14 Jul 2009

Tuhoe custom is for burial in homeland, court told

10:43 pm on 14 July 2009

A relative of a Maori man whose body was taken to the North Island against his widow's wishes has told a Christchurch court it is Tuhoe custom that he be buried in his homeland.

James Takamore died in August 2007. His widow, Denise Clarke, is seeking a court order to have his body disinterred and returned to Christchurch for burial.

Henare Heremia, the partner of one of the defendants in the case, was part of a group that came to Christchurch to take Mr Takamore's body to the Bay of Plenty.

He told the High Court in Christchurch the group did so under guiding tikanga or customs.

Mr Heremia said that in Tuhoe custom the mother made the decision on where someone should be buried and James Takamore's mother had decided his body would return.

He said when a Tuhoe died he should return to the homeland to lie with his ancestors.

But he said the law had been used as a weapon to assail the whanau and it meant that Mr Takamore could not enjoy eternal rest.

Whanau or iwi has 'precedence'

An expert on Tuhoe customs told the court that, in a dispute over where someone is buried, the whanau or tribe's wishes take precedence over those of the deceased

Giving evidence for the defence, a Tuhoe historian and academic, Tamati Kruger, said he believed the Takamore family had acted in accordance with Tuhoe tikanga or customs.

And he said those customs meant that in the case of the dispute between the wishes of the iwi and those of the individual, the iwi would win.

Another defence witness and expert in tikanga or Maori customs, Pou Temara, said to have the body disinterred and returned to the South Island would be distasteful and culturally insensitive and would not bring resolution.

He believed Miss Clarke and the Takamore family could reach a compromise that would work for both parties.