Rangiriri Pa site cleaved by state highway to be restored to its original state
A shallow trench running the width of the closed state highway at Rangiriri marks the start of a restoration project 152 years in the making.
Spades were handed out to New Zealand Transport Agency staff and management to begin filling the trench - a symbolic step toward a massive restoration project to see Rangiriri Pa returned to its original state.
State Highway 1 drove a line through the pa site when it was built in the 1960s. The path of the new expressway offers a way to heal that wound.
Ngati Naho spokesman Brad Totorewa, who spearheaded the 150-year commemorations at Rangiriri, said the restoration project has the potential to tell the story of the battles to generations of people.
"I said, as one of the designers, I wanted to do something so significant, so profound, it will be etched in the minds of future generations," Totorewa said.
About 20,000 cubic metres of soil from the Rangiriri section of the Waikato Expressway project will be used to fill the former SH1 cutting and reconnect the cleaved pa site in a $750,000 restoration plan.
Iwi protested the building of the road in the 1960s, Totorewa said.
"It was like cutting through the heart of Waikato. Now we are a stage where we are connecting the parts, bringing back to a whole site."
In August, Environment Minister Maggie Barry vested the land in Waikato Tainui and the Kingitanga and the last two years have been an emotional journey for tribal members.
"While over the 152 years we've tried to clear the mind and the body and soul from the hurt that has been imposed on us, we are just about there," Totorewa said.
NZTA planning and investment Hamilton manager Dennis Crequer said it's unusual to recognise the closure of a road.
"It's pretty uncommon and I think this might be the only case," Crequer said.
The Rangiriri Paa restoration is part of the $105 million Rangiriri section of the Waikato Expressway and will be completed in 2017.