Hapū leader describes 'beautiful' peace when boy's body recovered from Abbey Caves

Flowers mark the entrance to Abbey Caves, Kiore Taretare, on Wednesday where the boy’s body was recovered on Tuesday and a rāhui was put in place.  Photo: David White / Stuff

By Denise Piper, Stuff

The family of the boy who went missing in Whangārei’s Abbey Caves on Tuesday shared tears with emergency service workers and hapū when his body was recovered.

Members of Ngāti Kahu o Torongare me Ngā Hapū o Whangārei were there to support the whānau when the body was found, said hapū representative and Ngatiwai leader Hūhana Lyndon.​

“We received the news about 9.30pm that our tamaiti [boy] had been found.”

Hapū members raced to the caves to meet with the whānau and see the boy, offering karakia [prayers] for his soul, for those mourning as well as also thanks for the emergency services workers, she said.

They had also been there earlier in the day, when the whānau was still waiting for news.

“It’s different when you don’t have him there. Having him in the arms of his loved ones; we had a settled wairua [spirit],” Lyndon said.

“Despite the immense sadness for the loss, it was also peace of mind that he had been found – our heart feels better that at least he was found.

“The family were hunkering down to stay the night, we gave aroha to them and a big mihi to the support services.”

Lyndon said it was special to be there at that time.

“It was beautiful last night – it wasn’t raining, it was quiet. You could hear the moreporks.

“The support services and everyone shared tears together – it’s all a part of that release and aroha for what’s taken place and an important part of the process for all.”

Lyndon explained the hapū members were there to provide cultural and spiritual support for all those involved.

As part of that, a rāhui has been placed on Abbey Caves, called Kiore Taretare by Māori, so no one interferes with them.

“It needs time to cleanse.”

Huhana Lyndon, hapū representative and CEO of Ngātiwai Trust Board, says it was a special, peaceful time when the boy was found. File photo / Supplied

The hapū will consider lifting the rāhui once the boy has been properly farewelled, Lyndon said.

She explained hapū descendents were taught to be careful of the water-filled caves.

“We were always raised to be careful. I’ve never been in the caves.”

The caves are on land owned by Whangārei District Council.

The signs at Abbey Caves give information about what to expect and how to look after the cave site.  Denise Piper / Stuff

Lyndon said the unrestricted access might need to be reconsidered in light of the tragedy.

“Our hapū has supported the council, because it’s a council reserve, but ultimately we need to look at processes like this in the future, knowing that we have lost a life.”

Whangārei mayor Vince Cocurullo agreed there would need to be a review into cave safety, with the council also owning land at Waipū Caves.

But he said it was important police finished their investigation first, before the council did any reviews, to ensure everything is covered.

Cocurullo urged people in the Whangārei community to be mindful of how other people maybe feeling.

“While we’re all thinking about the family, and our hearts are with them at the moment, I want people in the community to be thinking of each other, because there are some people who will be hurting.”

The mayor said Whangārei Boys’ High School was a tight-knit community which almost everyone in Whangārei had some connection to.

“Everyone in Whangārei has been touched in some form.”