In Search of Our Tangata Whenua

Waipoua Whitewash Challenging NZ History: Who Were Here First?

Revolutionary ideas about ancient New Zealand, what we know and what we think we know.

New Zealand was first settled in the 13th century, by Maori, right? Think again.

The first people living in New Zealand weren’t masons or horticulturalists, right? Think again.

For every library, government department, trust and iwi that tells you their version of New Zealand history, there are just as many alternative historians asking challenging questions, not to mention the hundreds of Maori elders whose ancient lore has never been taken into account.

In 1999, a film crew making a documentary for TVNZ entitled Who Was Here First? was refused entry to a legendary logging road in the Waipoua Forest. The New Zealand Listener attempted to investigate in 2000 but was also denied entry. In the Northern Advocate in August 2011, Mr A Jessop reported that a kuia told him all research regarding Waipoua’s secrets had been destroyed by the local hapu.

If you don’t believe that information has been purposefully concealed from the public, here are two words for you: Waipoua Forest. The ruins of a stone city were discovered there three decades ago, but we’re still waiting for it to be acknowledged. Now, elocal publishes definitive proof that in this corner of western Northland, an old burial pit has pushed the first date of New Zealand settlement back 400 years before the recognised settlement date of 1350 AD.

A few gallant heroes had to fight to get a copy of secret research concealed by an archaeologist who worked on the site for the Department of Conservation, and the results accompanying this article will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Sample 1083, of a cat’s eye shell (Turbo smaragdus) date the shell as having been buried in a midden in 950 AD, when the forest was completely untouched and its canopy concealed a city built of stone.

But wait – secret research? Stone city? Maori only lived in the coastal areas, didn’t they? And sea snails can’t travel inland… How did this all come about?

When Ned Nathan of Te Roroa joined the research team at the ruins in 1997, an official carbon dating report on the work made him exclaim aloud, ‘That’s 500 years before we got here!’ And one of elocal’s witnesses (along with two others present) even heard a carbon dating result of 2825 BC mentioned! Nathan had been an instigator of his hapu’s WAI38 Waitangi Tribunal claim which was settled in 2008, and this is what In Search of Our Tangata Whenua is about: uncovering the truth before it’s buried under final Treaty settlements.

Astronomer and archaeologist Martin Doutré enjoys good relations with Maori, a people who prize oral history, so he’s earned respect from Maori elders for his attempts to determine who should be recognised as New Zealand’s tangata whenua. What shocked Doutré more than the layers of leaf litter covering the collapsed Neolithic dwellings and stone wall at Waipoua are the layers of deceit to cover it all up – and for whom?

You’re probably thinking to yourself right now: Why haven’t I heard about this before?

It’s because there has been a moratorium covertly placed on archaeological research into the site. In 2004, Minister of Conservation Chris Carter was asked just how many archaeological sites such as Waipoua’s were restricted from public visits. The answer will shock you: Carter admitted that 105 sites were embargoed, and that this was because “DOC administers the New Zealand Archaeological Associations Central file” and “file keepers may create sensitive files if this is requested by the site recorder.” A lot of people have been angered by Carter’s admission and that of his Associate Minister at the time, Phillida Bunkle, but let’s not shoot the messengers. The man who decided that Waipoua forest records won’t be available for viewing until 2063 was archaeologist Michael Taylor.

In 1983, Taylor was part of an archaeological survey which found what appeared to be, as illustrated in the photos accompanying this article, etchings in the rock, a map of the dwelling, collapsed dome huts, and stone walls. But instead of the stone city being celebrated, Taylor had some of his research notes locked away until 2063, and Te Roroa were given veto over allowing Tauiwi (non-Maori) access to their records, which, as mentioned before, may have been destroyed. Threatening notes have since been pinned to the windshields of people brave enough to check out the site – you can view photos of these at www.celticnz.co.nz.

Shocked? Angry? Frustrated? Here’s what will really get you: a survey of the site was funded with $1m of public money. If the stone city was built by a people here before Maori, then the entire Waitangi settlement industry could possibly be jeopardised, so it’s not surprising there are forces trying to close the canopy over it all.

However, a letter from Bunkle says that DOC didn’t want everything archived and that Michael Taylor decided the material was safest if placed in the archives. Bunkle says the embargo was actually lifted by DOC in 1988 and Te Roroa in 1996 and that the papers are readily available. What we have managed to obtain is the official report that a tiny snail shell was consumed and discarded by the inhabitants of Waipoua in 950AD. Except, it’s not that simple: Michael Taylor wasn’t satisfied with the dating, and he crossed out the conclusive radiocarbon date, having decided that the date was incorrect.

