Mys­tery graves lie among his­toric roses


There are more peo­ple buried in a Porirua ceme­tery than the num­ber of head­stones sug­gest.

About 28 ‘‘prob­a­ble graves’’ lie among the 205 peo­ple known to be in­terred in Pau­ata­hanui Burial Ground.

Ge­neal­o­gist Sharon Evans said the mys­tery graves were dis­cov­ered in 2008 when ground­pen­e­trat­ing radar was used to sur­vey bare earth at the site.

‘‘It showed where the ground had been dis­turbed and we think that’s where they are.’’

Evans’ ex­ten­sive re­search re­vealed many of the char­ac­ters buried in the ceme­tery, which is home to hun­dreds of his­toric roses and flanked by a 100-yearold holly hedge.

The grave of the first white woman to step ashore at Pe­tone Beach in 1840 lies there, as do five sol­diers who died in World War I.

Be­fore the site be­came a ceme­tery, it was used by sev­eral iwi as a base for gath­er­ing food, Evans said. A for­ti­fied pa was aban­doned in 1846.

In 1853, Tas­ma­nian set­tler Thomas Hol­lis Stace bought the land for farm­ing and in 1856 do­nated an acre to be used for wor­ship and burial. A Protes­tant chapel, built that year, was de­mol­ished in 1908.

The ear­li­est burial with a head­stone was that of Maria Bradey, who died in 1860, but Evans said Bradey was not the first per­son in­terred on the land. That hon­our be­longed to three peo­ple buried on their farms be­fore be­ing dis­in­terred and moved to the ceme­tery when it opened.

To Evans’ frus­tra­tion, the burial regis­ter that listed the names of the in­terred and where they lie was de­stroyed in the 1950s.

She did not have a favourite head­stone, but said there was one that al­ways made peo­ple laugh. Its epi­taph read: ‘‘The Lord Giveth, The IRD Taketh.’’

Porirua City main­tained the Coun­cil ceme­tery’s grounds, but the up­keep of the graves and the his­toric roses that cover them, fell to vol­un­teers.

As part of Ceme­ter­ies Week, Evans will guide a tour of the Pau­ata­hanui Burial Ground on April 4, 11am un­til noon. There is no charge and no book­ing re­quired for the tour.

On April 6, Whenua Tapu Ceme­tery staff are hold­ing a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion from 11am un­til 1pm at the ceme­tery.


Pau­ata­hanui Burial Ground, Porirua.

Vis­i­tors to the site can en­joy a view over Pau­ata­hanui In­let.

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