Ngā Rauru elder fed up with desecration of historic land sites

By Regan Paranihi

Ngā Rauru elder, Potonga Neilson, is outraged over the desecration of historic pā sites in the Waitotara Valley.

He says the area where construction is taking place used to be a prominent area that belonged to descendants of the south Taranaki iwi.

"I only discovered this work by accident coming up the road on a different matter and I noticed that the pā had been bulldozed."

In the 1960s archaeologist, Colin Smart surveyed 72 square miles of the land in which he found 48 pā sites and Neilson says the problem began a long time ago.

"The problem lies in history, I do remember when Jacinda was elected she said 'hold us to account' and the new labour government also talked about reviving the history."

15km from the Waitōtara Village sat the Tarata pā site which belonged to Ngāti Ruaiti in the Ngāti Pourua area, but now, any evidence of that site has been erased.

"The papa kainga has been demolished, and the graveyards have gone," he also adds, "The main thing is they stop what they're doing and leave our dead to rest in peace."

The Treaty of Waitangi settlement the iwi received also played a part in the loss of land ownership today says Neilson.

"The settlement that my people signed was totally inadequate and it is my conviction that we must go back  and try again."

"Ngā Rauru was well developed in 1840 - why do we need to be developed now?"

He's been an advocate for his iwi for many years now and at 83 years old he continues to fight the good fight.

"It's for the next generation, I'm only doing it for them, not for myself. I believe they should have the opportunity to come back to their land."

Te Ao has approached  the local Taranaki councils to identify the landowners but its attempts have been unsuccessful