Ngāti Awa has taken a crucial step in its quest to gain further recognition of its historic interests in Matatā, where its lands were confiscated in the 19th century raupatu.
Te Rūnanga ō Ngāti Awa has won a Māori Land Court application to help protect the cemetery, Otaramuturangi, alongside Ngāti Rangitihi and Tūwharetoa.
Ngāti Awa has gained recognition to help protect this 800-year-old cemetery.
Pouroto Ngaropo says, “Now all of those affiliated to this cemetery can be reconnected. Hopefully our people of Ngāti Awa can now get involved in this land. Secondly, we can set up caretakers to maintain the cemetery. Thirdly, to take care of ancestors who are all lying here.”
In conceding that Ngāti Rangitihi had an interest in the cemetery, Ngāti Awa submitted that if the court were to amend the 1963 order to include Ngāti Awa as a beneficiary, Ngāti Rangitihi would not suffer any loss of mana or standing as kaitiaki.
“Hopefully the descendants of Ngāti Awa can come back to this cemetery because this is a very old cemetery. Here lies Te Tahi o te Rangi, Hiki Kino and others including Te Rangi Hauhiri who descend from Taiwhakaea, so they know that this cemetery belongs to them and will never be forgotten,” says Ngaropo.
In seeking legal recognition of Ngāti Awa’s interest in the cemetery, the Rūnanga also acknowledged Ngāti Rangitihi’s interest.
According to Ngaropo, “It was the fault of the Land Court. The court didn’t consult with us of Ngāti Awa and the court’s decision at that time was wrong. That’s the crux of our stance which is currently being presented to the court to be corrected.”