Scattering ashes on Mauao causes locals concern

By Joseph Aldridge


A Mount Maunganui resident has spoken out about people scattering ashes of their loved ones on Mauao, saying it is unsettling for people using the base track.

Lesley Park was walking along the track with her daughter and granddaughter when they came across someone scattering the ashes of a loved one into the wind.

"The wind was blowing and people were walking past and getting these ashes in their faces.

"We were lucky as a person stopped us and said you might like to wait and explained what was happening."

The woman was holding a plastic bag above her head and was accompanied by an older woman who Ms Park assumed was her mother.

The pair were clearly sharing a personal moment and Ms Park decided not to interrupt them.

"I had my 13-year-old granddaughter with me and she just wanted to get off the Mount and when we did pass the lady my granddaughter was holding her breath as she didn't want to breathe any ashes in."

Disturbed and unsure if what she had witnessed was allowed, Ms Park rang the council.

A Tauranga City Council spokesman said anyone requesting permission to scatter ashes on council land will be turned down.

"We get a few requests each year and the council response is always no."

There was no specific bylaw governing the issue and as such the council could not stop anyone from scattering ashes.

The most popular sites where people requested permission to scatter ashes were Mauao, the beach and McLaren Falls Park.

Mauao Trust chairman Shane Ashby said the Trust did not approve of people scattering ashes on Mauao.

The Trust, made up of four council and four iwi representatives, owns the Mauao Historical Reserve on behalf of three Tauranga Moana iwi.

"It's really disappointing that we have people out there that think they can do that on our tipuna (ancestor)," Mr Ashby said.

"From a Maori perspective, once a body is laid somewhere that whole area becomes tapu (sacred). If that kind of thing was allowed then virtually Mauao wouldn't be open to anybody except to those visiting the dead."

Mr Ashby said the Trust would be talking to the council to see if a bylaw prohibiting the practice could be enacted.

Director of Hope Family Funerals Tony Hope said he regularly fields questions about where people can scatter the ashes of a loved one.

"Our understanding, which may or may not be correct, is that there's no place in Tauranga where you're not allowed to scatter ashes, but whenever we talk to families we advise them about cultural issues.

"The Mount is very special to Maori and I would imagine that it would be highly offensive to them for people to scatter their ashes there."

About 90 per cent of the people who died in Tauranga last year were cremated, Mr Hope said.

Many families paid for the ashes to be buried in a plot at the cemetery, however others preferred to scatter the ashes at a special place, he said.

Alexa Marsh has scattered the ashes of three of her grandparents - two into the ocean at Mt Manganui beach and one at the base of Mauao.

In each case, the family members who participated were the only ones around to witness what was happening.

"You definitely do have to consider other people being around, not everybody wants to be a witness to that," she said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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