Saturday, May 9, 2009

Makaurau Marae and the airport

Image from Wiki. Originally sourced from LINZ, crown copyright.

An article today from the NZ Herald caught my eye.

"The buried remains of 85 bodies have been exhumed by construction of the second runway at Auckland Airport - angering local Maori whose ancestors were unearthed.

The airport company first discovered koiwi - skeletal pre-European remains believed to be more than 600 years old - in March last year.

An archaeological report of the findings has been sent to the Historic Places Trust but members of the Makaurau Marae, in Mangere, say the desecration of waahi tapu must stop.

Marae spokesman Saul Roberts said that Auckland International Airport Ltd was shown burial sites in the proposed second runway "before a spade was put in the ground".

The airport company was granted authority by the Historic Places Trust to go ahead with the $32 million project, so any remains accidentally dug up could be removed."

The marae authorities expected one or two exhumations, but 85 sets of remains have been taken, and they say there could be many more.

According to this site:

"Makaurau Marae is one of many Marae in Mangere that are affiliated with the Tainui area. The people of Makaurau Marae are affiliated to the sub-tribes of Te Waiohua and Te Akitai, and have direct links to Te Ahiwaru, which is a descendant of the Chiefs of the Tainui Region."
Te Waiohua once held the mana as tangata whenua over the Tamaki Makaurau area, the isthmus of Auckland, with its last paramount chief Kiwi Tamaki defeated by Ngati Whatua as recently as the late 18th century. I was aware that the Mangere area was where the Waiouhua people fled during the war which ended their hold of the isthmus.

The Waitangi Tribunal looked at Maori claims in the Manukau area back in 1985, including the area around the airport and the sewerage purification works, but then (as they were looking at specific instances such as civil defence areas and fishing restrictions) they came to the conclusion that:
The Auckland International Airport was cited as an example of the way recent major developments for Auckland have been proposed on or near to the last remaining pieces of Maori land. After hearing submissions on behalf of the Auckland Regional Authority and the Civil Aviation Division of the Ministry of Transport, we are satisfied that the Mangere site was not chosen, as some thought, because some of the affected lands were Maori land and therefore easy to acquire. It appears that a number of other factors influenced the site decision made by Cabinet in 1955. By the same token there was no indication that Maori land was involved. No consideration was given to the fact that Maoris ought to be protected in the ownership of their land. We were referred to only one factor seen as an obstacle, namely "that the area was high quality agricultural land (dairying)".
And that, then, was that.

I'd need to know more about this before spouting an opinion, but if human remains are being unearthed without the apparent consent of those claiming descendancy, surely there must be something out of kilter, here. A lot of trouble was taken when the graves were removed for the original Grafton Gully motorway project last century. I'd have thought that similar respect would have been accorded here.


  1. Wow!
    That's the sort of desecration I'd expect to see here in Oz with Aboriginal remains about 20+ yrs ago, not NZ!

  2. Yes, Jayne, I hear you on that, and agree. So far, I see little in the way of regard and respect for a piece of land which is sacred, or tapu. Of course, there's the airport management's side to this, I'm sure, but right now, it doesn't look good. Not entirely sure how the Historic Places Trust could have approved this one.

  3. This comment accidentally deleted.

    "How did this end? Has there been any meeting of the minds here? "

  4. The runway was apparently put on hold, but I'm not sure if anything was resolved.