English teacher Bastion Point book shortlisted for award

HISTORY: Tania Roxborogh's novel Bastion Point: 507 days on Takaparawhā has been shortlisted for the Esther Glen award. Photo: Gilbert Wealleans

Lincoln High School english teacher and author Tania Roxborogh describes herself as a “justice person.”

It was only fitting that she would write a novel about what happened on Takaparawhā in the 1970s, her book is titled Bastion Point: 507 Days on Takaparawhā.

It took two years for Mrs Roxborogh to research and finish the novel.

“There’s not one book on the protests,” she said.

All of the research was done through old newspaper stories, prime minister at the time Rob Muldoon’s biography, and letters. It was difficult.

“They all had a bias,” she said.

But the hard work paid off.

Now the novel has been shortlisted for the 2017 New Zealand Awards for Children and Young Adults in the Junior Fiction category (the Esther Glen Award).

“I cried when I found out,” Mrs Roxborogh said. “It’s a huge story.”

The book is part of Scholastic’s My New Zealand Story which is a series of vividly imagined accounts of real life events, seen through the eyes of fictitious child diarists.

“Being an author one of the roles is to tell life through telling stories,” Mrs Roxborogh said.

Mrs Roxborogh graduated from Otago University in 2015 with a focus on Māori studies. One of her lectures was on the occupation of Bastion Point.

Memories started resurfacing about her experiences during the time.

Mrs Roxborogh remembered a time when she was nine and she was living in Titoki. She woke up one morning to find people sleeping on her couch. They were people who wanted to join the land march.

Mrs Roxborogh’s family took them in the car to Whangarei.

The novel is from the viewpoint of Erica Tito as her family joins the occupation.

Mrs Roxborogh describes Erica as a quiet character. “It was very hard to find her voice.”

It wasn’t until the day Mrs Roxborogh visited Takaparawhā that she really found Erica.

After walking around the site, a sad experience for the author, Mrs Roxborogh got back into her car and Erica came to her saying: “Now you have your story.”

On January 5, 1977, Ngāti Whātua protesters, under the banner of the Ōrākei Māori Action Committee, began occupation of their former lands at Takaparawhā (Bastion Point) in Okahu Bay, Auckland.

Led by Joe Hawke, the occupation protested against the Crown’s decision to build on and sell land that had been confiscated.

On May 25, 1978, police and army personnel removed 222 protesters from Takaparawhā ending the 507-day occupation.

The winner of the 2017 New Zealand Awards for Children and Young Adults in the Junior Fiction category will be announced on August 14.