Nepia whanau search for missing ancestor

  • 18/06/2016
Paora Tokoahu (The Hui)
Paora Tokoahu (The Hui)

The Nepia whanau from Waitetoko, just south of Taupo, thought they'd struck it lucky after an arduous search for their ancestor Paora Tokoahu led to the discovery of his final resting place.

His whanau thought he'd been killed in the Waihi landslide on the shores of Lake Taupo, until discovering records 100 years later that suggested otherwise.

Records show that Tokoahu had been buried in Auckland in the 1930s. Judell Nepia made the discovery about her husband's great-great-grandfather.

"I rang my husband and I went, 'I've found him, I've found him.' He goes, 'What do you mean?' and I went, 'I've found a file on him. He was taken, he'd been at Oakley.'"

At 90 years old, Tokoahu was sent to Oakley Mental Hospital without trial, after he had an argument with another man outside the Maori land court in Rotorua.

Ms Nepia believes what happened to her husband's tupuna is a miscarriage of justice.

"So I still don't get why he was taken. I still don't get why there wasn't a formal court appearance.

"Ok, so he took to someone with an iron bar for stealing his sheep, there should've been a court case."

Makaire Nepia is appalled at what happened to his great-great-grandfather.

"Knowing the reports on how he was taken, kinda makes me feel a bit sick to the core really because all through that procedure and the filing, there's only one story, one side. There's not his side."

Nepia whanau search for missing ancestor

After years of research the Nepias discovered their Kouroua had been buried with strangers in a paupers' grave in Auckland's Waikumete cemetery.

But when the whanau went to exhume his body, the grave was empty, leaving Mr Nepia and his whanau heart broken.

"Was it human error, is it system, is it Government, Maori even?" Mr Nepia wonders. "There's all these unanswered questions. Yeah it hurt me deeply, it's like pulling away your heart that [his body] should be here."

For the full story watch TV3’s Maori current affairs programme The Hui, Sunday 9:30am.