Tamaki Drive is certainly Auckland’s, and arguably New Zealand’s, most beautiful stretch of road.
On one side is a succession of lovely bays, where the sparkling blue waters of the Waitemata Harbour lap gently on golden sands. There’s Mission Bay, with its pretty park, old stone church and fountain, Kohimarama, where young mums and kids congregate on the foreshore and Ladies Bay, the nudists’ paradise. Just offshore stands the mystical island volcano Rangitoto. Its name, which means in Te Reo Maori, blood red sky, is a reference to the time of its last eruption when the sky behind it streamed with blood red lava.
On the other side of Tamaki Drive lies some of New Zealand’s most highly priced and desirable real estate – high end boutiques, chic cafes, ritzy restaurants and million dollar mansions behind high security fences. Yet, among all this, some surprisingly ordinary kiwi bungalows survive, with sea-weathered paint, where togs and towels dry on the ledges of windows flung open to the sun and the breeze.
Undoubtedly, the most highly prized and priceless piece of Tamaki Drive is Bastion Point. Its story is one of the determination, endurance and triumph of the Tangata whenua (local people) Ngati Whatua. In the 1970s this tract of ancient land was appropriated by the government for luxury housing developments. Ngati Whatua refused to move. There was a siege and a stand-off which lasted for years but, in the end, the government gave in. Ngati Whatua won their land back.
The Bastion Point case was a watershed for Treaty of Waitangi land settlements. Since then much land appropriated by the Crown has reverted to Maori ownership. Most of the land occupied by Universites and Museums around is now owned by the people of Ngati Whatua.
Bastion Point remains today, with a Marae (community centre) and some Ngati Whatua housing in one corner and a huge expanse of parkland that everyone, Aucklanders and visitors alike can enjoy.
On the sea edge of the point stands the magnificent memorial to Michael Joseph Savage, the grand old man of the New Zealand Labour Party. Visitors stroll the paths bordered by flower beds and children take an illicit swim in the pond which reflects the tall stone plinth.
Achilles Point marks the end of Tamaki Drive and the point itself is marked by another magnificent monument. The three massive and beautifully carved Pou or pillars were the gift of the Tainui Iwi, or tribe of the region just south of Auckland.