Far North's Waiharara wildfire damages some wāhi tapu sites

By Te Ao - Māori News
Photo credit:  Denise Piper/ Stuff

More than 60 firefighters continue to work on the Waiharara wildfire in the Far North, which local iwi Ngāi Takoto says has damaged some wāhi tapu sites, including exposing remains.

Ngāi Takoto chairman, Wallace Rivers, told Stuff it had been difficult to protect a number of wāhi tapu sites from the 2400ha fire.

“You can only do so much while the fire has affected such a large area, but we’re going in after to maintain vigilance over these sacred sites.”

The fire is burning through land co-managed by the iwi and the Department of Conservation.

On Friday, Rivers said iwi had gone into a wāhi tapu site affected by the fire to assess the damage and rebury items.

“We assess the damage and what the damage has exposed, and where there might be exposure to certain things that are tapu to us, including remains, we work through our processes of returning these back to where they should be within the whenua,” he told Stuff.

Earlier Friday, around 70 community members living around the edge of the Waiharara fire gathered at Wharemaru Marae o Kaimaumau, where iwi, Fire and Emergency, the local Mayor and support agencies spent time talking to the community about what they are doing to fight the fire and the next steps.

"They’re working very hard to keep both the community and iwi informed on a regular basis,” Rivers said.

Sixty-four firefighters are on the ground today - supported by nine bulldozers and diggers and five helicopters - working to fight the fire that has been burning since 18 December.

"During day 22, our team will continue to focus on a number of strategic areas of the fire ground," Northland Fire and Emergency said in a Facebook post Saturday morning. 

"Yesterday a predicted easterly wasn't as strong as first thought, but it does appear as if some wind from the east is starting to come through this morning. There was also some sporadic rain on the fire ground yesterday afternoon, with some areas getting quite wet, and others barely seeing a drop."