Children's bones collected from Maketu Beach following landslide

Children's bones collected from Maketu Beach following landslide
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Human remains could continue to wash up on a Maketu beach following an enormous landslide in early January that unearthed an urupa (burial site). 

The landslide on the eastern side of Okurei Point caused bones to fall into the sea. A six-week rahui was placed on January 14, which ensures no one will collect kaimoana or other food from the beach and surrounding areas.

Ngati Whakaue ki Maketu elder Liam Tapsell told NZME large quantities of remains are still being found. He says three sacks of adult, children and infant bones have been collected from Newdicks Beach.

"We had local iwi and members of the public picking up bones for at least a week since the slip," he told NZME "that included two young Pakeha boys finding a jaw bone".

A child's forearm and two children's skulls were found among the bones.

Mr Tapsell says the bones have been handed in to Te Puke police, and anyone who discovers remains should place them in a plastic bag, or otherwise protect them and hand them in to police as soon as possible.

Police have confirmed that a "large number" of bones are being held.

The disturbance of the burial site has caused great disturbance within the community, and Mr Tapsell urges people to adhere to the rahui, and treat the human remains with respect.

Heritage New Zealand's Tauranga archaeologist told NZME the remains were understood to be pre-1900 in origin, but the exact date is unknown as the remains have not been examined by an osteoarchaeologist.

"We are in on-going contact with iwi and police regarding this matter and providing archaeological support as and when required."

Te Puke police say they are liaising with local Kaumatau and iwi to return the bones.

Ngati Whakaue ki Maketu has been contacted for comment.