For over 100 days, Ngāti Tamainupō kaitiaki have been leading a community campaign to protect the last seven rua (historic food pits) in Ngāruawāhia from being paved over by a high cost housing development.
Kaitiaki have a vision for this land, to create food orchards, gardens, and spaces for education that would benefit the whole community.
Pukeiāhua Pā in the township of Ngāruawāhia is a historic settlement with significant cultural, archaeological and educational value to our hapū, Ngāti Tamainupō, the local community and the wider Waikato region.
Our hapū members have researched the history of our land for years. We've found that there were over 140 food pits or 'rua' that had been part of the extensive māra kai (gardens) connected to Pukeiāhua.
Sadly, most of these rua have been destroyed due to development, and only seven remain today.
These seven rua are now at risk of destruction. They are located on the section recently sold to Perjuli Developments Ltd, which plans to build over them for high cost housing.
Let me share with you the story of how Ngāruawāhia was named.
In the 17th Century a feast was held between two great tribes, Waikato and Ngāti Maniapoto. The celebration was held at Pukeiāhua Pā, where Ngāti Tamainupō chief Ngaere spoke these words: "Wāhia ngā rua" - "Break open the food pits."
These food pits are the narrative carried in the postcode of every resident and business who call Ngāruawāhia 'home'. Their proximity to Pukeiāhua Pā strongly suggests they played a vital role for the people of this settlement over 300 years ago.
When the developers applied for an Archaeological Authority to begin excavation, Ngāti Tamainupō, as mana whenua, was not notified of their plans, nor were we provided with an opportunity to appeal the plan.
We believe Heritage NZ has also failed in its responsibilities by not listing Ngāti Tamainupō as mana whenua for Pukeiāhua on the 'Archaeological Authority' for the proposed subdivision, which was approved on 25th March 2020 - a day before lockdown.
Perjuli Developments sent in the diggers on 6th May, 2020. The next day, our concerned hapū and community members turned up in protest to stop further digging.
Pukeiāhua is a precious part of our regional heritage. Together, we can say that people and whenua come before corporate interests. Together, we can stand alongside Pukeiāhua so they don’t have to do this on their own.