Report on the Petition of Wi te Wheoro.
The petitioner complains that the line of the Waikato Railway has been taken through a very old and sacred burial-place situate at the Taupiri Gorge, on the Waikato River, and that many houses have been built there, and he asks that a grant may issue at once in order to confirm his title to the land.
I am directed to report as follows:—As to the first subject, the Committee find that the allegation in the petition is correct: the line of railway has been taken through an old burial-place, and the bones of some of the dead have been disturbed.
At the same time it appears that the line could not have been taken in any other direction without very much increased expense, and without subjecting the Public Works Department to great difficulty in procuring ballast for the ballasting of the line. The Natives also admit that they have been somewhat to blame in not pushing the matter before the work was done.
The changing of the line would now entail a cost of over four thousand pounds (£4,000), with a line of bad curves and steep gradients.
Under these circumstances, the Committee cannot see how the request of the Natives as to noninterference with the burial-ground can be entertained; but as it appears from the evidence of Mr. Knorpp, that no necessity exists for any further trespass on the burial-ground for railway purposes, the Committee recommend that it should be fenced or otherwise protected from further trespass, and such other action be taken as will show to the Natives concerned that it is not the wish of the Government to subject the bones of their dead to desecration. As to the claim for the grant of the land, Petitioner alleges that it is a reserve of 20 acres, made by Mr. Mackay some years ago in favour of Petitioner and his tribe. If the reserve made by Mr. Mackay and the burial-ground site be identical, the Committee can see no reason why a grant should not be issued, care being taken to protect the public interest in respect of the railway line.
John Bryce, Chairman.25th July, 1876.