5 Apr 2011

Hone Heke descendants to move Nga Puhi chief's bones

8:51 am on 5 April 2011

The family of the great Nga Puhi chief, Hone Heke, is having to move his gravesite because of fears about a development near his resting place.

The burial place has always been shrouded in secrecy because Hone Heke's family was worried that collectors or other tribes may try to take his bones to increase their own mana.

His bones have been moved four times since his death in 1850 and the remains are now in an unmarked cave in Northland on land his hapu used to own.

The Hone Heke Foundation says the land surrounding the grave is being sold off in 10-acre lifestyle blocks and a housing development is already underway.

Foundation chair David Rankin says his hapu and others sold the land where the chief is buried to the missionary Henry Williams. In the 1980s, he says, parts of the block were sold and people have bought the land around the cave without knowing the grave is there.

Mr Rankin says says the bones need to be moved so Hone Heke can be at peace.

"I've actually been there and I've noticed that things are starting to get moved around, and we can't keep a constant guard on a place like that."

He says people have bought their properties "fair and square" and he doesn't want them to have to face protests, nor to deal with a sacred Maori land claim.

Hone Heke was the first Maori Chief to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, but is probably best known for chopping down the pole carrying the British flag in Russell.