The sun rose yesterday on a gentle Waitematā, islands half-sunk in the sea mist, the grass up on the Takaparawhau headland a bright dewy green. Bastion Point. It was cold enough for coats, not so cold that it hurt. The endless summer has quietly become an endless autumn.
All week, people have been making the pilgrimage to the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei marae, several groups a day, hundreds at a time: the great and the good, the humble and heroic, politicians and business leaders, bishops and activists, the officials who run the city, the artists who make it sing, people who wanted to say thank you.
They're burying Joe Hawke today. One of the greatest Aucklanders of our time, who died last Friday, aged 82, and will be laid to rest here in this land.
There's an old jungle gym sitting in the grass, a reminder this has always been a place for children. During the long months when Joe Hawke led the iwi occupation of Takaparawhau, children were always there. His 5-year-old niece Joanne died there, tragically, in a fire.
Yesterday morning the mokopuna of the kohanga and the kura kaupapa filled most of the seats on the atea, squirming only a little, chatting and laughing, singing when the time came. Workers in the kitchen came out from time to time and children jumped up to give them hugs.
While the korero unfolded inside the wharenui, weavers sat among the shoes on the paepae, winding together leafy branches of kawakawa for the kaikaranga to wear on their heads when they called the next group on. More of these tauā adorned the heads and were tucked under the arms of ancestors holding up the whare.
Flags flew overhead: black and red, featuring the head of a mangopare, the hammerhead shark. They were designed for the protest of 1977 and 1978 and they symbolise tenacity.
What made Joe Hawke great? It's about the history of the city.
Auckland is founded on the generosity of Ngāti Whātua. In 1840, Hawke's ancestor, Āpihai Te Kawau, sold Governor Hobson 1400ha of the land. Te Kawau got £50 and some blankets; Hobson onsold much of the land to settlers and used the proceeds to build roads, water services, the infrastructure of the new city.
Later, the land was just taken. The city grew because the iwi lost its land and was largely excluded from the prosperity that created. In 1912 Ngāti Whātua said "Enough", but it made no difference. By 1951 the only land it had left was the urupā at Okahu Bay.
Then in 1976, the Government announced it would sell the headland above the bay. Takaparawhau was supposed to be inalienable – unable to be sold – but the new plan was to turn it into luxury housing.
This time Joe Hawke said "Enough" and it did make a difference. He rallied the iwi and its supporters and on January 5, 1977, just two days before the bulldozers moved in, they began their "occupation".
They built homes, vegetable gardens, a marae. They were there for 506 days, before the police and army encircled the protest camp, dragged 222 people away under arrest and destroyed the buildings, towers and other structures. On May 25, 1978, 44 years ago yesterday, everything was smashed to pieces.
Except the people themselves. Joe Hawke and Ngāti Whātua went to the Waitangi Tribunal and in 1987 won their case: the land was theirs. In 1992 they won again and in 2013 they received their major settlement: $18 million.
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei today runs a thriving marae at Takaparawhau. There are education and healthcare services, housing, a plant nursery, a busy community hub and skills and culture training in everything from kapa haka to business mentorships. And that $18 million, which got ploughed into Auckland property, is now worth $1.5 billion.
In an uptown hotel on Tuesday, one of Hawke's nephews, Te Aroha Grace, performed the mihi whakatau for a conference on the future of the city. He said he'd asked his uncle why, when they got the land back, they didn't put a big barbed-wire fence around it. Didn't they want to protect it?
Hawke told him the land was for everyone. That was the point of the protest.
He believed in direct action and the power of the people in the fight for a just cause. He changed the country's understanding of land rights and Māori-Pākehā relations.
Te Aroha Grace also asked his uncle about his secret for success. Hawke told him: sacrifice. What you give up for the greater good.
And he left us with an inspirational lesson. Change doesn't have to hurt.
He led one of the most turbulent events in our history and demanded change from people deeply fearful of giving up any of their privilege and power.
But once it was over, once the land was returned, there was no fuss at all. Nobody got hurt. Nobody lost. A lot of people had their lives transformed for the better. It turned out the change was good.
They're burying Joe Hawke today. There'll be a monument. There's talk it will be an obelisk, big enough to rival the memorial commemorating Michael Joseph Savage, the first Labour prime minister, which is right there at Takaparawhau, just across the paddock.