1500 x 750mm
“WELCOME TO EASTLAND – THE WAY NEW ZEALAND USED TO BE.”
It is said that highway 35 is not just a road, but a way of life. It’s a route that has connected the east coast Maori with the rest of the world. It’s where Mullets are the latest hair-do and polyester is still considered a revolutionary fibre. Maori fishing villages dot the landscape not far from the thundering waves with ornately carved Maraes’ and children riding bareback on ponies.
It’s as though I'm are entering an exiled part of a country, an annex where development ground to a halt some years ago. The mountainous, northeast corner of the North Island may represent 10 percent of New Zealand’s landmass but is home to only one percent of its population. Eastland is the least visited area of the country but is sacred and much treasured Maori heartland to the Ngati Porou tribe. This land was never appropriated by the crown as the rest of New Zealand was, and thus never developed in the same way. At times the only clue that I'm still in the 21st century is the road itself. At Raukokore it seems even more wild and untamed, like you had stepped off a boat 200 years ago, faced with an unmapped country. I pull over where on the beach sits an old rusting bus only a few metres from the sea, advertised in hand-painted letters as the “Sovereign Land Owners Embassy.” A painting of a Maori warrior with a facial moko compliments the title and the entire vehicle is fenced in with smooth, twisted driftwood. The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and Maori New Zealand in 1840 made little impression on the people of this area. Many people do not acknowledge it today in Eastland and such roadside exhibits are a proud example of the independence Maori feel here. Toitu Te Whenua - the land remains forever.