Earthquakes & cyclones demonstrate importance of cultural monitoring
February 28, 2024 | Stories

This is a story from our monthly newsletter, Heritage this Month.

 David Watt | Whakatū Nelson

Our Central Region Pouārahi Darran Kerei-Keepa, drew a large audience in Whakatū Nelson recently when he outlined why cultural monitoring of archaeological sites has been an important part of his life, and why he was attracted to his position with us.   

“Coming to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga with over 25 years' experience, building up my skill set in the Māori heritage space around cultural monitoring work, advice, and relationship development, was a natural progression for me, and I went for it,” confirms Darran.   

“The protection of wāhi tapu and wāhi tupuna will always be my focus and hope for the future. Dealing with climate change, the effects of cyclonic damage, earthquake destruction, and how we need to protect Māori archaeological sites, is a priority for me.” 

Darran Kerei-Keepa speaking to the Nelson Historical Society

Combined with this passion for his work, his description of the extensive undertaking involving local rūnanga and external agencies following the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake had his audience riveted to his presentation at the Nelson Historical Society event in February.   

Darran described in detail how newly exposed artefacts had been collected, the steps taken to record them and manage their care and conservation, and how the archaeologists achieved it all from refurbished buildings at Takahanga Marae, Kaikōura. He further detailed the advice given on kōiwi exposed because of the earthquake and the negotiation steps that led to their re-interment.  

Darran said 40 archaeologists worked with iwi and external authorities on the recovery work following the Kaikōura earthquake. In all some 246 taonga were given back to hapū and iwi. In his presentation, Darran produced examples of the taonga collected – moa bone, stone tools, fish bone and other artefacts. The fascinated crowd heard how these communities lived hundreds of years ago, their living patterns and the findings made by the archaeological team that support these conclusions.

This work has also extended to Darran’s involvement in taking a cultural monitoring role with archaeological staff working in the Hawke’s Bay area, following the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle. The focus of his involvement has been on the discovery of sensitive material and of important carvings found, all requiring careful preservation action.   

Darran concluded his address to the society meeting reinforcing the need for Pouārahi to be involved in the assessment and vetting process of all archaeological authorities to ensure the inclusion of a Māori perspective, and that mana whenua have been consulted and involved, before approving any authority application.   

Darran’s presentation at the Nelson Historical Society was well received, and many took the time to approach him at the conclusion of the session to view the taonga and engage with him in discussion. 

Watt, David (author)
Kerei-Keepa, Darran

David Watt | Senior Outreach Advisor Regional Services
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