National | Ngāruawāhia

Puke-i-aahua Pā borrow pits become target of re-development

A Waikato hapū is protesting the development of wāhi tapu in Ngāruawāhia.

Ngāti Tamainupō says Preduli Development Limited failed to advise them about the planned excavation of pits associated with Puke-i-aahua Pā, which began the day before the country went into lockdown.

The name of Ngāruawāhia is associated with the food pits of Puke-i-aahua Pā. These pits are at the heart of residential development by Preduli Development Ltd.

Kimai Huirana (Waikato, Ngāti Tamainupō) says, "There are 140 or more burrow pits that are associated with Puke-i-aahua Pā and of those, a 140 or more, there are only six or seven remaining which just so happens to be on the site behind me."

Notification of planned development of the land was made on the day before lockdown, 11 groups received the notice. Ngāti Tamainupō did not.

"The process that is meant to give hapū, iwi, tangata whenua, a voice has not been followed. There's been a breakdown and we're here to protest, to stop the digging immediately so that we can appeal and put our case forward around the significance of these burrow pits," says Huirama.

Ngāti Tamainupō says preserving the land is crucial.

"These are our last remaining ones attached to Puke-i-aahua. They're on the doorstep of Puke-i-aahua and their cultural value to us is significant once they're gone they're gone for good."

Huirama adds, "We need to protect them for future generations so that they don't have to look in a book and see pictures of them they can walk the whenua see them and feel them."

Ngāti Tamainupō has protested against development for 18 months and Huirama says they can't rely on the protection of the law.

"It's happened today, it's been happening for decades. It doesn't give iwi and hapū much faith in the system."

Preduli Development Ltd has suspended work on the site while it negotiates a resolution with Ngāti Tamainupō.