part in a hui along the way because he was not Ngapuhi. He did not look offended, though, laughing as he complained. She might be a hard woman, but she gets things done.

Her soft side comes out when she is with her family and mokopuna. The scary side is for the cameras. On the hikoi the Harawiras were often seen hugging, kissing, laughing.

Hone is credited both with mobilising the people and keeping control, his leadership qualities such that he managed to keep this crowd, seething with anger, incident-free all the way from the Far North.

He has been arrested for trespass and riotous behaviour. He is an original member of the Maori protest group Te Kawariki, and is described as a fearless orator, incredible organiser and mobiliser.

Of people spoken to by the Herald, many said Hone was the family member who was revered, marked out as the true leader, a Ngapuhi chief.

Other siblings feature more regularly in the Herald files than Hone. Arthur and sister Hinewhare were involved in the assault on the psychiatric patient. Arthur the one-eyed activist - he really does have only one eye - was discharged without conviction in 1998 after spectacularly attacking some actors at Narrow Neck Beach on Auckland's North Shore with a taiaha, apparently in defence of the mana of one of his ancestors, Patuone, while hundreds of people watched.

Hinewhare has often defended herself in court and on Waitangi Day in 1995 she spat at then Governor-General, Dame Cath Tizard. She was sentenced to six months' jail. She has faced assault and fraud charges over the years.

Another brother, Taiawa, was jailed for four years in 1990 for holding up a motel with a water pistol inside a sock.

Associate Maori Affairs Minister John Tamihere has had enough of the Harawiras. There was a time for their brash, noisy, in-your-face style of protest in the 70s, 80s and mid-90s, but as Maori progressed on merit, capacity and capability, "you don't need to be in grievance and victimhood mode all the time", he said.

He is sick and tired of the abuse, shoving, spitting, mud-throwing and threats at Waitangi on Waitangi Day.

He does not trust the family, writing in the Dominion Post after this year's Waitangi Day debacle: "Titewhai Harawira can pretend to be graciously escorting the Prime Minister on to the marae but she made damn sure that the Prime Minister's party was halted at the door long enough to be exposed to a good long dose of pushing and jostling and threats.

"Inside, Titewhai's son Hone Harawira said he could have stopped the rabble if he wanted to, but told the PM and her party (his own guests) that he was 'glad you got the bash'."

Tamihere, who grew up in the same West Auckland neighbourhood as the Harawiras, laughed out loud and called them the "Clampetts".

They were raised to protest, he said, and then: "Family planning hasn't been a strong suit in that family ... more's the pity." He laughed louder, then calmed down and said they were like an out-of-date cult. "A big bunch of people are moving on. The fact that they're not, that's their problem."

They inspired leadership with an underlying threat of violence, he said. And he bet that while he talked on the record, a lot of people would not. He was right. Many people spoken to - whether for or against the Harawiras - did not want their names used.

One said anything he had to say about them would probably be regarded as libellous.

Another criticised Hone, saying he had got hundreds of thousands of dollars from Te Mangai Paho "for his bloody radio and TV stations" and that he had used it as a network to organise the hikoi.

Are they true leaders? This man said no, that the media had helped to build up their mystique.

"I think the media, because of their aggro intimidation and threatening sort of charisma, has pumped them all up and they've latched on to a sort of sovereignty, a sort of platform, and they've gone on from there."

Jean Shortland-Ayre was on the hikoi. She is Ngapuhi but lives in Auckland and said although she supported the whole family, she had the most praise for Hone.

He had a better grasp of the tensions of Maori and Pakeha than his mother "who tends to get people's backs up".

But then, she said, it was obvious on the hikoi that the women in his whanau - he is married to Hilda Halkyard, also a strong activist - were the strongest influence.

It might be the men you saw on Holmes or in the newspaper, but those comments were actually coming from the women, she said.

One man who knows the family well but did not want his name used said Hone listened to his wife but was his own man, and an honest and good one.

"I think Hone is well and truly the chief in waiting for the northern people. He is one of the few people who can go to any of the northern tribes and be listened to."

No one else could have held the hikoi together, he said.

Hone's full name explained a fair bit about him, said this man.

"His name is Hone Pane Tamati Waka Nene Harawira - he has the name of a man who helped to put the treaty in place and he has been raised to protect that treaty. That is why he was given that name, I think."

The dynasty is robust. There are dozens of mokopuna and great-grandchildren and, according to one spokesman, they are all cut from the same cloth.

It is possible to get an insight into what it is like to be born a Harawira from an article posted on an internet website where Te Whenua Harawira, Hone and Hilda's daughter, has written:

"When my mother was pregnant with me she was arrested during a land occupation that the Government proposed to build a tourist lodge on. I was named in remembrance of this struggle at Bastion Pt."