Maori sites blessed on Clutha trail

Taking a moment after two whakapainga (blessings) were performed at places of Maori significance...
Taking a moment after two whakapainga (blessings) were performed at places of Maori significance on the Clutha Gold Trail along the Clutha River this week are (from left) Waitaha kaumatua Maureen Wylie, Clutha Gold Trail chairman Rod Peirce, Hokonui runanga chairman Rewi Anglem, Ngati Huirapa ki Puketeraki kaumatua Hinerangi Ferrall-Heath and Clutha Gold Trail iwi liaison Bill Dacker. Photo by Hamish MacLean.
Two sites of significance to Maori on the Clutha Gold Trail were blessed this week ''to let the past be comfortable with us coming through''.

Clutha Gold Trail trustee Bill Dacker, of Beaumont, who liaised with Maori in the planning stages of the trail, led a group of 15 people, including five Clutha Gold Trail trustees and representatives from Hokonui, Waikoau, Otakou and Puketeraki runanga to Te Kohai, the river crossing upstream from Beaumont, and to important moa hunting grounds near Minzion Burn, where moa hunting ovens had been dated to about 1275.

At both sites information panels had been erected - the 12th and 13th installed on the Clutha Gold Trail - which described the area's significance for Maori.

At Te Kohai, two totara were also planted this week to mark the start of the trust's planned restoration of groves of native trees along the trail.

Waitaha kaumatua Maureen Wylie, of Warepa, and Ngati Huirapa ki Puketeraki kaumatua Hinerangi Ferrall-Heath blessed the sites.

In 1836, Mrs Wylie's great-great-grandfather, Haimona Rakiraki, and his brother, Kaitoto, were travelling along the old Maori trail to visit their relative Te Raki, who lived at Lake Hawea, when they saw a war party coming from the north and left to warn their people.

Their story is featured on the panel at Te Kohai that Mrs Wylie helped to bless. Clutha Gold Trail trust chairman Rod Peirce said it was a ''special day'' that had been years in the making.

The panels were the only ones focusing entirely on the Maori history in the area.

''We [Clutha Gold Trail users] travel through ancient Maori trails; they all followed the river in the early days,'' Mr Peirce said.

''We had generous acceptance and support from the four runanga.''

''Three or four'' more information panels were in the planning stages, he said.

Planning for the 73km Clutha Gold Trail began in 2006 and it was opened in October 2013.

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