Kia ora mai tatou katoa ….
To say I am “passionate” about the Cenotaph at the Northern end of Main St. Foxton is an understatement, and here’s why ….
It is of VITAL importance to understand a few things first – there is a MAJOR difference in understanding when two (or more) “Cultures” merge, yet VERY FEW apply simple RESPECT to the fact that “we” ARE DIFFERENT in what we say/mean …. and therein lies the problem. Bear with me ….
To those of you who have read the “Fiftieth Jubilee” (1888 – 1938) of Te Awahou, you would note the mention of Ihakara Tukumaru as being the “Paramount Chief” of the locality, and, because of HIS “friendly & peaceful outlook”, that “European Settlement” was easy & rapid. (Paraphrasing)
In 1843, Rev. James Duncan settled over on Matakarapa (the land Te Rauparaha “tuku’d” (gifted) to Ihakara Tukumaru) and he stayed there until he moved across the river onto ANOTHER piece of “land” that Ihakara, (AND HIS PEOPLE) “gifted him”, in appreciation for the work he (Duncan) was doing for the local Maori on a Spiritual level.
Earliest records show there was a old “Native” Meeting house where the Cenotaph stands today.
It was replaced with a Church and that’s quite possibly because of Rev. James Duncan’s work with the Natives, in bringing “God” into their lives. We can only speculate ….
What we KNOW is that there was an ANCIENT “burial ground” there, that contained “Natives” BEFORE the Settlers arrived, and some of Te Awahou’s (Foxton’s) earliest Settlers were interred there …. Why? – BECAUSE THAT WAS the cemetery!
Avenue Road, Lady’s mile etc. WEREN’T EVEN “established” yet!
Here’s where you need to use your imagination ….
BEFORE the Settlers came to Aotearoa, the “Natives” DIDN’T bury their loved ones in “regimental lines” that you see today!
They buried them by trees, boulders, hills – where-ever the terrain allowed; there was NO “right way/wrong way” – that’s just how it was!
Now *NOTE –
When Settlers died, the “Undertaker” took the corpse away and attended the body and the funeral was held – DONE!
When “Maori” died, it’s as it is today – we sleep with the body, we cover it with cuddles/kisses – we loath when the three days are up; this is the FINAL ACT of our loved one’s “earth” journey …. their Spiritual journey BEGINS ….
These understandings of our “loved ones” FINAL JOURNEY is VASTLY DIFFERENT, and THAT’S O.K.! It is what it is! But, it needs to be acknowledged!
So, HERE’S MY POINT –
When Ihakara Tukumaru (and HIS PEOPLE) tuku’d that piece of whenua (land) to the PEOPLE OF TE AWAHOU, they KNEW who was buried there, they would have EXPECTED that the remains of both Maori AND Settlers alike to be RESPECTED as their FINAL RESTING PLACE!
I heard it said “But, when something is given as a “gift”, you have no say after that as to what happens to that “gift””!
I say “If it was a piece of whenua (land) “EXCESS TO NEED”, of NO CONSEQUENCE, then yes – walk away – it doesn’t have any significance to anyone”.
But that’s NOT THE CASE HERE – for (indeed) Ihakara HIMSELF is buried there! And so are other members of his Whanau – in fact, even some Immediates!
When the Cenotaph was put in place (1920) “koiwi” (human remains) were unsettled – it was an accident – it can be forgiven…. I believe it IS forgiven.
But, to go back and unsettle MORE koiwi – KNOWING that there are MANY over a VERY BIG AREA still there, is SACRILEGE; it is WANTON DESTRUCTION and (because it is known what is there) that “act” is NOT FORGIVABLE!
And FOR WHAT …. a few people’s VANITY?! WHY?!
The Cenotaph is a memorial to those who died for Te Awahou – and like my Tupuna, I say – LET THEM “REST IN PEACE”!
Ake, ake, ake – Amene.
I attended the first meeting and considering what’s being said here by Mr McGregor, nowhere did I see official acknowledgement of the fact that beneath that cenotaph is an urupa (cemetery) in spite of the fact that HDC claims to respect their relationship with Iwi and wahi tapu. You can read their official statement on that at their website. Here is a relevant excerpt from there:
Through its decision-making processes, Council recognises the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and kaitiakitanga, providing for the relationship of Maori and their traditions with their ancestral lands, water sites, waahi tapu and other taonga.
Concerning the Consultation
Regarding this part of the street restructure, there has been one consultation meeting so far, led by a facilitator. Had the HDC had their way this cenotaph would likely have been moved already. Last year they arranged for a blessing of it prior to their street revamp plans and the original plan was to see it moved. However both tangata whenua and other local citizens of Foxton protested with a peaceful sit in to express their grievances. The final disbanding of that process happened following a meeting with protest leader William McGregor and other protest representatives, the CE of HDC and a Police mediator. A promise was made it was said to those present (which HDC now flatly deny – article to follow shortly on that) that no more work would be done either beyond Wharf Street or to the cenotaph without further public consultation and this has been the main bone of contention. Lack of proper consultation. Many folk simply want the street left as is, aside from a tidy up, and the $1.6 million spent on what they see as more urgent priorities like clean drinking water, opening the river loop and paying down the $68 million council debt which they know will inevitably hit their pockets in the form of raised rates. The next protest in March this year concerned all of these issues and the fact that HDC was said to be reneging on their word. There was a letter from three HDC Councillors circulated to all households the day the second protest started citing the original agreement between parties at the cenotaph protest claiming the promise was about the cenotaph only. It was signed by the CE. Who ever heard of the validity of an ‘agreement’ though, with the signature of only ONE party to the agreement on it? Imagine the Treaty of Waitangi with only Governor Hobson’s signature. Hardly credible is it?
The other thing is, none of those attendees of the said meeting ever received a copy! (Well not until they cleared their junk mail at the end of the day the March protest started that is).
On the note of consultation, as set out on the HDC website/info, consultation is defined as to:
- Provide easy-to-understand summaries of proposals and plans
- Identify who will be affected by decisions and encourage them to make their views known to the council
- councils also must give reasons for their decisions and
- Find out what all the practical options are for dealing with issues and carefully assess them
I have spoken with the facilitator & asked how many meetings there would be. There are three altogether, the first was for all parties including the public to contribute their ideas. The second is by invitation only (due I’m told, to numbers) and will concern key stakeholders. Stakeholders are the public, Iwi and business people from the main street. Certain property owners will be invited, I’m not sure about the renters of property. That was not too clear.
The second meeting will take place after all the comments are collated and we have no date yet for that. The third meeting will be public allowed, and excuse my cynicism but I’d say it will be all done and dusted by then. The decision that is. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
And who makes the final decision? Council does. If you would like to contact the facilitator I’m sure HDC would enable that. If not contact us. And keep yourself up to date on meeting announcements by visiting HDC’s website regularly.