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Waters and cemetery bylaw review concerns aired in Wairoa

Forty-nine submissions into proposed changes.

Nazi swastikas or gang insignia had no place in the Wairoa Cemetery said Francesca Unwin, speaking to her submission at the hearing into proposed changes to the Wairoa District Council waters and cemetery bylaw.

Mrs Unwin said they were symbols of hate and violence and the swastika had no relevance to her heritage.

“They are there to intimidate and garner attention.”

She was the first of six people who spoke to their submissions at the hearing. In all, 49 submissions were received.

“Over and over we have removed these symbols on facilities around town, the playground, picnic tables,” she said.

She urged councillors to get rid of the gang symbols.

Dr Murray Olsen had concerns about the bylaw, its preamble and the definition of what was a government building.

He said gangs were part of the community and you could not pick and choose.

Referring to terms used in the proposed bylaw review, he said he did not agree that the cemetery toolshed was government property. “If the toolshed and lawn make it government premises so does the toilet at Pilot Hill.”

Nor was it well defined what a ‘reasonable person’ was, he said.

“Are we going to divide people off in death and say that you don’t deserve to be what you were? I don’t want to do that.”

He said headstones in cemeteries around the Pacific told the story of who the people were.

“Are we saying that we have some law that we don’t take any notice of the culture of that person?

“Any behaviour that any ‘reasonable person’ objects to is opening a can of worms.”

Mr Dennis Makalio said he and whanau had been “down this road” two or three times before and there were solutions.

He cited the Bill of Rights, freedom of expression and bringing politics into areas that were tapu.

Government buildings were not those used in urupa and he had no doubt how the Human Rights Commissioner would respond.

Referring to earlier council correspondence, he said the council had the right to tell them about the size of the headstone and there was agreement about removing German symbols and signs and no swearing.

Trish Lambert spoke about the ethics and philosophical matters around the headstone issue, and the historical context. She was in favour of a better-drafted piece of legislation.

“I don’t believe one person has the right to impose their beliefs on the whole community.

“It is the council’s job to foster community, not a divisive community.”

The swastika was an ancient symbol representing divinity and eternal life, but she said the Nazi regime had adopted it and it now stood for fascism and what took place under that regime.

She said in the 1960s the Mongrel Mob in Hastings adopted it as well as terms like Sieg Heil because they were looking to cause upset.

She sympathised with submitter Fran Unwin’s offence at seeing the words.

She also expressed her condolences to the Stone and Rigby whanau.

After visiting the cemetery and the headstone, she told councillors, you had to look very hard to see the swastika.

Maude Stone, the mother of Terrence Shane Stone, told the councillors that they had to think about the whanau and the fact that “everybody here and in town is a relation no matter what”.

Some of the things that were said in the papers were hurtful, she said including what the mayor had said.

“He is worried about bylaws — why change it now? It has been like this for so long.

“People criticise my son’s headstone. That makes me angry — whatever happened in the past, let it go.”

She said people could be “so racist” — what gave them the right to be judge and jury over three other headstones?

“I know he was not perfect but he chose that life.

“I don’t have respect for those who do not come to the whanau and they just put it in the paper.”

She believed the mayor should have acknowledged them.

Mrs Stone’s son Terry was one of three Mongrel Mob members who died when the car they were travelling in on the way to Hawke’s Bay crashed 125m into the Mohaka River in November, 2015.

He and Ronald Rigby, the driver of the car, are buried in the Wairoa Cemetery. Both their graves have headstones with Mongrel Mob insignia, as does that of Craig Arthur Reid.

In March, Wairoa Mayor Craig Little told the NZ Herald that if he had his way, he would have the Mongrel-Mob emblazoned headstones of Mr Stone and Mr Rigby removed.

Another submitter at the hearing, Angela Thomas, said she did not have an issue with the bylaw but the publicity surrounding it had been hurtful to her whanau.

Submitters had made valid points about things that would not be tika or correct on any urupa, she said.

“From a Maori world view, I would use the word mamae (pain) — as Maori we carry a lot of mamae when we talk about offence.”

For instance, she said the name Grey Street offended her because of the impact Governor Grey had on her people.

Maori were told to suck it up and move on.

“When people say they find your whanau offensive, I find that hurtful.”

“People have said in their submissions that gang insignia is about intimidation. From a Maori perspective it is a manifestation of the violation of the mana of our people.

“Not all of us get to grow up in te ao Maori and this unfortunately is the manifestation of that.

“I do think the loud music and parties need to be dealt with. If I was feeling intimidated I would ring the police.”

Written submissions can be seen under Meetings, View Agendas and Meetings for May 5 extraordinary meeting on the council website. — Wairoa Star

REST IN PEACE: The Wairoa Cemetery in Fraser Street in the township. The Wairoa District Council is reviewing its waters and cemetery bylaw. Wairoa Star picture
The headstone for Terry Shane Stone. Picture by Neil Reid, NZ Herald
The headstone for Craig Arthur Reid. Picture by Neil Reid, NZ Herald