Betty Whaitiri Williams

Ngāti Pukenga, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Maru

1933 -

Betty was born in Manaia, Coromandel, and was educated at Manaia Native School, Queen Victoria School and Auckland Teachers’ College. She taught in both rural and urban schools and resigned in 1975 to take part in the Land March. Betty has been very involved with the Māori Land Movement, particularly in the Coromandel. She writes about Māori grievances and Māori rights.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence with Betty Williams: 1 Dec. 1992, 5 Mar. 1998 and 7 Nov. 2004.
  • Williams, Betty Whaitiri. The Passage of Māori Land into Pakeha Ownership: A Māori View. Christchurch, N.Z.: Cabbage Tree, [1987].


  • "A Māori Perspective On Mining In Coromandel." New Zealand Environment 29-30 (Autumn/Winter 1981): 41-42.
  • Williams writes of the conflict of values when mining interests are imposed on Māori tapu sites or tribal lands. She notes the Ngāti Maru struggle to regain land ceded to the Crown in 1867 for gold mining and asserts that any prospecting on Moehau mountain ‘is a blatant snub of Māori spiritual beliefs and of the intent and spirit of the Town and Country Planing Act of 1977’. She notes that mining interests are also a threat to the fishing grounds of the Hauraki tribes and presents an alternative form of resource management - the traditional Māori rahui which has elements of protection and conservation.
  • "The Māori Spiritual Relationship with Water." People & Planning 25 (Apr. 1983): 25-26.
  • In this study of the Māori response to water, Williams describes aspects of the Māori Creation story and various traditions associated with water which illustrate the close link between Māori and land and water. She highlights the strong conservation stance of Māori towards tribal water resources as embodied in rahui tapu which she defines as the ‘systematic imposition of prohibitions on the use of a resource in a particular environment or location, and at specific stages in the life cycle of a species.’ She writes of the frustration of Māori living at Manaia on Hauraki Gulf’s eastern coast, who have had to endure the ‘chaotic effects of the Pakeha failure to co-ordinate a corporate management system for the preservation and protection of vital resources’. This has resulted in the overfishing of local Māori’s traditional fish and seafood resources by commercial fishing companies. Williams also discusses the long term struggle of Māori to try and secure their rights to control and manage tribal waters and resources.
  • "The Māori Struggle Against White Racism’s Destruction of Our Resources." Race Gender Class 1.1 (July 1985): 98-105.
  • In this strongly worded paper on the various instruments of racism and oppression in New Zealand society, Williams argues that the Christian Church has ‘complemented colonialism and supported the thrust towards white domination.’ Williams also points to the alienation of Māori water resources and the ‘state-sponsored schemes to use Māori land "productively"’ as other forms of oppression. She argues for legal recognition of Māori rights and that these rights ‘should be incorporated into a constitution for Aotearoa which will reflect the values of both the indigenous minority and the White majority.’
  • The Passage of Māori Land into Pakeha Ownership: A Māori View. Christchurch, N.Z.: Cabbage Tree, [1987].
  • Williams provides an account of the systematic alienation of Māori land into Pakeha ownership since the European settlement of New Zealand. She explains the nature of traditional Māori land tenure and outlines her theory that there was a plan devised to ensure Māori land alienation and a programme of colonisation which was ‘aimed at Pakeha supremacy and British control’. She maintains that the missionaries’ role in this plan was to weaken Māori spiritual beliefs and instigate the breakdown of Māori society leading to the loss of Māori land. She adds that the Treaty of Waitangi, with its ‘empty promises’, was simply giving Pakeha time to ‘build up their numbers.’ Williams discusses the methods of fragmentation, the effects of translating communal ownership into individual title, the impact of the 1865 Native Lands Act, and the ‘Europeanisation’ of Māori land. Other areas focused on are the conversion of Māori Land, racist land use policies, urbanisation of the Māori, ‘contrived’ labelling of land as ‘idle’, alienation through forced utilisation and crown designation of Māori land, coastal Māori lands designated as reserves and cash cropping. Williams describes the rise of Māori self-determination since the 1960s and gives examples of specific protests over land alienation. Her ideal for the future is to ‘return the sovereignty of Aotearoa to the Māori people and to restore autonomy to the people who have innate concern for land, people and nature.’ The book is accompanied by five appendices which include diagrams of traditional Māori resource management and rahui tapu, a chronology of ‘significant land grab dates after the signing of the Treaty’, population statistics and European immigration figures, and the acreage of Māori land in Māori Land Court districts.


  • Erai, Michelle, Fuli, Everdina, Irwin, Kathie and Wilcox, Lenaire. Māori Women An Annotated Bibliography. Wellington, N.Z.: Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin and Lenaire Wilcox, 1991. 39.