Protesters pack up after Foxton cenotaph gains a reprieve

By Ashleigh Collis -
3 comments
Adrian Hurunui, Robert Ketu and Willy McGregor at the Foxton cenotaph. PHOTO/ASHLEIGH COLLIS
Adrian Hurunui, Robert Ketu and Willy McGregor at the Foxton cenotaph. PHOTO/ASHLEIGH COLLIS

A sit-in at a Foxton cenotaph to prevent its removal has been called off this morning after protesters won a reprieve for the landmark.

Yesterday afternoon, Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton made a promise not to touch the cenotaph until a hui had taken place.

As a result, the small group of protesters were are packing up and heading home this morning.

The Maori kaitiaki (guardians) took the stand in Foxton's Main Street earlier this week to prevent a council plan to move the cenotaph 10m down the road.

At 3am on Monday, the kaitiaki gathered at the base of the cenotaph. The crowd grew, a petition was created, and a tent erected as the group hunkered down.

Organiser Willy McGregor said they were not antagonists, but felt the call to stand up for their tupuna (ancestors) and tamariki (children) to come.

"[Horowhenua District] Council need to learn honesty and integrity, how to work alongside iwi in co-management and partnership.

"They need to have a sit down and try to understand tikanga [the Maori way of doing things], because we are more than just a number, we are human beings," he said.

Mr McGregor said they believed the cenotaph lay directly above some of their ancestors' bones.

"An archaeological assessment should take place before work commences."

Horowhenua District Council spokesperson Kelvin Teixeira said local iwi had supported the relocation, because the northern end of Main Street could be closed off to prevent vehicles travelling over a significant historical site.

He said local iwi blessed the site for construction but could not confirm which iwi. Ngati Ngarogo representative Gordon Thompson said council never consulted them.

He said council had Rangitaane O Manawatu from Palmerston North bless the site ready for construction.

"This was our land and it was gifted for this use by our forefathers. Rangitane have undermined us and come down from Palmerston North to bless what should have been our right as tangata whenua [people of the land]."

Kere Kere Ward councillor Michael Feyen said real consultation could have pre-empted this reaction.

"People in this town are sick and tired of just being told and not given the opportunity to ask questions or have a say," he said.

Mr Feyen believes ithe situation could be averted had the Treaty of Waitangi philosophy been applied.

"The treaty is based on trust and partnership and we need to start implementing that philosophy as soon as possible."

Mr Teixeira said Foxton RSA had also supported the relocation.

"In a letter to the Foxton Community Board in March this year, the Foxton RSA stated 'the RSA has no objection to the re-siting of the cenotaph'," he said.

However, Foxton RSA member Joy Hanson said council's plans were never brought to a committee meeting and many RSA members were opposed to the move.

- Horowhenua Chronicle

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