Northern News : February 29th 2012
Wednesday, February 29, 2012 Enquire today 0800 FAST BUILD z 0800 327 828 Visit www.advancebuild.co.nz Smart new homes to suit your lifestyle! The Mission 5 Lost cemetery rescued Punakitere cemetery: Martin Beck, left, Sandra Baker and George Goodhew rescued a forgotten graveyard. Right: The cemetery was hidden in the wilderness. By EMMA GODWIN ' It's an amazing feeling to stand here and know my ancestors stood here too. ' Sandra Baker DESCENDANTS of early settlers have rediscovered a forgotten cemetery. The graveyard dates back to 1886 and passed from the care of the former Hokianga County Council to the Far North District Council in 1989. It was somehow overlooked as a council responsibility and reverted to wilderness. The tombstones of Puna- kitere cemetery peered out from the scrub and bracken when Whangaparaoa resi- dent Sandra Baker went to find the grave of her ancestors near the small settlement of Taheke. The place was so over- grown it was really sad to see,'' Mrs Baker says. It's terrible when graves are treated with indifference and lost to the weeds. It's an amazing feeling to stand here and know my ancestors stood here too. The hardships they endured we simply can't imagine. They deserve respect.'' Martin Beck and George Goodhew are also des- cendants of the Punakitere settlers. They worked with Mrs Baker for a couple of years to get the graveyard cleared. Mr Goodhew lives in Kai- kohe and remembers the cemetery from his youth. My father was the custod- ian there,'' he says. I remember the burial record books were sent down to Wellington when the ceme- tery was closed in 1966. But we can't find it now.'' Mr Beck has hunted through the archives to no avail. We're thrilled to see the cemetery cleared now,'' the Wellington resident says. The periodic detention guys have done a great job.'' The graveyard had Wesleyan, Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian plots. Graves of poorer families were marked with wooden crosses, long since gone. Mrs Baker is a keen gene- alogist and together with Mr Goodhew and Mr Beck has amassed a history of the settlement and the cemetery. Punakitere began in the 1880s as an orchard growing scheme with balloted lots of 50 acres for unemployed mar- ried men. Many young settler families moved into the dis- trict but life in the remote area was hard and the infant mortality rate was high. Mrs Baker tells a sad tale of a child who was scalded by pig fat and died seven days later without medical atten- tion. The three held a meeting with the Far North District Council to discuss the future upkeep of the graveyard. The council has confirmed it will maintain the cemetery to a minimum standard every six months,'' Mrs Baker says. They gave an assurance the cemetery would never revert back to the condition in which I found it.''
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