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Day of reflection for protestors and police on 40th anniversary of Bastion Point arrests - 'It was kind of scary but we knew we were right'

For those on both sides of the thin blue line, today's 40th anniversary of the Bastion Point arrests will be a day of reflection.

On this day in 1978, hundreds of police marched on the headland in Auckland to end 17 months of occupation.

Warren Strand was 28 and a sergeant, part of a 500-strong contingent who were briefed the night before the clearance. 

He says it amounted to a military operation.

“Upon reflection it was part of duty. I don't think I have a particular pride in the way police handled the situation but we were tasked by the Crown who said they owned the land."

Mr Strand is a non-sworn officer these days and says those turbulent events changed attitudes forever.

Both the Waitangi Tribunal and Treaty settlements can be traced to the impact of the 1975 Land March and Bastion Point.

“There are forums for voices to be heard…I think we're a lot more caring and kind society," Mr Strand said. 

This year he met Joe Hawke, the Ngati Whatua o Orakei leader who ran the occupation.

“He was very welcoming we sat down, had a good chat, and it was quite a healing experience for me.

“History has proven that he is a great leader.”

Rex Hawke was just 17 and like 221 others, was arrested.

“Our kaupapa was passive resistance and that was drummed into us, especially the young, very early.” he said.

For years he could barely bring himself to visit the headland. The trauma of that day kept him away.

Now, he likes to visit the memorial site a couple of times a week.  That recognises the death of his niece - Joanne Hawke - who died as a child during the occupation in a fire.

He had to find a way through it.

“You have a choice. You either carry the ball and chain on your shoulders or you let it go.”

In 1978, Mr Hawke says he couldn’t have imagined the central place Ngati Whatua o Orakei hold in the city. It’s a billion dollar iwi, building houses for its people and caring for the very land its people fought for.

“No one could have guessed this. To us there was only one agenda, whenua [the land].

“It was the catalyst for everything we have now.”

Police and protestors remember the break-up of peaceful Bastion Point occupation. Source: 1 NEWS