Cemetery deal hits raw nerve

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013

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Members of the Pukeatua community are incensed with a decision to vest ownership of the local cemetery to a Maungatautari iwi, labelling the move "distasteful".

The Pukeatua cemetery and school were vested in the tribe, Ngati Koroki-Kahukura, when they signed a deed of settlement with the Crown in December last year in a Treaty of Waitangi redress package worth $6.7 million plus the value of the lands.

A public meeting has been called and Mr Anderson said a spokesperson from the Office of Treaty Settlements would be there to answer the concerns of the community.

Farmer and school trustee Nigel Anderson said the community was "quite divided" over the Treaty settlement, with the cemetery decision hitting a raw nerve.

"Basically, they think it is distasteful and disrespectful to the people who are already there," Mr Anderson said.

Many lifelong residents of Pukeatua had loved ones buried at the cemetery and considered the land there to be sacred ground. "I have had people who live in town, older people who have rung up in tears over the cemetery."

A total of 20 properties, about 110 hectares, will be transferred to Ngati Koroki-Kahukura with several held as scenic reserves and administered jointly with the Waipa District Council.

The cemetery will be managed by the council and the Pukeatua School will be leased back to the Crown.

"We have been assured that it won't change as far as the running of the school goes, but a lot of people aren't very happy about the whole thing.

"Once they get ownership of it, they are going to give it back to the council, and a lot of people are saying if you are only going to take it to give it straight back, why even go through that process."

Mr Anderson said the community had not been informed and he wanted their concerns heard before the process entered the final stages and passed into law.

The meeting is on Friday 15 February at 1pm in the Pukeatua Hall.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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