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Driveway must move

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 09/05/2011

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A Taranaki farming family has been told to move their driveway after the Department of Conservation discovered it runs across the graves of six Maori warriors slain during a tribal feud 160 years ago.

The Slater family of Bell Block, near New Plymouth, is eager to find an acceptable solution. But Don Slater says DOC's suggested new driveway site will cause traffic problems.

"There will be more skeletal remains [through traffic crashes] if the proposal goes ahead," he said.

He says the existing driveway, which has served the farm for 100 years, was unknowingly built across the graves.

Access to Mr Slater's property and to his son Andrew's property is beside the Taumata Historic Reserve on Corbett Rd, Bell Block, which marks the site of the ambush of a Puketapu chief and his party in 1854.

Puketapu spokesman Grant Knuckey asked that the Slaters act immediately now that the gravesites had been correctly identified.

"You don't go driving over people's cemeteries. It's very distasteful. It [the new driveway] should have been done a long time ago."

The reserve would be part of the upcoming Te Atiawa treaty settlement and the graves would finally return to their rightful owners who would then take over the care of the urupa, Mr Knuckey said.

"It [the Taumata Historic Reserve] was taken from us by the Crown and has been managed by DOC.

"But we are responsible for our tipuna," he said.

DOC requires the Slater family relocate their existing driveway, move the fence line and phone cables.

But the driveway is on a sharp bend and near their cattle underpass. Mr Slater said he had not received a response to a letter to the New Plymouth District Council before Christmas outlining safety concerns.

The council has responsibility for rural road maintenance.

"We have asked for a meeting at the gate [with all parties] to sit down and find an acceptable solution," Mr Slater said. "There are huge issues to consider here."

DOC Taranaki area manager Phil Mohi confirmed that as managers of the reserve DOC was obliged to ensure all issues were remedied.

Negotiations were under way with the neighbours to ensure the requirements were met.

DOC, which commissioned the geophysical survey, says a magnetometer revealed six features corresponding to the size of a human grave.

The results of the survey supported the existing historic written accounts of the feud which describe how the slain members of the hapu were buried in separate graves where they died, in accordance with custom.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson, who has been kept aware of the situation, declined to comment, directing the Taranaki Daily News to DOC.

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NPDC roading manager Max Aves said he would look into the issue and respond next week.

The Taumata Historic Reserve is regarded by DOC as having outstanding historic significance.

It was the site where a party led by Rawiri Waiaua, a Puketapu chief and 25 of his people, were ambushed by a faction led by another Puketapu chief opposed to land sales, Waitere Katatore, on August 3 1854, in the lead-up to the Land Wars six years later.

As a result of the ambush, four of Rawiri's party died.

A further two, Rawiri and his brother Paora Te Kopi, were fatally wounded.

Four others of the party were severely wounded and six more suffered minor wounds.

Several of Katatore's party received only minor wounds.

- Taranaki Daily News

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