Rising towards the realms of Ranginui, maunga (mountains) loom over te Ao Māori. They are places of awe and spiritual presence and are linked to local tribal identity and mana. They are the embodiment of tipuna, stories of their attributes and achievements are synonymous with maunga and these depend on which side you see from your waakainga, or when your ancestors first settled under its long shadow.
This construct is sometimes quite foreign to non-Maori and causes tension when ownership or development encroaches on whakapapa and tikanga, waahi taonga and waahi tapu that are inherently part of maunga. So it was when developers went ahead under a flawed consent process in Heretaunga and a zigzag track (or scar in the eyes of mana whenua) appeared down the eastern face of Te Mata Peak.
To ngā hapū o Heretaunga it was a desecration of their tipuna and the whānau of Waimarama marae and hapū, joined by whānau from other marae hapū, led the protest literally and figuratively. It was their flax-root calls that were heard above politics, money, and the machine of local government. Public use of the track was halted.
Hui and wānanga were held for mana whenua to express their grievance, and expertise was commissioned to produce a response to the Hastings District Council resulting in a reversal of the consent process that had allowed the track to be built. The resulting impact assessment report took a generational cultural survival perspective that hopefully will serve as a text book for decisions around all Heretaunga maunga.
“When everyone looks at the maunga they see home” is the first mana whenua quote in the executive summary of the cultural report of the Te Mata east side development known colloquially as the Craggy Range Track among other names not quite so innocuous.
The track has finally been removed. Mana whenua, supported by the Te Rūnanganui o Heretaunga board, has moved to seek tipuna status for Te Mata. In coming years the scars will heal over but what was done cannot be undone easily as mana whenua will remember across coming generations, the grievous harm so carelessly perpetrated.