Moko service upsets fans

By Michael Dickison

Moko will be buried on Matakana Island. Photo / Alan Gibson.
Moko will be buried on Matakana Island. Photo / Alan Gibson.

Moko the Dolphin will be buried on the island where his body was found, while the town of Whakatane will host a memorial service.

Department of Conservation Tauranga area manager, Andrew Baucke, said yesterday that the animal would be laid to rest on Matakana Island, near Mt Maunganui, where it was found dead last week.

DoC also announced its decision to hold a memorial service in Whakatane.

But while burying Moko where his body washed up might follow custom, holding a service in the same region is an insult too far for the community that met him first.

The four-year-old dolphin that thrilled swimmers and boaties around the eastern North Island for 38 months, spent 29 near Mahia, on the East Coast, before travelling north to Gisborne and ultimately the Bay of Plenty.

The proposal has angered Bill Shortt of Mahia, who first spotted Moko three years ago.

"It's very upsetting. I'm not a happy chappie. I'm pissed off and so is everyone else. At the end of the day, the decision has a political smell about it."

Mr Shortt said he was upset that Whakatane would host a memorial service, as Moko spent "just five months of 38" in that area.

"Gisborne, where he spent four months, doesn't even get a mention, and Mahia, where he spent 29, isn't even in the picture."

Mr Baucke said DoC hoped Mahia residents would be able to participate in any Moko memorial, but that idea was rejected by Mr Shortt. "I can really see the good people of Gisborne and Mahia getting up there.

"There's no way. It's the silliest thing I've ever heard."

The Mahia area's mayor, Les Probert of Wairoa, said the community where Moko had spent so much time entertaining thousands of visitors had not been appropriately recognised.

"I would have thought it would be natural for the body to come back to Mahia, where there's the landmark that he's named after."

However, Mr Probert appreciated that others had had "a final say" about farewelling Moko, and Mahia residents he had spoken with were "reconciled to it".

DoC said its decision was made after consulting Ngai te Rangi, the iwi that has authority over Matakana Island.

- NZ Herald

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