Police say they will enforce any order to exhume a man's body from a Tuhoe burial ground despite strong reservations expressed by some officers.

The prospect of the remains of James Takamore being dug up from the urupa at Kutarere Marae, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, has arisen again after the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Takamore's long-time partner has the ultimate right over where he was buried.

Denise Clarke wants Mr Takamore buried in Christchurch, where he had lived for 20 years with her and their two children before his death in 2007. Mr Takamore's Tuhoe whanau in the Bay of Plenty took his body north for burial at the marae against Ms Clarke's wishes.

The Takamore whanau have stood firm against any exhumation since then, but now that the courts have found in Ms Clarke's favour, an agreement will be sought. If agreement cannot be reached, an order for exhumation can be made by the High Court.


Takamore whanau lawyer Jamie Ferguson said the whanau would discuss the options with their legal team today.

In 2007, when Ms Clarke obtained an exhumation permit from the Ministry of Health, the Takamore whanau said they would resist any attempt to remove Mr Takamore's remains. A police source said at the time that some officers in the Eastern Bay of Plenty would be unwilling to have any part in a forced exhumation. "At the end of the day, most of us would actually refuse on cultural grounds," the source said.

A police national headquarters spokesman said yesterday: "We will definitely enforce the law." However, he said all efforts to reach an amicable agreement should be exhausted first.

Ms Clarke's lawyer Gary Knight said having police go on to the marae to ensure an exhumation took place was a last resort.

Mr Ferguson said the option of asking the Supreme Court to further consider the issue still existed, and would not be unreasonable when such important issues were at stake.

But Mr Knight said he doubted the court would grant leave for any further appeal.