News of Zealand

Coastal Erosion Is Depositing Human Remains Onto This New Zealand Beach

Local iwi have imposed a ban on the beach near Maketū after thigh bones, two skulls and other remains were found on the sand.

by Zoe Madden-Smith
22 January 2019, 12:48am

Image via Google Earth.

This article originally appeared on VICE New Zealand

Local iwi are asking the public to avoid the eastern side of Ōkurei Point in Maketū after a landslide unearthed human remains. The burial ground, which lay on top of a cliff collapsed onto the shore below and waves have deposited the human bones, which are possibly pre-European, all over the beach.

Liam Tapsell, a local elder from Ngāti Whakaue ki Maketū, told Te Karere some remains, including a child’s small forearm bone, have already been collected but he believed there were still more to be found. He asked the public to call the police if they came across any bones.

The rāhui (prohibition) includes a ban on collecting kaimoana or any other food from the area until the remains have been retrieved—it is expected this will take at least six weeks. The rāhui covers all of Newdicks Beach and extends eight kilometres to the south towards Little Waihī Beach and 500 metres to the north.

Over the past 25 years, the temperature of the sea has risen 0.2°C per decade, according to the Natural Environment Research Council. This warming has caused global sea levels to rise—currently at a rate of three millimetres per year—and the two factors combined have led to wave activity getting closer to the shore, which increases the rates of coastal erosion, particularly in areas where cliffs are composed of soft rocks.

Iwi are yet to discuss whether the retrieved remains will be reburied on the hill.