Waitangi honoured with heritage classification

6:16 am on 29 September 2015

Waitangi has become the first wāhi tūpuna to be included on the New Zealand Heritage List.

Waitangi Day

A display of waka at Waitangi on Waitangi Day 2015. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The wāhi tūpuna classification has been established under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 to recognise significant Māori heritage sites other than wāhi tapu (sacred sites).

Parts of Waitangi are already on the heritage list under other classifications.

But Heritage New Zealand Kaihautū Te Kenehi Teira said it was an obvious choice to be the first wāhi tūpuna, not just because of its significance to the nation, but also because of its ancestral and cultural significance for Ngāpuhi and all Māori.

"You've got layers of occupation, Maikuku's cave - an ancestress of Ngāpuhi who lived there - you have Māori meeting house, the wharewaka which is where the Māori war canoe is housed at Waitangi, including the parade ground and the flagpole. All that there they tell different stories," he said.

For Waitangi National Trust Cultural Manager Mori Rapana, wāhi tūpuna classification is a rightful acknowledgement of the significance of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

"A document that was supposed to be some form of clarification between the two peoples - and also I guess a degree of protection for the people of the North, moving forward towards developing a sustainable future side by side by non-Māori, so that's why it's significant for us up here."

Mori Rapana, who is from Ngāpuhi, said the classification also recognised the signing of the Declaration of Independence by Northern Chiefs in 1835.

He said, even before that, Ngāpuhi had an affiliation to the whenua of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and the whakapapa links of Ngāti Kawa, Ngāti Rahiri, and Matarahurahu to the land were quite significant.

Mori Rapana said the classification could have positive benefits for tourism in Northland, particularly in the Bay of Islands.

"Not only on a national scale, but more so as well and potentially for the economy an international scale, because heritage precincts like this are well-visited around the world and we can associate with places of the same status."

Heritage New Zealand National Maori Heritage Manager Te Kenehi Teira said there has been a gap in classifications in the past, and wāhi tupuna are a uniquely New Zealand way of looking at heritage that tells stories from an indigenous perspective.

He said Waitangi was already protected under its own act, but according it wāhi tūpuna status would help promote its story, and its museum development.

Te Kenehi Teira said Toitū, the first settlement and waka landing site in Dunedin, and the whare of Guide Bella in Whakarewarewa in Rotorua were also being considered for wāhi tūpuna classification.

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