Whānau of Mahimaru Marae, located in the Far North, are outraged at the damage to their marae ātea, caused by a driver on tour from the United Kingdom.
A police spokesperson said, "Police and emergency services were called about 11.30am yesterday, August 19, to reports of a vehicle losing control and colliding with the fence and front gate of a marae on State Highway 10, Awanui. Fortunately, the driver of the vehicle was unharmed."
Māhimaru kaumātua Rolly Jones told Te Hiku the man claimed to be dodging a wild rabbit that was on the road when the accident occurred. Locals report they have not seen any wild rabbits in months.
Member of Mahimaru Marae Peter-Lucas Jones says, “If anyone was standing around when that car crashed they would surely have been killed.”
Peter-Lucas Jones says, "I understand this could have been a life-threatening accident. Hope that they're not terribly hurt."
The fenced-in complex at Mahimaru Marae is affiliated to the tribe of Ngāi Takoto. Marae trustees are concerned regarding the cost to have the marae ātea and other structures repaired, as well as where responsibility rests.
SH10 between Taipa and Awanui Source: NZTA
Reducing the speed limit
The current speed limit between Taipa and Awanui, where Mahimaru Marae rests, is 100km an hour. According to the New Zealand Transport Agency, between Awanui and Taipa on SH10, there were 151 crashes with three killed and 12 seriously injured between 2009 and 2018.
"We've had so many people killed as a result of speeding in front of our maraes, speeding in front of our whare karakia, all this sort of stuff. Its got to stop." says Peter-Lucas Jones.
Therefore, for more than 20 years, whānau, hapū and iwi, including Karepōnia and Te Runanga o Ngāti Kahu, have been fighting to have the speed reduced in front of Māhimaru Marae, Karepōnia Marae and the papakāinga surrounding the marae.
"We've been asking to reduce the speed limit in front of our marae for years. What if one of our mokopuna, what if there was a hui here, what if there was a tangi here, what if we had people were gathered, waiting to come on to the marae, says Peter-Lucas Jones.
"Our concern around having the speed limit reduced in front of our marae is real...and the government needs to take a real hard look at reducing the speed limit in front of all of the marae in Awanui,"
New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) acting programme manager Michael Brown says NZTA is reviewing the speed limit on three Northland state highways, including SH10 between Awanui and Taipa. He says the proposal is to reduce the speed limit to 80 kmh.
"The speed review is in response to the high crash rate and local communities saying they don’t feel safe where the current speed limit is 100 kmh, says Brown.
"At the end of July, the Transport Agency held community engagement sessions in Kaitaia and Paihia to get feedback from people who live in the area use the road regularly."
Police say they are investigating the accident at the marae and no charges have been laid.