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February 28, 2011 | by  | in News |
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Waka at Centre of Custody Battle

Reports of neglect by the Wellington City Council (WCC) have become central in the mystery of the missing waka Te Raukura from the new $12.5 million Wharewaka on the Wellington waterfront.

The waka, which was meant to be on display in time for Waitangi Day, has been withheld by Waiwhetu Maori amid growing concerns for its maintenance and respect.

Many believed the defiance was merely iwi infighting but recent reports from carvers and other witnesses have indicated that Te Raukura was seriously damaged during its time in the care of the WCC.

One witness with photo evidence of the damage states that the waka had been left in the water for over two years, and was covered in barnacles.

“Once it was taken out of the water, the carvings along the side of the waka were removed and when the carvers went to WCC to see the damage they found those carvings laying in the carpark, soaked in oil, and being run over like judder bars,” she said.

Te Raukura is an object of cultural and historical significance, a national treasure (taonga), not just for Maori. In 1989 it was built by master carver Rangi Hetet and assistants in Waiwhetu to commemorate 150 years from the arrival of the first organised settlement of pioneers from England.

The waka was meant to sit in the Wharewaka, which architects created with the goal of re-establishing a Maori presence in the city, and “telling some of the stories” of Te Aro Pa.

Many Wellingtonians, including former Mayor Kerry Prendergast, feel strongly that the waka belongs to them. Wellington rate-payers have reportedly paid around $180,000 over the last ten years towards Te Raukura’s carving and fixing.
“My council paid good ratepayer money for our waka” says Prendergast.

Waiwhetu Maori have agreed to bring Te Raukura to the wharewaka on the condition that provisions are put in place for its ongoing care and maintenance.

“I agree that it will be returned. But there will be conditions on the care of it and use of it” said Teri Puketapu on behalf of Waiwhetu Maori.

Concerns have also been raised about the cultural sensitivity that will be given to Te Raukura over the Rugby World cup. The Wharewaka, with Te Raukura the centre-piece, is to be the home of WCC sponsored ‘party central’ for an estimated 1800 revellers during the Rugby World Cup.

“We don’t want our waka in the middle of 1800 drunks,” said Puketapu.

The council has warned that if Te Raukura is not returned in time, those who are withholding the waka will face legal action.

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