More than 30 women and children, dressed in white, descended upon the now-closed Craggy Range Track yesterday for a "contemporary transgressive performance artwork" and to heal what they believe is a scar.
Laden with white balloons and crosses, they walked up the track, while a handful of men stood guard at the bottom. The fence constructed to keep people out was pushed to the side.
For many, it was the first time they had stepped foot on the track. But, rather than doing so for a leisure activity, they were healing the "wound" which many had felt so deeply and personally.
Artist Peni Edwards said the event was in response to the "systemic abuse at the hands of the Hastings District Council, Craggy Range and also the iwi authority".
She said the artwork came as a vision and is a dedication to the Mana Whenua. "I was fully triggered the day I saw the peaceful protest at the Hastings District Council.
"I was very careful about how I went about this and I had approached the Waimarama kaumatua, Robert MacDonald."
Edwards said it has not only divided the community but opened a "gateway for racism which I have never ever seen before".
"Doing this artwork is bringing together not just Maori and mana whenua but it is also bringing together people of all different ethnicities, and faiths and religions to all come together as one to cleanse and heal the wound."
"It was a way of getting restorative and creative justice and also mental revitalisation."
Jeffrey John Drabble, whose sheep had been occupying the land, was unaware what the group were planning to do but had since moved his sheep. He did not want to comment further.
A woman who did not wish to be named was emotional thinking about the situation.
"I didn't want to walk on the scar but I thought I would come and support the kaupapa and partake in the karakia to heal the scar and land of hurt."
At the top of the track, by the rock face and out of view, Edwards cut a "zig-zag" into her body. "[MacDonald] explained to me that with the blood-letting we would actually be putting the tapu back."
She said the tapu had been "broken the moment Craggy Range cut into the face of Te Mata so for us to put the tapu back and to make it sacred again, is this artwork."
MacDonald said there was no reason to object to what Peni wanted to do.
"I think they've got quite different reasons than us in terms of objecting but at the end of the day, we do support what they're doing."
A Hastings District Council spokesperson said the council respected individual rights to express views.
"However, [the] council continues to focus on the project work which is the three-phase approach to exploring all the issues including the cultural impact report."
Craggy Range chief executive Mike Wilding could not be reached for comment.