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Extracts taken from the minutes of a community meeting to discuss the location of the gravesite and other archaeological sites on the proposed extension of Westchester Drive between Glenside and Churton Park.

“We’ve lost so much heritage from here. We must look after what we have.” Ted Neylon


  • Residents from the community.
  • City Council appointed archaeologist, Mary O'Keeffe.
  • City Council Roading Engineer, Stephen Harte.


The meeting discussed the issues suggested by the archaeologist Mary O’Keeffe. These are:

  • The reasons for the archaeological investigation, given the local knowledge of the grave’s location.
  • Assuming we find our lady, and she’s within the roading corridor, what then do we do with her?
  • If it comes to pass that she’s disinterred, what would be an appropriate place to rebury her?


Legislative requirements

Mary O’Keeffe said that the Historic Places Act was strong legislation, and that City Council could not undertake earthworks in the area without an archaeological consent from them. At this time no such consent had been given. Mary would produce a report, which would go to the Historic Places Trust. The known legislative obligations are:


Burial and Cremation Act 1964

  • Section 51 Removal of body.
  • Section 55 Unlawful exhumation.


The Historic Places Trust Act 1993

The Historic Places Act 1993 makes it unlawful for any person to destroy, damage or modify the whole or any part of an archaeological site without the prior authority of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. This is the case regardless of whether the land on which the site is located is designated, or the activity is permitted under the District or Regional Plan or a resource or building consent has been granted, the Act also provides for substantial penalties for unauthorised destruction, damage or modification.


The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA)

A principal of the Act is: The protection of historic heritage from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development

Under the Act the community views must be taken into consideration.

The Environmental Defence Society provides this information on its website:

Historic heritage was elevated from an 'other matter' by the Resource Management Amendment Bill 2003. 'Historic heritage' is defined in the RMA as being 'those natural and physical resources that contribute to an understanding and appreciation of New Zealand's history and cultures' and includes archaeological, architectural, cultural, historic, scientific and technological qualities.

Under the RMA local councils considering issues have to consider historic heritage as a matter of national importance. Hence there is sometimes an opportunity for the general public to make their views known in the heritage field as it affects archaeological sites.

This can arise when potentially affected parties are consulted over proposals before there is an application for a resource consent, or if a consent applied for is notified by the Council for submissions. The latter only happens to a small minority of consent applications.


Who might be buried?

  • An early settler, a mother and baby as described in the 1842 letter sent by Mrs Wall to her sisters in England.
  • There may be a second adult.
  • There may be a Maori woman,.

"It is an important gravesite and should be treated with the respect of the grave of the Unknown Soldier. It’s the grave of an unknown settler. She belongs to someone’s family."
Claire Bibby


What did the gravesite look like?

  • Earliest recollections are that the gravesite was surrounded by a white picket fence.
  • Later recollections suggest it had iron railings
  • The gravesite surface may have been disturbed, but not the depth of the people buried.


Where is it?

Several sites suggested within 50 metres of each other.

People who saw the gravesite will visit the site to assist the archaeologist.

Areas that were covered in blackberry would not be accessed by the archaeologists magnetometer equipment.

A copy of the 1991 Planning Tribunal outcome regarding the proposed road did not refer to the gravesite,

A hand drawn Council document dated 18 April 1991 has a reference from a survey peg to the grave.

A report dated 31 March 1991 of the District Change Hearings Committee referred to the gravesite.


The process

The community wants the following to happen:

Council to keep the community informed about the process, what has been done, what is going to be done. i.e. On the Council website.

Don’t want the situation as in the archaeological site on the Glenside Road/Stebbings corner where it was all action and then nothing was heard after the archaeologist completed her report.

If the City Council or the archaeologist provided information, the community would be happy to put it on their website.

Any actions taken with regard to locating and protecting the gravesite should be recorded for history. A booklet should be published by Council about what is known of the historic site,

Council are to do a proper job. Exhaust all research possibilities to find photographs and information about the site. E.g. Bishop Selwyn blessed the site – did his diary or reports back to the Church record the event?

More publicity is needed as someone in the wider community may have information.


What if the gravesite is located?

If the gravesite is located the community want the following to happen:

  • Must be fenced.
  • Protected from earthworks, with a buffer zone.
  • Legally protected e.g. District Plan.
  • The road to avoid her, not to go over her.
  • Not to move her from the site.
  • Record the site on the archaeological register.
  • The site be incorporated in a small park/green area.
  • Graves fenced off with wrought iron fence and a cross.
  • A path to it and nice plantings. Council’s earlier plans included a walkway to it, and a pedestrian crossing across the road to it.
  • A marker from the roadside to indicate where it is.
  • An information sign/board about it.
  • Integrate the site so that it is accessible to the community, not isolated.

