By Harry Lock of RNZ
Prime Wellington land earmarked for substantial development is being described by some iwi as too sacred for housing.
Government officials are working with a Māori settlement trust to develop the site of the old prison at Mt Crawford, on Miramar Peninsula.
The 1920s prison, with views over the entire harbour, is currently sitting dilapidated, empty and closed.
Plans are to build a 300-house development, which would include demolishing the prison, and replacing it with housing. The entire section, however, would cover much further than just the current prison boundaries.
The development would be done as a partnership between Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST) – which manages land owned by Taranaki Whānui – and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
But some members of Taranaki Whānui do not believe the land should be used for housing.
“The whenua – that land up there – Mt Crawford, is to our thinking sacred land,” said the chair of Mau Whenua, Hirini Jenkins-Mepham.
Mau Whenua is a group of Taranaki Whānui members, and had previously opposed the plans of Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust at Shelly Bay.
“It has a history and a history of original visitation by Kupe,” Jenkins-Mepham said. “We know that some of his dependent descendants lived there. We know that various iwi over generations have lived here.
“There are signs of their presence, their urupā, their pā sites, their kāinga, there’ve been lookouts. There’s evidence all over.
“And it’s too sacred just to be covered by cheap built housing.”
Whether the land is even capable of having 300 properties built on top of it is a separate matter, and is currently being investigated by the HUD.
Work here, however, is advancing – when RNZ visited the site last week, a surveyor was going round assessing the land, and the ministry said they are meeting regularly with officials from the Trust about the plans.