20 May 2014

Airport bone handling concern

6:32 am on 20 May 2014

An iwi that fought for the return of ancestral remains dug up at Auckland International Airport has no confidence the airport company will do the right thing if more bones are found.

The whole remains of more than 80 tupuna and nearly 200 taonga were discovered in an airport development between 2008 and 2009.

The airport couldn't decide who had mana whenua rights, so the bones were kept in a storage container for 18 months before being given back to Te Akitai Waiohua.

The chair of the iwi authority, Karen Wilson said the iwi was finally able to bury the remains at a Pukaki urupa in Auckland but the burial was rushed and didn't pay due respect to the tupuna.

Since then, the Maori Land Court has ruled Te Akitai Waiohua is the rightful guardian of the taonga.

The airport company has announced development of a second runway by 2025 and iwi believe more bones will be found.

Ms Wilson said there's nothing to indicate the airport has learned from the earlier situation.

Auckland International Airport Ltd said it was a difficult situation but it has learned lessons, and will make sure iwi understand the protocol if there are more finds.