Plaque marks final resting place

Unveiling the memorial plaque for Nigel McNaughton are (clockwise, from front) friend Ceedee...
Unveiling the memorial plaque for Nigel McNaughton are (clockwise, from front) friend Ceedee Doyle (seated), Monique Rowe, Bex Robertson, Brenda and Neville McNaughton, Gill Crooks, Bill Crooks and Jarrod Robertson (seated). PHOTO: NINA TAPU
Distance may keep families apart but aroha brings them together.

On Saturday members of the Dawson and McNaughton whānau sailed to The Neck on Rakiura/Stewart Island to unveil a memorial plaque for their son, brother and nephew, Nigel McNaughton, on family land, marking his final resting place.

Mr McNaughton, who grew up in Southland but lived in Wellington, died from bowel cancer on March 2, 2022. He was 44.

The family set off from Bluff on their waka.

Mr McNaughton’s whānau and friends made the trek from across Aotearoa, and as far away as the United States, to pay their last respects.

His sister Bex Robertson said the plaque completed a process that started two years ago, when her brother’s ashes were brought to the Dawson whānau urupā (burial site) on The Neck.

"I couldn’t rest knowing I was one of three people who knew where he was, and so it was my goal to come back on the anniversary.

"It just wasn’t financially possible at the time so I did everything I could to get as many people here on the second anniversary of his passing and I think we got it just right."

The siblings are Kai Tahu through their mother Marie Hannan, nee Dawson.

Mr McNaughton now rests alongside his great-great-grandfather James Dawson, whose whānau have owned land on The Neck since 1875.

His uncle Pita Dawson (Kai Tahu) said he told him before he died that he should come home.

"It was the right thing to do for him to be laid to rest with his whānau on The Neck."

Mr McNaughton’s father Neville and his wife Brenda McNaughton made the trip from their home in St Louis, Missouri.

Neville was "very humbled and very honoured that we even get to be here and that my son rests on this island".

— Nina Tapu