NZHerald Article 9th February 2003 by
TRIBE TO FIGHT
FOREIGN BIDS FOR ISLAND
An idyllic island
hideaway is at the centre of a looming spat, with Maori concerned it will be
bought by a multi-millionaire foreigner.
in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, features burial grounds and is the traditional
home of Ngati Rehua people - and the tribe is preparing to fight its sale to
a likely offshore buyer.
The island, next
to Great Barrier Island, is the seventh biggest in the Gulf and expected to
fetch about $10 million.
follows controversy and protests over the sale of Young Nick's Head in
Poverty Bay, one of the first landmarks spotted by Captain James Cook's
American John Griffin paid $4m for Young Nick's Head last August but only
after government approval. A high court injunction filed by iwi came too
late to stop the sale.
Tenders for Kaikoura Island close on Friday, the day before the America's
Cup is due to begin, and Ngati Rehua claims the high price means the island
is bound to go to an offshore buyer.
"When you walk on
the island, human bones are still visible in many places," said Ngati Rehua
Trust chairman Mervyn McGee.
"There is strong
archaeological evidence of burial grounds, wahi tapu, pa sites, kainga and
storage pits. "As the tangata whenua of this island, we want to ensure these
sacred sites remain in New Zealand hands in perpetuity."
A claim was filed
with the Waitangi Tribunal by the iwi several years ago for ownership of the
island. It claims it was illegally purchased in 1844 by colonial Frederick
The 567ha island, placed on the market last October, is covered in native
bush, in which deer and wild pigs roam. It has its own wharf and a 600m
Ngati Rehua kaumatua Rawiri Wharemate said the iwi would consider going to
the lengths taken by East Coast iwi Ngai Tamanuhiri over Young Nick's Head
if the government did not act on protecting Maori access to the island.
considerations we will have to make when that time comes but our preferred
channel is that the government considers this case and the concerns we have
Wharemate believed offshore buyers may not realise the cultural significance
of the land. "It has a long, long history. Would they have the same feeling
about the land? Have the new owners, particularly foreigners, who really
don't know our culture, considered the significance in terms of sacredness
around those wahi tapu sites? I would firmly question that".