A Christian camp says becoming sacred is nothing but trouble, and is fighting to avoid it.
Waikanae Christian Holiday Park, known as El Rancho, was declared wahi tapu, a sacred Maori historic site, two years ago and has been trying to shed the tag ever since.
It has sought a judicial review against the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, which approved wahi tapu status, arguing the decision would cut the camp's property value by 20 per cent.
But so far it has failed, with the High Court ruling this week that, while the new status might have a "chilling effect" on property prices, historic sacred sites couldn't be ignored.
It rejected the suggestion that wahi tapu would limit the land use, describing it as an acknowledgement, not a legal restriction.
The sacred status harks back to the inter-tribal Battle of Te Kuititanga, fought in 1839 between Te Ati Awa and Ngati Raukawa.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust and local Maori representatives believe skirmishes were probably fought near or on the camp's land, and the bodies of the slain may be buried beneath it.
There has been wahi tapu land nearby for nearly 20 years but, after a fight over the planned Western Link Rd and later Kapiti Expressway through the land, local Maori representatives successfully pushed to have the area expanded to include El Rancho in 2011.
But the Christian camp and convention centre said there was no evidence that any battle was fought on its land, and no archaeological remains had been found.
El Rancho trustee chairman Albert de Geest said the court's decision was "very disappointing" and the camp was still considering whether to appeal.
El Rancho has already been forced to surrender its entrance to make way for the expressway, and the wahi tapu status would place further restriction on development, he said.
"It could have a significant impact on what we could do with the land, and that is a major concern."
But Historic Places Trust general manager Ann Neill said El Rancho's fear were unfounded and no one had tried to halt its recent expansion.
"The fact that blood had been split means is it wahi tapu to Maori," she said.
"That doesn't mean there will be any restriction of the land. It is just flagging it."
El Rancho runs camps and a convention centre for schools, churches and companies.
Wahi tapu are places or sites of sacred or esteemed significance for Maori, often with strong associations with ancestors.
Examples can include natural features, such as caves, springs and mountains, or archaeological sites, such as burial grounds or pa.
Source: The New Zealand Historic Places Trust
- © Fairfax NZ News
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