Whānau of Huramua Marae in Wairoa are raising funds to exhume and shift the remains of 53 relatives buried in Mātiti cemetery, which is being eroded by the Wairoa River.
Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke from Huramua Marae says, “The key principal guiding us is to maintain the authority and heritage of our families, our elders, our ancestors."
Over the last ten years, locals have attempted to hold the riverbank through planting and remedial work, but 6m on average is falling away every year due to increased rainfall.
Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke says, “We acknowledge the power and life-force of our river, know that we deliberated this issue and concluded to exhume our relatives, our ancestors and move them to rest near our marae.”
The site of Mātiti was an old village dating back to the year 1800, and in 1903 the first body was buried in the cemetery.
The remains of 53 people are buried there, including Sir Turi Caroll, Lady Parehuia, as well as eight Māori WWII veterans and other relatives of families in the area.
“He made a great contribution to Māoridom, to the soldiers who returned from the war, that's how most of us came to be on this land in Huramua, after the Second World War,” says Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke.
A large scale project, the exhumation and transport of the remains is estimated to cost over $265,000.
Tumataroa-Clarke says, “We're appealing to individuals and to groups who are able to help to provide aid and enable us to see this through.”
A Give-a-little page has been set up for donations.