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New Zealand's shame: more than 500 New Zealanders buried in unmarked graves at Tokonui

The Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has said the remains of those more than 750, mainly Indigenous children, is a tragedy but reminded New Zealanders we still have our own past to grapple with. Tukaki is talking about the more than 500 New Zealanders buried in unmarked graves at the old Tokonui hospital site – which are now located on an Ag Research Station:

“I watch the reports of what is unfolding in Canada and my heart absolutely breaks. But we also have our own accounting to take care of and the site of Tokonui Hospitals old cemetery, where 500 New Zealanders lay in unmarked graves will also break your heart. I know – I have been there and I have stood on that ground” Tukaki said

Tukaki has said the first recorded burial was in 1914 and the last in 1964 and includes graves of young people, war veterans, patients and staff:

“The reality is the cemetery now lies on contested land after the hospital was subdivided to take into account an Ag Research station – if I was to be brutal about it we are dealing with a cemetery in a paddock with little formal signage and moreover, not everyone has been identified.” Tukaki said

“The other reality is one of grief – many of those people buried their lie alone, many of their stories unknown or untold and moreover not everyone has been identified” Tukaki said

“And then we need to consider that Tokonui hospital was a dark time in this countries history as was Lake Alice, as was Porirua and as was Carrington amongst many others. This is all being borne out in the Royal Commission – but my primary concern are the voices of the dead that are not being heard through this process. And that pains me considerably. I am not convinced that we have accounted for all the many New Zealanders, men, woman and children, who died while in the care of the State.” Tukaki said

“The records are incomplete, therefore the whakapapa of many whanau is incomplete – and as for Tokonui hospital the fact you can only access the cemetery through a farm gate is appalling. So while my heart goes out to our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Canada we need our own truth telling in Aotearoa and we need to find the dead and ensure that their stories are told.” Tukaki said

“The work of whanau to erect a memorial wall has been a great thing but more work across the nation neds to be done.” Tukaki said

“My plea to Government and New Zealanders is not to forget the voices of the dead and lets ensure we acknowledge our history not wipe it away.


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