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More protection for site where Māori met Captain Cook

Two cultures traded animals, plants and knowledge at picturesque Meretoto/Ship Cove in 1770.

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Two cultures traded animals, plants and knowledge at picturesque Meretoto/Ship Cove in 1770.
Photo: Supplied / Stuff

A prominent meeting site for Captain Cook and Māori could soon have better heritage protection.

Marlborough’s council is moving to list Meretoto/Ship Cove as a heritage resource, but wants to exclude the seabed, so vessels can still anchor in the area and access the site.

The remote Meretoto/Ship Cove, near the mouth of the Marlborough Sounds. was first recognised as a historic place by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga in 2019. The bay and Motuara Island was listed as a Category 1 historic place on the Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero.

The listing prompted Heritage New Zealand to request the Marlborough District Council to also include Meretoto land and seabed as a heritage resource under the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan (PMEP).

A report prepared on the proposed variation said for many years, Meretoto had been recognised as a site of significance not only due to its connection with Captain Cook, but also as an important area to Māori.

The report said omitting the site from the plan gave it “minimal protection”. By adding the site to the plan provisions would be able to be put in place to restrict certain activities on the site.

Council’s environmental policy manager Pere Hawes presented the report to the council’s environment and planning committee last month. He said including the area in the plan would give the significance of the site added visibility.

The report said the seabed had been included in the Heritage New Zealand listing to reflect its importance and archaeological potential as the place where Cook’s ships anchored.

“In this case, the seabed itself is of more importance than merely a space tying together two other features,” the report said.

“Shipping anchorage sites may contain items dropped overboard by crew, or debris left over from vessel maintenance activities while in the harbour.

“The seabed at Meretoto/Ship’s Cove may therefore contain archaeological deposits buried in the sediment.”

Memorials at Meretoto / Ship Cove were updated to reflect the area's dual heritage in 2006.

Memorials at Meretoto / Ship Cove were updated to reflect the area’s dual heritage in 2006.
Photo: Supplied / Stuff

However, the report said under the council’s PMEP heritage listing, the preference would be to not include the seabed – despite the fact temporary anchoring of a vessel in the bay could be “destructive”.

This came after iwi raised concerns that activities on the seabed, and on the land, could end up “unduly restricted” if heritage provisions were applied.

Heritage assessment adviser Kerryn Pollock said in 2019 the site had “outstanding heritage values” as a place of early sustained contact between Māori and Pākehā.

“Meretoto/Ship Cove served as James Cook’s expedition base over the three South Pacific voyages he undertook in the late 18th Century,” Pollock said.

Cook and his crew members spent more time at the bay than any other part of New Zealand.

“As a result, there was opportunity for repeated interactions between Māori and Europeans, which forged relationships that were by turns amicable, challenging and violent,” Pollock said.

A pouwhenua and storyboards were previously erected in Meretoto/Ship Cove to recognise the site's significance.

A pouwhenua and storyboards were previously erected in Meretoto/Ship Cove to recognise the site’s significance.
Photo: Supplied / Stuff

The environment and planning committee approved the variation to the PMEP. This was publicly notified for a period of 20 working days to allow for submissions on the proposal.

The PMEP is currently under appeal. Appeal points on heritage resource sites have been resolved through mediation.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Story Credit: rnz.co.nz

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