Cameras set to catch Pukerangiora Pā raiders

6:40 pm on 17 September 2021

Surveillance cameras have been set up to catch fossickers hunting for war relics at a historic Taranaki pā.

Pukerangiora Pā commands a site high above the Waitara River.

Pukerangiora Pā commands a site high above the Waitara River. Photo: Supplied / DOC / Stefan Marks

Pukerangiora Pā, high above the Waitara River, is of national significance as the site of battles in pre-European times, during the musket wars, and in the Taranaki Wars with Crown forces.

It is managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in co-operation with Pukerangiora hapū.

Pukerangiora hapū chairperson Anaru White says DOC maintenance workers found several spade holes dug near the pā entrance.

"From their experience they could see from the disturbance that there had been a metal detector used there as well."

White says the rural setting and sparse traffic meant the detectorists could easily go unnoticed.

"DOC have put cameras up there as a deterrent I guess, but also to see if they can catch the people who were up there fossicking."

White said the pā had a long history and was of huge significance to the hapū and Te Ātiawa iwi, not least because of urupā (burial grounds) on the site.

"It's a wāhi tapu (sacred site) and so many of our narratives, including our name, come from the pā."

"So, for this to happen, it just caused outcry and there was a real sense of sadness and anger from the hapū."

DOC senior ranger Dave Rogers said the fossickers were probably looking for colonial items from the Taranaki Wars battlefield.

"It is likely the visitor was looking for artefacts such as musket balls and military buttons."

Rogers said DOC had in the past had reports of people with metal detectors at Pukerangiora Pā.

"It is an offence under the Conservation Act, as well as the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act, to dig up a historic archaeological site and people can face prosecution and a fine."

DOC says metal detecting is a growing concern at heritage sites, particularly those relating to the colonial wars.

In May a Northland man was fined $1600 for removing historic war artefacts from Ruapekapeka Pā, near Kawakawa, despite his having come forward immediately and returned the items.

Anaru White said everyone was welcome to visit the Pukerangiora reserve without disturbing the site.

He said Pukerangiora hapū and DOC were working together to share stories from a hapū perspective about the pā, as interest in New Zealand history grows.

"We're looking for ways that we can interpret the stories on the site so that people going there understand what happened there."

"It's more than just a pa site: there's extensive history there, it's a wāhi tapu because our tūpuna lived there and of course fell there during wars."

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