Newspaper Article 2009 – Sacred site springs debate

Sacred site springs debate

Society asks to remove waahi [wahi] tapu status

Lawrence Gullery

The exact identity and location of a sacred spring, once used for baptisms, is being disputed by descendants of Hastings Lpioneer William Nelson and the owners of the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds.

The spring, declared a waahi tapu or sacred site in 1997 by the Hastings District Council, was one of two major issues in the third day of the Waahi Tapu Stage 1 Review hearing yesterday. The second was an urupa, or cemetery, on the eastern side of Ruahapia Rd over the Karamu stream, where a plan to have the area turned into a reservation hangs in the balance.

The spring at the showgrounds was initially marked down in an area under an exhibition hall but during the Stage 1 Review by consultants CFG Heritage, its location was shifted to the nearby Waikoko Lake.

The lake, which was built by William Nelson, is part of the Waikoko Gardens owned by the A and P Society which said it wasn’t told of the waahi tapu status registered over a decade ago.

The society and Sam Nelson, a great grandson of William Nelson, asked the hearings committee to remove the waahi tapu status because they felt there had not been enough “concrete and written evidence” to show the spring existed and its exact location.

The society’s legal counsel, Laura Blomfield, said Te Taiwhenua O Heretaunga senior executive Marei Apatu, at meetings between the two groups, had admitted the sacred spring had since “dried up”.

“He accepted the lake in Waikoko Gardens is man-made but stated that it is the source of the water and the spring itself which is held sacred,” she said.

“That may be so but as apparent from the report of CFG Heritage, the site of that spring in relation to the lake is not known. What is known for certain is that the spring was not the source of the water in the lake.”

But other submitters, such as Rose Mohi, who had family connections with the neighbouring Waipatu area, said oral history among the hapu, Ngati Hori and Ngati Hawea, confirmed the existence of a spring and its significance.

The council’s team leader environment policy Philip McKay said research showed there were springs around the showgrounds area but not necessarily under Waikoko Lake.

His recommendation suggested the area be listed as a significant site but not hold any restrictions which might stop the society from its daily activities.

He also said the society was sent a brochure in 1997 informing it of the waahi tapu status of the spring inside the showgrounds.

The A and P Society agreed there could be some signage [around the lake to tell people of the significance of the spring.]


The Waahi Tapu Stage One Review aims to address inaccuracies around the location of Hastings’ waahi tapu sites which were recorded in 1997.

The Stage Two Review would follow next and deal with additions of unlisted waahi tapu sites to the District Plan.

On Monday, people submitted on waahi tapu sites around the Pekapeka Swamp, south of Hastings near SH2 and the Fernhill and Omahu districts. On Tuesday, the hearings committee went behind closed doors to deliberate on those submissions.

Yesterday, the committee heard submissions on waahi tapu sites around the Waipatu/Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds area and the Ruahapia area, near Karamu Stream. The committee has two days next week set aside to deliberate.

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Newspaper article

Date published

13 August 2009

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  • Lawrence Gullery


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


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