Manmade pond listed as sacred
A LAKE at the Hawke’s Bay showgrounds has been listed as a site sacred to Maori, despite historical documents showing it was a manmade gravel pit later filled with water.
Hastings District Council employed CFG Heritage consultants in 2006 to identify sacred sites (wahi tapu) to be marked on district maps and given strong new legal protections to prevent disturbance or destruction.
CFG Heritage held a series of meetings around the district, then drew up a list of wahi tapu sites, including the showgrounds lake, known as Waikoko Gardens.
CFG listed the lake as Waikoko Springs, symbolising the many springs that once flowed in the showgrounds area.
The name and designation came as a surprise to the owner of the showgrounds for the past 100 years, the Hawke’s Bay A&P Society.
Chief executive Michael Pyatt said yesterday the society was not going along with any plan to accord sacredness to what was nothing more than a manmade gravel pit later filled with water. It did not even have any springs in it. The water was piped from a spring some distance away.
“It’s just a manmade pond,” he said.
A 19th-century history by Hawke’s Bay landowner William Nelson documented the lake’s creation after excavations to build roads in Hastings.
A report by council planner Nia Belcher to be presented to the Maori joint committee on Thursday said Ngati Kahungunu iwi chairman and Ngati Hawea spokesman Ngahiwi Tomoana did not dispute the lake’s metal-pit origins.
However, he regarded it as representative of numerous springs that once existed in the showgrounds area, supplying Maori with water for various ceremonial occasions including baptism, so it was a valid designation as wahi tapu.
“The name ‘Waikoko Springs’ is the only remnant of traditional practices that once existed.
“The significance of the updated wahi tapu therefore relates to the presence of the original source of the water rather than the extraordinary formation of a manmade lake,” Ms Belcher said.
Mr Pyatt said he had received a letter from the council saying the original springs could not be found, so Waikoko lake was to be designated wahi tapu in their place.
He said he refused to attend a hui to discuss the lake’s impending new status.
“We’ve told them we are not interested in being part of any process.
“We have made no formal approach to the council and as far as I’m concerned they have no claim on anything around here,” he said.
Ms Belcher’s report noted disputes over several other sites identified as wahi tapu.
Photo caption – Gravel pit: The lake at the Hawke’s Bay showgrounds in Hastings which has been listed as a Maori sacred site. Picture: KATHY WEBB