Aug. 19, 2019, 6:42 p.m.
Whānau of Mahimaru Marae are outraged at the damage to the marae ātea caused by a careless driver on tour from the UK. Mahimaru kaumātua Rolly Jones said 'the tourist responsible for the damage claimed to be dodging a wild rabbit that was on the road'. Locals report they have not seen any wild rabbits in months.
Police confirm the driver is not injured and that they have charged the man who is in his mid-20s with careless driving. Marae trustees are concerned regarding the cost to have the marae ātea and other structures repaired and where responsibility rests. The tourist will leave New Zealand this Sunday. According to police, the driver was not drunk.
For more than 20 years, whānau, hapū and iwi have been fighting to have the speed reduced on State Highway 10 in front of Mahimaru Marae, Karepōnia Marae and the papakāinga surrounding the marae. This has been largely lead by the whānau of Karepōnia and Te Runanga o Ngāti Kahu.
Locals want the government to take action before lives are lost. The current speed limit between Taipa and Awanui is 100Km an hour. There have been at least 50 crashes on that stretch of road between 2009 and 2019.
Marae and the grounds surrounding meeting houses are the focal point of Māori communities throughout Aotearoa and affiliated tribes host tribal gatherings sometimes numbering 100s of people every week. Marae in Awanui are closely located to State Highway 10 and State Highway 1 and locals are concerned at the lack of consideration for these Māori gathering places.
The fenced-in complex at Mahimaru Marae is affiliated to the tribe of Ngāi Takoto. Māori people see their marae as tūrangawaewae - their place to stand and belong. Marae member, Peter-Lucas Jones says ‘if anyone was standing around when that car crashed they would surely have been killed’.