Lake loses its sacred status
by Lawrence Gullery
Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds’ Waikoko Lake – thought to be a sacred place where baptisms were once conducted – has been struck off a waahi [wahi] tapu register of protected sites held by the Hastings District Council.
The decision was made by the council’s hearings committee, which has just released its decisions on a review of the district’s 63 waahi tapu sites.
It said oral history showed there were many springs located around the Waipatu, Elwood Rd and Showground areas of Hastings, which have since dried up.
And there was not enough “tangible” evidence to suggest Waikoko Lake was the actual site of any sacred or historic springs.
The exact location of the sacred springs had been the hot topic of debate since the waahi tapu review hearings began in August 2008 and then resumed in August 2009.
In the council’s first waahi tapu register, recorded in 1997, a sacred spring was identified near the showgrounds exhibition hall but in the latest review it was suggested the correct location was at Waikoko Lake.
The showgrounds owners, Hawke’s Bay A and P Society, said the lake was made by Hastings pioneer William Nelson and could not be the waahi tapu site hapu Ngati Hawea and other families of the Waipatu area had wanted to protect.
The springs were once used for ceremonies but some had been diminished by nearby water bores put in for developments.
The hearings committee agreed Waikoko Lake was artificial. It also agreed while water around the area, in other springs since dried up, may have been used for significant events, it could not justify marking down the lake for waahi tapu status.
Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, at the 2009 hearing, lobbied the committee to keep the site on the register.
While it had not been successful in the case of Waikoko Springs, there was some reprieve at another waahi tapu site a few kilometres north at Ruahapia, on an area known as Pareranui.
There were no requests to take the site off the register. It has attracted significant debate between land owner Vineyard Plants and the Otene family over a section believed to once be a burial ground.
The committee found there was enough evidence to show there was once a burial ground there but over time the land had been heavily modified by sand mining and horticultural farming.
The committee said the land owner, Vineyard Plant, should be able to use the land for agricultural, horticultural or viticultural work, but must not construct buildings there.
“Restrictions on future building on the site however seek to respect the cultural and historic significance of the area,” the committee said.
WAAHI TAPU REVIEW
Stage 1: Review existing waahi tapu sites on the register to check they hold the correct information and are located in the correct place. Consider new rules which allow higher level of control over developments on waahi tapu sites.
Stage 2: The council will call for nomination for new waahi tapu sites and those applications will go through a vetting process. No date has been set for stage 2.
Seven sites had been deleted from the waahi tapu register as a result of the stage 1 review and decisions on submissions.
There were a total of 63 waahi tapu sites listed in Hastings’ district plan prior to the stage 1 review. There were now 56 listed sites.
Stage 1 began in November 2004 and the decisions of the review could be declared operative in the district plan by April 2010, subject to no Environment Court appeals.
Photo caption – SACRED DEBATE: Waikoko Lake, part of the Waikoko Gardens inside the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds in Hastings, was at the centre of a debate about whether it should be marked down as a waahi tapu site.
PICTURE/WARREN BUCKLAND HBT094579-03