Born and brought up at Te Kòpua, Raglan, of Tainui descent, Eva Rickard learned from her mother how to stand strong in times of change. Te Kòpua was razed to provide a wartime aerodrome, and the community was moved away, though they yearned for the return of their land once the war had ended. When, instead of the promised return, the redundant aerodrome land became a golf course, a long struggle began. Eva Rickard told of seeing and hearing the spirits of her dead mother and brother in her dreams, and she followed their urging to maintain the fight and reclaim the ancestral homeland of their people. Her crusade lasted many years, during which she was often criticised, but she held true to her search for justice.
Ultimately successful, this was not Eva Rickard’s only challenge. She worked for all who were in need, battling always for fairness and peace in her beloved country. Her independence, tenacity, and commitment strengthened others, especially the young Màori people whom she always trusted and supported.
The following is reprinted from 'The New Chronicle' Issue 107 19/12/97
The giant Kauri casts a large shadow across forest floor, sheltering many small saplings as they struggle to adulthood. Fed by the detritus cast off from it's huge branches. Watered by the small droplets that squeeze past its many leaves. Protected from the worst of the stormy winds and harsh elements that would otherwise spell doom for these smaller specimens of many varieties.
Mrs Eva Rickard was one such giant, her personality, force of will and mana mark her as giant by anyone's standards.
It is with deep regret that we offer our sincerest condolences to the whanau of Mrs Rickard who passed away, at her home, on Saturday the 6th of December.
Mrs Rickard became a national entity when in 1978 she was arrested with a group of fellow protesters on the ninth hole of the then Raglan Golf Course. This incident captured by television cameras became a defining moment in her public life. To many the image of this wiry kuia being man-handled off the golf course by two policemen, and making them earn their pay right to the very last, was and is, the enduring image they have of Eva Rickard.
Born Eva Kereopa in 1925 a member of Tainui Awhiro, she lived on the land her Grandfather had settled, land that they were evicted from by the Government of the day ,as it appropriated many properties for military purposes during World World II.
Mrs Rickard was not interested in things Maori when younger, preferring to concentrate on her young family of nine children and to work at the Raglan Post Office, a position she held for 30 years. During this time Mrs Rickard was a keen golfer, happy to play the nine holes that the Raglan Golf Course offered, until the Golf Club planned to bulldoze the burial site at its centre to extend the course to 18 holes.
Te Kopua was the beginning, before Bastion Point. Some have called it the spark that started the whole process. Eva's efforts extended into national politics, she was a candidate for Mana Motuhake and later founded the Mana Maori Movement in 1993. In her later years she was always seen to be keeping everybody honest, letting them all know with her provocative, thoughtful statements. You had to admire her honesty and ability to see to the heart of the matter. Nobody was spared, from Tuku Morgan to the Tainui Maori Trust Board.
There was always more to Eva Rickard than words, she always backed them up with plain old hard work. Even the greatest of Kauri must eventually return to the land from which we all came, they usually do so suddenly, so it seems, and when the dust clears nothing appears as it was before.
The absence of the great tree gives new light and opportunity to those who sheltered beneath it, allowing growth and development previously unavailable. Her passing is not an end but a continuation, for people perish but the land remains.
And how do we remember Eva? That depends on who we are and what part she played in our lives. I will always remember the personality and character, the honesty and integrity that were always the mark of Eva Rickard.
Through her efforts New Zealand is now a different place for many people, because she had the strength to stand her ground and the courage to speak her mind.
During this time Eva Rickard carried out a campaign which was to last for over 30 years, to have Tainuii Awhiro^s lands returned. The Tainui Awhiro lands were seized by the government to use as an emergency airfield during World War II and the Tainui Awhiro were told that the airfield was only a temporary measure. At the conclusion of the war however the the Taihui Awhiro lands at Raglan were not returned. Instead they were places under the control of the Raglan County Council who leased the area to the local golf club. Eva petitioned the Raglan County Council, the Raglan Golf Club and the Minister of Maori Affairs. She also joined the Maori Land March in 1975. After the March the Matakite who opposed Whina Cooper^s peaceful approach to the subject of land, took up the cause to have the land at Raglan returned. To gain public attention over the issue Rickard, on 12 February 1978, led over 150 people to occupy the golf course. The authorities acted quickly: 17 proteste! rs, including Rickard were arrested and charged with trespass. The issue became one of national importance. Eventually, under pressure from both Maori and Pakeha, the land reverted to the Tainui Awhioro people in September 1979.