In order to save their cemetery and historical sites in Te Puna from erosion, the Tauranga community are reaching out to international environmentalists. Tommy Wilson of Te Pirirakau has been hosting a delegation from France who have agreed to work with them on this issue.
Epiha cemetery in Te Puna is slowly eroding, which is why trustee, Tommy Wilson is reaching out to international environmentalists.
“We realise that our urupā and our little sites of significant were falling into the water because of the erosion, we really didn't know what we were doing but we knew we had to do something and as we were doing that we meet a French scientist who was having a sabbatical here.”
Te Puna has a strong French connection. Recently they hosted a representative of the French Environmental Ministry and showed her historical sites like Tukoro Island which is eroding.
“There are many sites around the Tauranga Moana harbour and Matakana that need to be protected otherwise when they go the story goes with them.”
Te Puna resident Ralph Jefferson says, “It is a desire of both Pakeha and Māori to extent that French connection and to honour it.”
Following the meeting, this has led to the establishment of an environmental scholarship in memory of the late Awanuiarangi Black.
Wilson says, “She has made a commitment to sponsor a scholarship/ internship where one of our Rangatahi can go to France and learn that knowledge about how we can stop or slow down this erosion and bring all that knowledge back.”
This partnership between Te Puna and France will help in the restoration and environmental projects that are being planned for this area.