World Heritage status for the volcanic field of Tāmaki Makaurau?

It is good to hear recently  that progress is being made towards putting forward a bid to UNESCO for World Heritage status for the volcanic field of Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). Talks were held with pretty well all of the key stakeholders involved – mana whenua (local Māori people), Auckland Council, Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage, volcanologists and other scientists.


Stonefields of Ihumatao. 56 Ihumatao Quarry Rd, Mangere, Auckland

Although the natural and geological significance has long been recognised, the cultural significance has not been taken into account. But since the 2012 Deed of Settlement signed between the Crown and the Tāmaki Collective vested the ownership of the maunga (mountain) to the iwi (tribe) and set up a co-governance arrangement between the Tāmaki Collective, the Council and the Crown, this hui became imperative. A bid for heritage status will include accounts of the role of the maunga in connection to identity, tikanga, wairua, gardens and history.

As a Pākehā for whom the various maunga have always been significant in my environment, I note with a shudder the disrespect which led to the defacement by quarrying of many of the cones and the colonial replacement of their names. The disrespect for the natural world is something which worries me a lot. The stonefield gardens and the kumara (sweet potato) garden don’t feel so disrespectful, nor do the houses nestled in the shelter of their slopes. But quarrying and crushing and bulldozing away….

Incidentally, if you’re interested in the stonefield gardens, the best surviving one is out at Ihumatao, on the area that sticks out opposite the airport.  Māori gardeners reoriented the stones and soil to the sun, to maximize warmth and thus produce earlier crops.

Mitzi Nairn

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