After waiting for 50 years since Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei was evicted from Bastion Point, Auckland, its kaumātua have finally been given the chance to return home.
"Everything is absolutely amazing but very lucky," said Kathleen Grey, a kuia from Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei.
"Harikoa mātou kua tū ēnei whare kia taea ētahi o rātou, o taua reanga kia hoki mai anō ki te kāinga nei," Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust deputy chair Ngarimu Blair said
"We're overjoyed that these homes have been constructed and that our elders have returned to us."
"He nui te aroha o te iwi ki ngā kaumātua, kuia o te hapū nei na te mea, ka whakakanohi rātou i te tāone nui, ngā wawata, ngā moemoeā o ngā tūpuna. Nō reira he mea nui ki te hanga whare mō rātou kia kohikohi ai ki runga i te whenua tūpuna nei, taurikura nei, hei whakapakari i a mātou o ēnei reanga, hei tū kaha, hei tū pakari mō te iwi.
"Our hapū has an immense love for our elderly. They represent our presence here in the city, our dreams, and the aspirations of our ancestors. So it was important for us to build homes for them, especially on our land. They are essential to our generation and will strengthen our people."
Back in 1978 Bastion Point the National government decided to sell part of the reserve for luxury housing. Outraged Ngāti Whatua members moved on to the land and occupied it for 506 days and the protest ended only when the government sent in 300 police to clear the protestors and demolish their homes in the biggest show of force ever seen.
The luxury housing was never built and, under a Treaty of Waitangi settlement, much of the land was returned to Ngāti Whātua.
Kathleen Grey, a kuia who has returned to her ancestral lands after 50 years, says, "I went to Waiheke the day after Bastion Point. It was a very sad time for our family but, because of it, look what we have achieved, all of this."
Supported by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Auckland City Council, Kāinga Kaumātua is a project aimed at moving elderly members of the iwi into healthier and safer homes.
"Tē taea te whakakupu, tē taea te whakakupu i āku kare-ā-roto. Tukituki ana, hīkaka tonu ana te ngākau kua hoki mai tōku Whaea ki tōna hau kāinga," says Kathleen's daughter Ginny Felix.
"Words can’t articulate or describe my emotions. I’m overwhelmed and excited that my mother has returned to her ancestral land.
A new year, a new home, and a smile that will last a lifetime.