Mt Drury new base for Waitangi Day ceremony

By John Cousins

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The Waitangi Day dawn service is shifting to the base of Mt Drury after Mauao's Maori owners closed the summit to the hundreds of people who gathered there for the sunrise ceremony.

The February 6 service will this year take place on the Marine Parade side of Mt Drury (Hopukiore), on the former soundshell site.

It is understood that there could be some road closures around Mt Drury for the duration of the service for crowd safety and traffic noise reasons.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

The Bay of Plenty Times understands that the choice of a new site was made because of its proximity to areas of high cultural value to Maori including Hopukiore itself, Moturiki (Leisure Island) and Mauao.

Shifting the ceremony from the summit of Mauao was flagged last year by Shane Ashby, the chairman of the trust that represents the landmark's tribal owners.

This issue centred on the hundreds of people that gathered on the summit of the Western Bay's sacred mountain each year to celebrate the significance of Waitangi Day.

Mr Ashby said it was a fantastic event and a beautiful ceremony and although kaumatua and the rest of the community would be saddened by the move, it was about sustainability.

"Mauao is sacred and the summit extremely sacred. It is the view of the trust that anything that impacted negatively on the maunga should cease or be shifted."

He said people caring for Mauao reported the ceremony was causing damage to the summit and it would only increase as the numbers attending grew.

The advantages of the Mt Drury site was ease of access compared with the summit, the cultural and historical associations of the area, and the nearby public toilets.

Hopukiore was a significant pa site and a carving school, with many archaeological traces remaining including caves used for burial subsequently modified to store materials.

Mauao was a taonga (treasure) for three Tauranga Moana iwi Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui and Ngati Pukenga. It symbolised the endurance, strength, identity and uniqueness of each iwi, and was a link between the past, the present and the future

The Moturiki pa site, deserted by 1841, was quarried from 1910 to 1923 for the construction of the railway line in Tauranga.

Last year's service on Mauao was cancelled after slips forced the closure of the mountain.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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