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The crucible of New Zealand's history

24 August 2000 Media Statement

The crucible of New Zealand's history

Associate Conservation Minister Phillida Bunkle today urged caution in the debate over issues related to Te Urewera National Park.

"As a historian, I am saddened that the significance of what lies behind land disputes at Te Urewera National Park has been trivialised by profound ignorance of New Zealand history.

"Te Urewera is not just one of the most sacred sites for Maori but one of the most significant historical sites for New Zealand.

"The people of the area vigorously resisted colonisation and it was an area unpenetrated by Pakeha until the 20th century.

"Tuhoe sheltered Te Kooti when the constabulary chased him into hiding in the Urewera. Tuhoe was punished for this and subjected to a ferocious scorched earth attack which would last two years, annihilate the civilian population from the upper Mohaka, Waikaremoana, Ruatahuna, Maungapohatu and the Waimana Valley – 2000 people were wiped off the face of the earth. The prophet Rua Kenana who sought economic independence for his people led this resistance.

"The road in question became infamous as the access for the constabulary and its supporters when they raided the village of Maungapohatu during a bloody confrontation in which Rua was arrested.

"It was the focus for the greatest resistance against Pakeha colonisation in the history of our land wars and culminated in one of the ugliest episodes of what became a genocidal war.

""The mountain itself is the sacred burial site for the 'children of the mist' (Tuhoe). This is the mythical site of the prophecies of Te Kooti's diamond.


"If people bothered to read up on their history of the area, they would realise that there is more to this area than one person. To say that the land is significant because of Tame Iti is bizarre.

"The government's own key goals in Conservation spell out the commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi. DoC is committed to:
 'formally protecting conservation areas of cultural and historical heritage value
 working with and providing advice to local communities and local government in . . . planning and consent processes in relation to protection of historic resources as well as indigenous biosecurity
 Conserving historic heritage and developing partnership and devolution arrangements relating to the conservation of historic heritage.
 Managing assets, visitor services and facilities on the public conservation estate in a manner that enables visitors to appreciate and enjoy the history and cultural values in ways that are safe and sustainable.'

"If we set aside the prejudiced and ignorant arguments, it is clear that DoC is obligated to provide safe access to a site of enormous cultural and historical significance.

"I support my colleague the Hon Sandra Lee, Minister of Conservation for her decisiveness in dealing with issues that were allowed by the previous government to fester and become a national sore."

ENDS

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