Author's land heart of Maori village

Last updated 07:12 14/02/2014

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Writer Patricia Grace's family land at Waikanae is at the heart of a village continuously occupied for at least 500 years, the Maori Land Court has been told.

More than 30 prominent writers, academics and Maori leaders have urged the Government not to take part of her land for the Kapiti Expressway.

Grace's fight has moved to the Maori Land Court, and Chief Judge Wilson Isaac yesterday visited the land, as well as an adjacent block for which Maori Reservation status is also sought.

The applications are part of the bid to reverse the decision to take a slice of the land north of the Waikanae River for the new road.

Archaeologist Susan Thorpe told the court yesterday that she believed the land was "at the very heart" of the Tuku Rakau village, an area occupied continuously for at least 500 years.

The two blocks of land the court is considering had high archaeological value. It was likely burials had taken place there, and they were near a registered wahi tapu - a place sacred to Maori.

There were historical references to burials in the village, but they were not recorded archaeological sites.

Very little archaeological work had been done on the land, but even without the field work it was known to be an extremely important landscape, she said.

Monitoring the site while roadworks took place would not be enough to stop damage. It was almost impossible to detect complex archaeological evidence by monitoring while work took place, Ms Thorpe said.

She agreed with a lawyer for the New Zealand Transport Agency that the vast majority of archaeological sites on the Kapiti Coast would be middens. The one confirmed find on the land in question was a midden and oven.

That find was important, for reasons including what it said about how many people had lived there and the species they had harvested, she said.

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- The Dominion Post

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