Sheep may roam over culturally sensitive land but athletes must not run there

Mind where you put your feet...

Mind where you put your feet…


The administrators of Auckland’s  public parks, sensitive to the sensitivities of indigenous persons, have cancelled a popular junior running race at a public park.

According to the NZ Herald,
the reason for the cancellation is that local iwi raised concerns about events on “sensitive land”.

It’s not the first time these sensitivities have constrained activities in the park.

An Auckland Council spokesman said the council was taking a consistent approach on the issue and three such running or orienteering events had been affected in the past three months.

The snag seems to be that this sort of activity involves people running over the land, presumably causing extreme cultural discomfort to the indigenous persons of the city, although sheep run across the same land,  even though they are not indigenous creatures and are not too fussy about where they pee and crap.

Park staff usually must move away the sheep before the race.

Further down in the NZ Herald  report, we learn from the council’s manager of volcanic cones why young human athletes – but not sheep – are troublesome to indigenous persons.

He has declined the application for the young runners’ relay race because of the route and the amount of off-track activity involved.

“The rejection was because 200 participants running around the maunga [off-track] would impact on the fabric of the maunga.

“These areas are of high sensitivity and are to be protected. If the event was proposed to be undertaken on formed tracks or roads, there would have been little hesitation to approve it.”

Impacting on the fabric of the maunga is best avoided, obviously.

The sensitive land in question – by the way – is One Tree Hill Domain, which no longer should be called One Tree Domain after stroppy indigenous persons bearing huge grievances and chainsaws some years ago did a mischief to the non-indigenous tree that sat on its top.

The young runners were told on Thursday the annual cross country event – that has been held in the domain in past years – had been cancelled.

Disappointed clubs have told their members to put their running shoes away for the weekend after the Auckland Council decision.

The council obviously has taken the initiative  on this occasion to ensure the city’s indigenous persons are not offended by the runners.

Alf says this because

…iwi were unaware of the declined event application and the host club, Auckland City Athletics, is hopeful an acceptable route can be found later this year.


A spokesman for Auckland Council said in the past year a collective of local iwi had made their concerns clear about “the effects of running events on such sensitive land”.

The Tamaki Collective were not aware of the application for today’s race, but “those concerns were taken into consideration when the application came in”.

The Herald reports a Ngati Whatua o Orakei spokesman, Ngarimu Blair, who says the iwi was unaware of the event application and had made no objection.

But the iwi doesn’t want people wandering – or running – anywhere off the tracks.

“Ngati Whatua allows such community events if they keep to formed roads and paths and avoid archaeological sites and are otherwise generally of a low impact.

“We have approved such events on the lower slopes of the mountain near the Stardome, which do not have archaeological sites so we see no problem in an event like that continuing.”

The Herald doesn’t appear to have raised the matter of the sheep.

As for Alf, he wonders what the manager of volcanic cones will do to manage things in the event of something more demanding than granting or denying applications for young people to run over his patch – such as a volcanic eruption.

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