Maunga bulldozed without hapū consultation

By Te Ao - Māori News

An ancestral maunga (mountain) along the Whanganui river has had a hillside bulldozed away and the local hapū wants answers.

Kiritahi Firmin is a descendant of Whanganui hapū Ngāti Tuera and Ngāti Hinearo; she went live on Facebook this morning as a call-out for support to protect her ancestral mountain Punakewhitu on Whanganui River Rd.

"The issue is that there's been no consultation or conversation with our people here about taking away part of our puke," Firmin says.

Kiritahi Firmin and Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngārewa-Packer

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngārewa-Packer joined Firmin and the local whānau to show her support.

Te Rangimārie Stanley is a descendant of Ngāti Tuera and Ngāti Hinearo who says she grew up under the safeguard of her ancestral mountain Punakewhitu, which was given the name Gentle Annie.

"Ko ia tōku maunga, ko au ko ia (that is my mountain, I am them)," she says.

"It's always been a special part of us."

Wāhi Tāpu

Stanley says the maunga is sacred to her people. And this morning her grandmother highlighted that at the gathering around the maunga as she recalled a time as a child, discovering kōiwi or ancestral remains on the maunga. 

She says she can feel the hurt the destruction on the maunga has caused her grandmother.

"We've never been a part of any conversation over what's happened," says Stanley.

"So we've come together as a people to put a stop to it."

Stanley says her grandmother discovered the machines digging at the maunga while driving past it yesterday. And members of Stanley's whānau, hapū and iwi have gathered on the site today to get answers. 

Council response

Te Ao Māori  News spoke to the Horizons Regional Council, which said the issue was between a private landowner, a forestry company and the local hapū.

Horizons Regional Council strategy and regulatory group manager Dr Nic Peet said the forestry company supplied a plan that identified numerous sites of significance, which followed its engagement with local people.

"Horizons acts in good faith with all of these parties and we endeavour to ensure views and knowledge of iwi and hapū are part of the consent process," he said.

"A number of the identified sites are protected through the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act (2014), and requires specific permission from them.

"We understand that work has been suspended and that the landowner, forest company and hapū are in discussions. We would like to give these parties time for these discussions and not hinder their process."

Te Ao Māori will continue investigating this issue.