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Together forever – a good idea

The other day I was scanning through the Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) website looking for the Mercury Bay Community Board’s annual plan. The website contains a lot of information in various places but taking it on is a bit like starting a game of Jumanji. You are never sure what you are going to get.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

Eventually I found the plan. It is in sections with headings such as, “Our People” and “Our Environment”. Upon reading the plan, one item came up in the section headed, “Our Iwi told us what they would like to improve.” There were various items in this section, but what grabbed my attention was one that stated, “We would like a Maori area set aside at the Kaimarama Cemetery.”

While some may be against this, I feel it is actually a good idea and that other ethnic groups should also be given this opportunity. My reasoning is based upon two influences, the first being a trip my good lady and myself made to Cooktown a few years back. For those who struggle with geography. I will explain where Cooktown is. This town is in Queensland, Australia, on the coast north of Port Douglas which in turn is north of Cairns. The sealed road stops at Cooktown so I am sure you are getting the picture; it is small, remote, and hot. There is not much to do in Cooktown before the pubs open, and one of the attractions listed on their Information White Board (protected from the elements in a bus shelter commandeered for this purpose) was to tour the local cemetery. So, we did.

This was the first time I have toured a cemetery in which lies nobody I am related to or know, and the experience was quite different in that you look at things in a different way. The first aspect that caught out attention is that the cemetery was divided into various sections based upon church and ethnicity. There was obviously a large section for the English (Church of England), a smaller section for Aborigines as only Christians were buried here, and many other sections. The Jewish section was reasonably significant and had a large quantity of gin bottles spread through it. We have no idea whether this was someone’s attempt at a political statement or if gin is just a popular tipple amongst Hebrews. I merely report what we saw. The Irish and Scottish had their sections, both festooned with Whiskey bottles which made us think that Hebrews and gin just liked each other, but this is just a guess.

There was a section for Chinese and smaller sections for various groups including Rebala and ANZACS. It was quite fascinating wandering around the cemetery and gaining an understanding of the contribution the various ethnicities and peoples had made in the area, an understanding we could only get through the design of the cemetery. There were specific shrines and monuments, to Chinese and others. One historical grave was the Normanby Woman, a mystery woman being a fair-skinned, fair-haired aborigine. Her origins were never determined.

The segmentation of this cemetery made it easier to get around and far more interesting for the tourist. I am not suggesting we turn our cemetery into a tourist venture just yet, but in 100 years’ time it may be of great interest if it is organised correctly from the start.

The second influence that makes me support the Iwi’s aim is my own family’s burial situation. My Mother’s side are spread far and wide with my Mother ending up in New Plymouth of all places Section AB, Row J, position 15.

Viewing her place of rest is like looking for a library book; she is all on her own although we did get her a good view of the mountain.

My Father, however, has a memorial stone at the Lutheran Church in the midst of Te tapere nui a  Whatonga, an area that was named Bush by the English in a display of classlessness.

This church was built over 150 years ago and has many our family buried in the grounds, the earliest passing being in 1870. We visit this place every few years as it is very much a “place” for our family. It’s where our roots in New Zealand lie.

I do believe the Iwi request is very reasonable and I hope it has already been actioned, and I also hope thought has been given to putting aside other areas for other groups.