Let’s take a step back and consider the tangata whenua of the Waipoua Forest… if they’re still around. Te Roroa was the hapu that moved into the forest in 1856, and thousands of acres were then sold to the crown by Chief Parore in 1876. Te Roroa was in the news in 2011 for attempting to force DOC into allowing the hapu to co-operate a national park. Two hundred Te Roroa live at the forest and regard themselves as its ancestral guardians, and that would be all well and good if Te Roroa were 100% confirmed as the tangata whenua there.

Tangata whenua actually refers to the first occupants of New Zealand, which means ancient peoples – whichever ethnic group they belonged to. Two thousand stone features are part of the 600 acre site and none of this looks Polynesian in origin to Martin Doutré. After years of research on similar sites overseas, he reckons that rocks arranged for plant growing are based on European design, and that the hundreds of cairns are collapsed ‘beehive houses’ because of their domed roofs. “The stone hovel dome dwelling was a common form of domicile in megalithic Great Britain and continental Europe and the self-same building method was most certainly utilised by New Zealand's pre-Maori "Stone People,” he says.

Doutré is backed up by a host of 19th century first person accounts recorded by Europeans based on conversations with Maori. “It’s a sad thing that today many European New Zealanders are so afraid of dialoguing with Maori that they will rely on third and fourth-hand accounts about our history, based on media reports based on testimony based on books based on second-hand accounts about the first 2000 years of New Zealand history. Political correctness often prioritises protecting sensitive issues over scientific objectivity, meaning that the topic of ancient New Zealand is unfairly associated with colonialism and insensitivity.” But Doutré is not alone.

Explorer and writer, Gary Cook, led one expedition into the forest, and was so moved by what he witnessed in the Waipoua Forest that he fought to get Taylor’s radiocarbon dating results, which elocal has now illuminated. elocal sources have identified that only 300 pages out of 2000 plus pages have been released along with very few of the carbon dating figures. The Te Roroa-Waipoua Archaeological Advisory Committee was given the power to restrict interested people from records until 2063 Interviewed about the subject on Radio Pacific, Taylor claimed that nothing in the forest was out of line with known Maori stonework, but the whole matter could be settled if only Taylor would help to remove the embargo on the records and he and DOC could publicly debate the many alternative theories we have about who could have been in New Zealand 300 years before Maori.

We can’t wait around for everyone to be invited in. Waipoua Forest is best known for its primeval kauri trees, but there is also a major pine plantation in the forest which is wrecking the stone city. The roots of pines are cracking ancient structures and when the pines are felled for timber, they’re likely to destroy a lot of the stone structures. Free ranging cattle are also damaging the site.

Emblematic of Waipoua’s stone city are the stone walls. They could just be a natural occurrence, but upon viewing them, there is zero chance that the wall is anything but man-made. Whoever built the city had a gardening culture. One organic gardening expert who surveyed Waipoua explained that certain stone arrangements are likely to have been heat traps. The volcanic boulders beneath each cairn would retain heat from the sun for extended periods, enabling a microclimate suitable for growing kumara, yams and gourds. Archaeo-astronomer Alan Seath from Australia was so impressed by what he saw at Waipoua that he felt the entirety of Waipoua Forest should be protected by UNESCO.

Jill Johnston is another witness who has supplied some of the mind-boggling photos accompanying this article. Johnston says, “The big worry with this site is that it has already suffered years of abuse from cattle and now there is damage from the pine forests planted right throughout. Once logged, it will be basically gone, as the damage will be horrendous. This site is precious New Zealand heritage and it makes me feel sick to think that it isn’t protected and valued… Surely it has significant enough value for archaeologists to try and protect.”

DOC has continued to take submissions regarding the future of the forest. Self-confessed sceptic Shaun Reilly, for example, ventured into the Stone City and was so moved by what he saw that he rushed back to the Northland Conservation Board and implored DOC to declare the Waipoua Stone City a UNESCO world heritage site. Reilly, like many others, turned his disbelief into acknowledgement that if Maori don’t claim to have carved maps and charts into the rock, and if settlers didn’t, then that leaves just one option…

Do we have to wait until 2063 to talk about what the pine trees are covering up? As Doutré warns us on www.celticnz.co.nz, 'Those who control the past, control the present and the future.'

Contact elocal and tell us about other politically correct cover-ups you know of, and let’s challenge NZ’s official history together. Email editorial@elocal.co.nz

In the next issue

Part 2 of In Search of Our Tangata Whenua looks at whether a 'Pro Celtic' race settled New Zealand 2000 years before Maori, what may have happened to them if they did, and whether they had company while they were here…