The bones of legendary Ngapuhi chief Hone Heke will be reburied at the end of August, David Rankin, a kaumatua of the Ngapuhi hapu Te Matarahurahu says.
Mr Rankin, who is a direct descendent of Hone Heke, took the great chief's bones from their resting place near Pakaraka two years ago because of sewerage seeping into the site from nearby septic tanks.
But last month Ngati Hine elder Erima Henare raised the possibility that Mr Rankin took the wrong bones, claiming Heke's remains were sealed into the cave with concrete two decades ago.
However, Mr Rankin said the bones were definitely those of his ancestor and said others were trying to muscle in on the event. He said the remains were now ready for reinterment at a sacred site near Kaikohe on August 31.
"The carved casket has been prepared, and the karakia have been said for the remains of our ancestor. They have been wrapped in flax and sealed in the casket, ready for their burial," Mr Rankin said. "Our goal is to ensure that our ancestor's remains will rest where they cannot ever be disturbed again. This is the proper thing to do according to our tikanga."
He said there has been growing controversy about the reburial, with individuals from other tribes claiming that they should be involved. "Ngati Hine want to muscle their way in, but they are a different hapu altogether and should worry about their own chiefs and leave Heke to our whanau," Mr Rankin said.
However, Mr Henare said the decision to seal the cave was made at a meeting in Waitangi attended by Mr Rankin's late father, Graham, and his aunts Martha Moon, Margaret Puriri and Mere Ututaonga.
"I attended the sealing at Pakaraka and have voiced my concerns now for two reasons," he said.
"First, this has become a circus. Hone Heke was a legend of Ngapuhi and is still revered. He belongs to Ngapuhi and therefore the many hapu he belonged to or supported him - including Ngati Hine - should have been consulted about Mr Rankin's plans."
Secondly, Hone Heke needed a dignified interment so he could rest in peace.
Mr Rankin said the dispute was part of a cultural process that would increase the mana around Heke's reburial.