Iwi livid after Crafar cows harm historic site

Ngati Ruanui iwi is outraged that a waahi tapu and pa site owned by Crafar Farms has been damaged.

Iwi management are saying Te Ruaki Pa at Ohangai has been damaged and desecrated by overstocking of dairy cows through the recent wet spell.

The pre-colonial pa site is on the Hillside Farm dairy unit 5 kilometres out of Hawera.

Debbie Packer, manager of Ngati Ruanui Group Management, said iwi discovered the damage when reviewing its waahi tapu sites over the last couple of weeks.

"It represents an area that was quite a masterful and unique pa. It's one of the most rare and beautiful examples of a terraced pa pre 1834.

"It's part of all our history from an era that you can't get back. We're really gutted," Mrs Packer said.

The farm is one of 16 farms previously owned by the Crafar family, which went into receivership last October when debts topped $200 million.

Ngati Ruanui has served notice to the receivers and has complained to the South Taranaki District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council, hoping for an enforcement order to protect the site from further damage.

STDC spokesman Gerard Langford said the council did not have any specific rules in its district plan about handling waahi tapu sites.

Such sites can be identified by iwi to the council who can then alert a landowner if they apply for a land use or subdivision consent.

The council would be interested in working with all South Taranaki iwi to identify sites, so rules can be put into the district plan for protection, Mr Langford said.

Mrs Packer said the iwi was worried the property, which is being marketed for sale, would go to buyers who were either unaware of, or would not care about the historically important site on the farm.

Most local farmers respected waahi tapu and fenced them off or didn't stock them, she said.

The owners before Crafar Farms had fenced around the pa site but stock had been allowed on since they took over, Mrs Packer said.

"They could sell it to someone who doesn't give a hoot and a significant part of Ngati Ruanui and South Taranaki history will be completely ignored."

The receivers were unavailable for comment yesterday afternoon.

Taranaki Daily News