10 August 2007

Ngatihine forestry development and the media: A case study

Hero image
John Miller at a gallery exhibition opening. Photo: Fotoforum

Photojournalist John Miller (Ngati Rehia) embarking on a 'journalist-in-residence' project in August 2007 researching the Ngatihine forestry block development in mid-Northland in the 1970s in the context of a confrontation about the use of Maori land. He will present this research as a case study with a focus on the way in which mainstream and alternative forms of media represented the issue. He is being assisted by Dr Geraldene Peters, AUT's School of Communication Studies. Miller writes:

The Ngatihine Land/Forestry dispute of the mid-late 1970s saw a confrontation between two groups on a very uneven playing field. The imposing power of state judicial and bureaucratic agencies allied with big business was ranged against a very scattered and disorganised group of Maori landowners in the contest for control over 5514 hectares of Maori land in Northland.

Yet, against all the odds, the Maori shareholders concerned succeeded in parrying this attempt at sequestrating their property rights. The research involves using documentary records to show how this issue was played out in the media and what effect this might have had on the final outcome.

The Ngatihine legal dispute has a significant place in Maori land law but over the last 30 years has become a forgotten event. It would be valuable or both the younger generation of landowners and for scholars and others interested in this field to have some clear documentation of this period – just to show that a disadvantaged group can use the media to achieve a positive outcome. It will be of particular interest (and hopefully use) to the present Ngati-Hine Forestry Trust (these days, a very successful enterprise) whose own website contains no documentation relating to its genesis.

More information

Photographer wins PMC research grant for Ngatihine project

'Forgotten' Ngatihine forestry land rights issue comes to life

John Miller


John Miller (Ngapuhi) is one of New Zealand's leading political dissent and social documentary photographers.