The road to Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga) will be opened to all once again on Friday, with a ceremony that will be livestreamed around the world.
Ngāti Kuri Trust Board chairman Harry Burkhardt, who is leading the team that was last week working to put protocols in place, said the iwi was looking forward to restoring access to a place that was significant to many, but made no apologies for closing State Highway 1 to all traffic.
The roadblock prompted numerous complaints, Northland MP Matt King, who was prevented from driving to the cape last week, saying those who were manning the gate when he arrived had admitted that the issue was not Covid-19 but ownership of the land.
Mr Burkhardt, however, said Te Rerenga Wairua, and its place in Te Ara Wairua, was a "foundational origin and connection story" for Māoridom, a spiritual highway, articulated by Kupe, that departing spirits followed on their journey to Hawaiki. The Ngāti Kuri Trust Board was mandated to represent the political, cultural, social and economic interests of the descendants of Ngāti Kuri, who were the kaitiaki of Te Rerenga Wairua on behalf of hapū and iwi Māori in Aotearoa.
On instructions from kaumātua and kuia, the iwi had actively led the response to Covid-19 at the northernmost tip of the country. From March 20, manuhiri were "supported" to move from campsites at Tapotupotu and Kapowairua to Rarawa Beach in preparation for lockdown level 4. Access to Te Rerenga Wairua was restricted at Te Werahi on March 25 as protection and acknowledgement of its status as wāhi tapu (a place of spiritual significance).
Ngāti Kuri's obligation, with the support of all hapū and iwi Māori, was now to reaffirm the sacredness of Te Rerenga Wairua, which would be symbolically signalled by the opening of the gate at Te Werahi. The iwi had worked with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to establish a process to enable that.
The NZTA had acknowledged the special significance of Te Rerenga Wairua to Ngāti Kuri and all Māori. It had recognised that the safety of its workers and customers was its priority, and had approved a traffic management plan for the area.
"From Te Paki north, on both sides of State Highway 1, is Ngāti Kuri whenua. This includes Te Rerenga Wairua," Mr Burkhardt said.
"Te Paki farm staff, some 19km south of Te Rerenga Wairua, are the only people on that part of the peninsula."
Dame Naida Glavish fully supported a "recalibration" of Te Rerenga Wairua.
"We have an obligation to reaffirm Te Rerenga Wairua as wāhi tapu through our cultural practices. I will be personally attending to tautoko," she said.
Far North police Area Commander Inspector Riki Whiu said he had been working with Far North communities throughout the lockdown to ensure the safety of all.
"In every speech of farewell, the words 'Haere ki Te Rerenga Wairua' or similar would have been used," he said.
"Covid-19 has placed severe restrictions on Māori to practise the full extent of tikanga. This is an opportunity for those who have passed on during Covid-19 and are waiting at the gate to pass through.
A formal reconsecration will take place in preparation for the opening of the gate on Friday, while staff from the Ngāti Kuri Facilities Management Team will be preparing the facilities at Te Rerenga Wairua as part of moving into alert level 1.