18 Dec 2017

Fire signals outrage at Moungaroa sale

3:57 pm on 18 December 2017

Descendents of the original owner of Moungaroa, or Blagdon Hill, have lit a fire evoking the signal fires of the Taranaki wars, in protest against its sale by Chorus.

The bonfire on Moungarua.

The bonfire on Moungarua. Photo: Supplied / Alessandra Keighley

They said the telecommunications company's sale of the hill near New Plymouth threatens to destroy the archaeological site there.

New Plymouth District Council originally acquired Moungaroa from Te Kaho Heremia of Te Atiawa in the 1930s under the Public Works Act, for a reservoir that was never built.

Two fire crews, supported by police, arrived about 9pm and extinguished the fire. No arrests were made.

The bonfire on Moungaroa imitating the signal fires of the Taranaki wars, was visible from some distance away.

The bonfire on Moungaroa, imitating the signal fires of the Taranaki wars, was visible from some distance away. Photo: Supplied / Alessandra Keighley

A descendant of Te Kaho, Tihikura Hohaia, said it was not a family, hapū or iwi issue, but one all New Plymouth residents should be concerned about.

"A beautiful landmark like Moungaroa is about to be carved up for glorified, exclusive homes and once again an archaelogical site which is imbued with the history of our ancestors is going to be destroyed."

Mr Hohaia said the fire was lit to remind Chorus - and anyone thinking of developing the site - of the manu whenua's continued interest in the land.

"Should the sale go ahead and houses go up there, the sacred fire of our ancestors doesn't just get extinguished just because of that, you know.

"Those places continue to be imbued with the spirit."

Mr Hohaia said the fire evoked the signal fires set at the beginning of the Taranaki wars in 1860 including at Moungaroa.

"Signal fires were lit to let the people know that the government had attacked at Waitara and war had begun."

It was also a reminder of the attempt at peaceful resolution to land disputes at Parihaka, he said. His family wanted to know how Chorus came into possession of the land in the first place.

Chorus did not want to be interviewed today and referred to an earlier statement. It said it aquired the site from Telecom in 2011 and wanted to sell 2ha that were surplus to its core operational needs as it was required to under the Public Works Act.

It said Moungaroa did not appear on the First Right of Refusal list negotiated as part of Te Atiawa's Deed of Settlement and the company considered that any claim to or interest in the land would have been registered at the time of Treaty settlement negotiations.