A pou on Aotea Great Barrier Island has been vandalised in what local iwi say is a racially motivated attack.
The pou was set up to mark a rāhui on several bays where the invasive seaweed caulerpa brachypus has been found.
A representative for Ngāti Rehua Ngāti Wai ki Aotea, Jeff Cleave, said the pou was felled at its base.
The carved head piece was then cut off and stolen. Cleave said this part of the pou was still missing.
“We find this as shocking as someone destroying any cultural taonga, akin to walking into a Buddhist temple and cutting the head off Buddha or taking a Native American totem pole.
“So we’re just currently in shock.”
The attack was directed at the whānau of Aotea but also at their ancestors, who passed their knowledge down to the current generation, Cleave said.
A community meeting or mediation might be needed to explain the significance of the pou, he said.
“Many people in Aotearoa see pou as something beautiful but they don’t understand the deeper intrinsic meanings behind why they’re there, who put them there and the essence of the protection that they offer.”
Healing would also be required for the perpetrators of the attack because it was a severe transgression of tapu, he said.
“Two hundred years ago we would have had utu and this would have been dealt with very, very differently, and a transgression like this many years ago would have meant death.
“So we have changed into the modern times but the tapu is still the same and we want these people safe and protected and hopefully seeking the help they need.”
Police were now involved and were investigating, Cleave said.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz