Manawatū Gorge. Source/Waka Kotahi.
Local iwi are concerned that work to reopen the Manawatū Gorge portion of State Highway 3 may uncover wāhi tapu. Danielle Harris, CEO for Tanenuiarangi Manawatū Inc. explains her peoples’ concerns.
“We've avoided the sacred spaces where Te Ahu a Tūranga is.
“But we do have a lot of concerns as do the other iwi that once construction starts in the earth works that theres likely wāhi tapū that could be unearthed.”
The Manawatū Gorge was closed on April 2017 due to landslips. Waka Kotahi (NZTA) are looking to reopen the road and iwi support that in principle. Danielle Harris explains that Te Ahu a Tūranga have a rich history, and that they have plans to preserve it.
“There’s necessary protocols, policies and procedures in place. So that if anything is found then our cultural monitors will be working alongside the project archaeologist,” Harris says.
Te Ahu a Tūranga iwi have been working closely with Waka Kotahi for over a year as this highway is an essential link between the east and the west.
Harris says that the level of cooperation between Te Ahu a Tūranga and Waka Kotahi is a first. She continues that closing the gorge has affected the regional economy for the worse.
Harris elaborates on how reopening the gorge will bring opportunities to her rohe.
“The opportunities that are going to come with the likes of the walkways and the cycleways. It’s going to be some really exciting opportunities that will come with the opening of the road including more tourism.”
A Waka Kotahi spokesperson advised Te Ao Māori News as below:
"We are aware of the areas of historical and cultural significance that have been identified by the iwi connected to this area and will be continuing our discussions with each of our iwi partners as this project continues.
"As with every Waka Kotahi project, conservation of historic and cultural heritage is part of the planning and delivery process. We welcome and support the involvement of iwi in the planning and delivery of this important project and will continue to work closely with iwi throughout the project."
The gorge is due to be reopened by 2024.