New Redcliffs School site in Christchurch may be on Maori burial ground

Redcliffs Park, earmarked as the site for the new Redcliffs School, as it looks today.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Redcliffs Park, earmarked as the site for the new Redcliffs School, as it looks today.

The new location of Christchurch's Redcliffs School has a "high" chance of being close to, or on top of a Maori burial ground.

A Ministry of Education feasibility report into Redcliffs Park shows "urupa" (burial grounds) could be located in the immediate vicinity of the park. 

The Christchurch City Council-owned site was selected by Education Minister Hekia Parata despite the school community wanting to return to the school's original site on Main Rd.

Redcliffs Park is used by sports teams and leisure seekers.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Redcliffs Park is used by sports teams and leisure seekers.

Staff and pupils were forced to move temporarily to the van Asch Deaf Education Centre in nearby Sumner when the June 2011 aftershock hit. They have been there ever since.

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Parata said Redcliffs Park was a preferable option for the school's future, due to the cost of ongoing rockfall mitigation and potential "psycho-social" effects if the school returned to Main Rd. 

Nuk Korako, a National List MP based in Port Hills, said the Ministry of Education had already consulted with mana whenua consultants Mahaanui Kurataiao as part of its process to evaluate potential sites.

If bones were found during any future work on the site, the Ngai Tahu tikanga would determine the type of bones, and re-inter any human bones somewhere else. 

"The Ministry will need to be mindful of the possibility that urupa or cultural items may be accidentally discovered," he said. 

Mahaanui Kurataiao told the Ministry large groups of Maori settled in Redcliffs during the the 14th Century. Ngai Tahu occupied the land in the 17th century, when the first Europeans began to arrive. 

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Resident Topsy Rule said she she was aware of the archeological significance of the site. 

An 1856 map shows part of the present-day land as being in the estuary.

The land was reclaimed and the city council confirmed the site was used as a landfill for domestic rubbish between 1948 and 1953.

Rule said she helped raise funds to convert the site into a playing field many years ago and recalled playing softball on the site in the early 1950s.

She was concerned about the site's suitability, given its proximity to the estuary and concerns over flooding.

An assessment carried out by The Property Group found there was "low" to "moderate" potential for soil, landfill gas and pesticide contamination on part of the site.

It also said the site was susceptible to rockfall, flooding and tsunamis.

Parata reviewed the findings of the report and had knowledge of the site's potential proximity to Maori burial grounds before making her final decision on November 1.

Redcliffs Board of Trustees spokesman Mark Robberds said that gave him confidence.

"They were seen as solvable issues," he said.

Neighbouring Celia St resident Virginia Pretty said she frustrated by "the lack of consultation or negotiation or discussion prior to the announcement".

She had no qualms with the Board of Trustees or the school. 

"They're working really hard to keep us in the loop which we really appreciate."

​Ministry of Education head of infrastructure service Jerome Sheppard said the master planning for the Redcliffs Park site had not yet begun. 

"Therefore, the exact location of the school hasn't yet been determined," he said. 

"The final location of the Redcliffs School will take into account the need to accommodate future roll growth as well as the possibility of co-located or shared community facilities."

Community consultation by the Crown and the council will be done before any land is acquired.

Comments on this story have been closed. Thanks to all who participated. 

 - Stuff

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