A resident shared an example of a gravesite at Paraparaumu that had been surrounded by a park, with a path and information board.


What if the gravesite is located on private land?

  • It must be protected from future development. The meeting noted that the landowner intend to develop the property.
  • There should be a sign to it from public land.
  • Should be fenced and protected.

The community observed that people want to visit gravesites, whether on public land or not, and whether they know the person or not. It’s a respect for the deceased.

A resident shared examples of her family’s farm in Hawkes Bay that has several early settler graves on it and is accessible with permission.

A gravesite out of Waipawa toward Kairakau is accessible to public on private land and is signposted.


What do the community want done if she site is not located?

  • People are still buried in the locality and we need to respect that.
  • Something permanent as a memorial to her.
  • A big rock cairn with plaque.
  • A small reserve with a cairn, and perhaps a seat.
  • Something visual to attract people.


What if she is in the road corridor?

Wellington City Council asked whether the community would consider moving the deceased if she was in the road corridor.

The community were strongly against this. The body should stay in situ.

Council had moved the road to avoid her presumed gravesite in the past, therefore that as Council originally intended to avoid the gravesite, they should continue to avoid it.

As the latest proposed road wasn't yet designated, it wasn't an issue. Locating the gravesite came before determining the route of the road. The road corridor kept moving almost every time WCC produced a report on the proposed route.

The Council were operating on hypothesis and should wait until the results of the research and site visits.

The Council kept suggesting removing the body from the site which upset to the community. A resident said the issue "was like a bubbling pot and Council keeps turning the heat up - leave it alone."

The meeting agreed that the process would unfold. If the gravesite was found, then another meeting would be called to discuss the next steps.


Mary O'Keeffe's work

Mary is the consultant archaeologist employed by Wellington City Council.

The Historic Places Trust Act automatically protects any site pre-dating 1900.

The Council cannot undertake any work on the site without an authority from Historic Places Trust.

She has been employed by the Council to consider the archaeology on site before works commence.

Mary thanked the community for their concern over the gravesite. She advised that the community website had been useful. She had also found information at LINZ and at The National Library.


A search for archaeological sites and features

Mary's role is to search for archaeological evidence on the site.

These could be:

  • Rubbish pits.
  • Structures.
  • Pockets of disturbance.
  • Not just a gravesite.

She would advise WCC the areas to be careful in, and the areas where it was fine to work. If the gravesite is located, then the question would be asked whether it could be taped off so that moving trucks wouldn't disturb her [deceased].


"If we don't have to excavate her we wont." Mary O' Keeffe.


Mary explained her process.

She said she was very much aware the area was a very early settlement of Wellington.

She was only working in the cleared area of the road corridor. She would not be working in the gorse and blackberry covered sites of the road corridor.

After the soil had been surface swept with the magnetometer, she would prepare a site management plan.

There might be some ground truthing required. Ground truthing would be hand trowel work to verify whether the substance beneath was an artefact or not e.g. deceased person or rotted tree.

Archaeological sites, features and artifacts found would be recorded on a central index. There would be a complete site record of what would be found.

An archaeologist would remain on site throughout the earthworks. The earthworks would begin with the skim across the site and the archaeologist would look over the earth to see what was there and determine what action should be taken.

Mary had consents from Historic Places Trust to do ground truthing and asked the community whether they would be comfortable with her digging to determine if a site was a person.

The community were OK with this, but not with a full excavation and asked to be present.

Mary said she would be able to tell quite quickly what age the deceased was, and what ethnicity they were.

A resident questioned where the road corridor was, as the proposed corridor was not designated. The roading engineer was not able to give a definite answer to that.


Possible archaeological sites in the road corridor vicinity

Using the latest map, a resident explained what would be found from road end to road end, using her knowledge. This included:

  • A railway settlement at Westchester Middleton end.
  • Dairy farm paddocks, several houses.
  • Possibly a Halfway House with bottles and china from 1841 -1900 settlements.
  • Early settler rubbish pits (her children were always collecting old china from the stream bed).
  • The grave/s.
  • A whiskey distilling site.
  • A Maori track.


Memories of past residents

Mary O'Keeffe was provided with:

  • A compilation of interviews of past residents about two gravesites in the locality.
  • A book "The Onslow Historian" about Glenside's history and heritage.