A battle is erupting in Northland over the reburial of Hone Heke, with one side calling into question the legitimacy of the legendary chief's remains.
Heke purportedly chopped down a flagpole carrying the British flag at Kororareka several times in 1844 to show his displeasure with British rule.
The leader of Heke's whanau, David Rankin, said he was part of a team which removed the bones from a cave near Pakaraka two years ago.
But Ngati Hine elder Erima Henare said he was there when the cave was sealed 40 years ago and was surprised Rankin could have accessed it.
There was a massive boulder concreted in place, he said.
If Rankin had gained access to the cave and the remains were that of the former Ngapuhi chief, then his many hapu, like Ngati Hine, should have been consulted about the reburial, Henare said.
"This has become a circus.
"Ngapuhi relies on media proclamations to know what has and is happening to this rangatira and luminary of his time."
Rankin said the bones had been shifted several times "and the whanau knows precisely where everything is.
"Henare is not a part of the whanau and was never a part of this process."
The remains, Heke's or otherwise, are due to be buried on August 31 at a location near Kaikohe.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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