Hapu heritage in danger

By Mike Barrington

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When Richard Shepherd was a boy the Hikurangi Swamp was a wilderness and the houses to be seen from his home at Ngararatunua on the northern outskirts of Whangarei could be counted on two hands.

Now he's worried progress is destroying the heritage of his hapu.

Parekiore maunga once dominated the north-east skyline of the rohe of the Ngati Kahu o Torongare hapu, with six other mountains forming a semi-circle around the swamp basin.

Now the view has radically changed. Fences partition the drained swamp and there are scores of houses in view.

Hapu members realise the former swamp is a prime component in Northland's industry, but "with the tribal centre under pressure, we feel like a pimple - keep squeezing and we'll pop soon," said Mr Shepherd.

"There has been a road constructed up the [Parekiore] hill and through the bush and the vegetation appears to have been sprayed.

"The hapu believes this to be the beginning of wider destruction of our heritage."

Other mountains have shared the same fate.

Oneke in Pipiwai Rd is the site of a Whangarei District Council water reservoir. Hurupaki, between Three Mile Bush Rd and Dip Rd in Kamo, is half the pa site it was before the cone was mined. Te Rawhitiroa and its summit lake at Ngararatunua have been farmed.

Mr Shepherd and other hapu elders want council development policies to reflect Treaty of Waitangi principles and acknowledge significant Maori sites.

Northland Regional Council consents and monitoring manager Colin Dale said property buyers had to exercise due diligence and find out if consents were required for any development. He advised contacting the council to learn if sites significant to Ngati Kahu o Torongare were formally recognised.

WDC Maori liaison officer Solomon Tipene said the district council had developed registers of significant sites for Ngatiwai, Ngati Hine and Patuharakeke. Ngati Kahu o Torongare sites would be registered in the new year, followed by those for Parawhau and other Whangarei Maori.

"Our council has agreed to protect these sites in the district plan so any development on them would require consultation with Maori," he said.


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