Ashes at giant kauri a source of grief for Maori (Stuff)

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BY MARIKA HILL

Families have been caught depositing the ashes of their dead at the base of New Zealand’s largest kauri Tane Mahuta Lord of the Forest in Waipoua Forest in Northland.

The practice has horrified local iwi.

“It’s not something you do in Maori culture,” Te Roroa kaumatua Garry Hooker said. “That is a European practice and if they go into an area where Maori are… they can expect objections.”

Hooker is also worried the ashes could harm the forest trees including Tane Mahuta, thought to be up to 2500 years old.

“Some of these ashes are not always recent ashes and have been hanging around. God knows what’s in them.”

There are plans to erect signs warning people against dumping human remains in the area.

“It’s a shame we have to do things like that,” Hooker said. “These places are supposed to be for people to enjoy, not for rules and regulations. People should use their good sense.”

Public submissions close tomorrow for a proposal to create a kauri national park at Waipou Forest.

But Te Roroa wants the Department of Conservation to suspend plans while more research and work is done on the forest.

Hooker said visitors had high expectations of national parks, and the forest’s current state would disappoint.

Possums were destroying the canopy and a dieback fungus was eating away at the kauri branches and leaves, he said.

“These marvellous trees look as if they’re on their last legs,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it be better to get on top of the dieback and all these other problems and present something that would really do the country proud rather than the sorry state at present.”

Hooker said the establishment of a kauri national park shouldn’t be rushed. He called on DoC to complete a cost/benefit analysis and conservation management strategy first.

The landmark Wai 262 report released this month also raises a “thorny issue” of Maori co-governance of the land, he said.

The Waitangi Tribunal claim on New Zealand’s flora and fauna recommended the Government considered co-governance for its estates. Current legislation would not allow co-governance with Te Roroa.

DOC Kauri Coast area manager Meirene Hardy-Birch said public discussions had thrown up a range of opinions on the creation of a kauri national park.

Some people were concerned iwi would not get co-governance, while others wanted the forest turned into a reserve rather than a national park.

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