Staff, students and visitors exploring Kaikohe Intermediate School’s new learning space after its blessing and official opening.

A Far North school is under fire for naming a classroom after a tragedy in which multiple children died.

Te Matarahurahu spokesman David Rankin has objected strongly on behalf of the hapu to the name Kaikohe Intermediate School has chosen for its new learning space.

Mr Rankin said he applauded the desire to use a Maori name, but the correct cultural process had not been followed.

The name chosen, Te Ahi Kaa Roa, belonged to Te Matarahurahu, which had not been invited to discuss its use.

The name had “unfortunate” historical and cultural associations, and its use was entirely inappropriate, he said.

The name originally referred to a Matarahurahu papakainga (home) abandoned because of a series of tragedies in which numerous children died.

The name had became synonymous with the misfortune of children.

The discovery of human remains when the DB Hotel swimming pool was built on the site of Te Ahi Kaa Roa in the 1970s had further entrenched the connection for his people between the name and notions of misery and death.

“If Kaikohe Intermediate School had consulted the leaders of Te Matarahurahu, and those who were born and lived on the land, it would have been aware of the fact that the name Te Ahi Kaa Roa is one whose use is forbidden,” Mr Rankin said.

He asked that the name be removed immediately from the building and that all reference to it in school documentation cease, and that the school and the Ministry of Education consult Te Matarahurahu.

“In the meantime, our hapu will be placing a rahui on the building, which takes effect immediately,” he added.

“This will mean that from now the building cannot be used for any purpose, and doing so will represent a violation of the rahui, which obviously would cause significant problems.

“Once the naming issue has been resolved our kaumatua can look at lifting the rahui. Otherwise the whole issue risks being escalated to a higher level, including possible court action, which obviously no one wants at this stage.”

Kaumatua Ted Wihongi said at last week’s blessing and opening of the learning space the occasion represented a celebration not only for Kaikohe as the centre of Ngapuhi, but of the eternal flame that held the Ngapuhi nation together.

“If you go away, you can always come back and relight the fire,” teacher Kutania Taniere, who interpreted the building’s artworks, told students.

“Because you are only here for two years doesn’t mean that you leave for good.

“Your burning fire can never be put out; even when the fire dies the embers will still remain.

“Each of you has your own individual fire, it is yours, it belongs to you.”

Source: The Northland Age

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