Rex Graham: Waitangi Regional Park a sacred site

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KEEN: Rex Graham says the Waitangi Regional Park project will be a great feature on the region's landscape. PHOTO FILE
KEEN: Rex Graham says the Waitangi Regional Park project will be a great feature on the region's landscape. PHOTO FILE

Regional councillor Rex Graham says the establishment of Waitangi Regional Park will bring some sanctity and recognition to the historic coastal site.


Many don't know the history of this Waitangi Regional Park. What are some of the more noteworthy aspects of its history?
This site has huge environmental, recreational and historical significance.
The park will be a long piece of land on the boundary of Napier City and the Hastings District, covering 300 ha and stretching from Waitangi to the Tukituki Estuary.
It is the final meeting place of two of our great rivers, the Ngaruroro and the Tutaekuri and on the edge of the Tukituki estuary and river.
The park has been identified as one of the 10 top wetlands in Hawke's Bay. The area is an important whitebait spawning site and supports many of our endangered bird and fish species.
The Takitimu waka landed at Waitangi bringing the first Maori navigators and settlers to Heretaunga 1000 years ago. One of the sons of the paramount chief Kahungunu also came to Heretaunga through this gateway and there was an important Pa at Waitangi in the 1800s. Christianity was introduced to the region when Colenso arrived at Waitangi and setup the first Christian mission station at the site.
And in 1840 several Heretaunga Maori chiefs including Hapuka signed the Treaty of Waitangi on a ship moored just off the coast of Waitangi Park.

What are some of the exciting things planned for the project?
The site will be turned into a beautiful park where people can go to relax, fish and learn about our past.
We are establishing in partnership with the Te Matau a Maui Waka Voyaging Trust, a large traditional celestial compass on the the site. The compass will celebrate the ancient navigational science that the first Maori used to travel across the Pacific to Aotearoa and be a learning space for students of all cultures and ages. It will be the largest celestial compass in New Zealand, open to the public at all times and is expected to be a major new educational and tourist attraction.

How did you get involved?
I got involved as a regional councilor and as a trustee of Te Matau a Maui Waka Voyaging Trust. Also because one of my key objectives is to enhance existing regional parks and develop new parks. I am excited to help share the history of Waitangi. Waitangi is the first stage in our vison to create four new regional parks in Hawke's Bay. In each of these we intend to target three key principles. One; to create an environment for people to play and relax, two; to restore and protect the natural environment and three; to celebrate the history of the site.

When is the estimated completion date?
The work will start the week of 3 October and is to be completed by 27 January next year, in time for 2017 Waitangi Day celebrations. It may take another six months to complete the final stages including the carving of all the pou that are to be erected on the celestial compass.

The area has been a dumping site for some years - are you confident this new amenity will curb this behaviour?
People do not tend to desecrate beautiful sites and especially not sacred sites. This site is scared to all of us but in many ways we have all abused it by taking its natural beauty for granted and not respecting its history and contribution to our past. We are going to change that and I believe that most people will see this and work with us. There will always be a very small group of our people who for whatever reason just don't care about these values and we will need to manage this. There may also be a short period of adjustment as fisherman may have to walk a little further, dogs will have to be on leads and we don't want inappropriate vehicle use on parts of this fragile coastline which also has unique breeding sites.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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