11 November, 2021
The 10-tonne stone, placed outside 3CSSB headquarters, is a tangible reminder of the role the unit often plays in the South Island during times of disaster, and this particular stone has also created a link with iwi.
Since the Christchurch earthquakes, 3CSSB has played a leading role supporting communities across the Canterbury region and more widely within the South Island. This year has been no exception. In July, soldiers from 3CSSB deployed to Westport on the West Coast following severe flooding to assist with the evacuation of more than 800 properties and 2,000 residents in the area. Only six weeks earlier, the unit responded within the Canterbury Region to severe floods, aiding in evacuations and the delivery of critical aid supplies. Today it continues to play the leading role in the region as the OP Protect Task Unit SOUTH HQ.
The 3CSSB initiative is inspired by the spiritual anchor stone of the NZ Army (Maumahara Kōhatu) on the National Army Marae at Waiouru. On the Marae, visitors are asked to pause and reflect on those who have gone before. It is said that those that touch it, infuse it with their life force or mouri. ‘Pukeatua’ is now the spiritual anchor stone for 3CSSB members, past and present. During the dedication ceremony those who participated were invited to pass their mouri into ‘Pukeatua’.
In his address to the group Commanding Officer 3CSSB, Lieutenant Colonel Marcus Linehan discussed the journey to find the right stone (Kōhatu). Originally the previous RSM, WO1 Leon Whitelaw started the search, looking to Kaikoura where the unit played a critical role in the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake. However, when Staff Sergeant Nathan Turner was subsequently given the challenge of finding a suitable rock, the search turned to the Port Hills in Christchurch where the February 2011 earthquake caused numerous rockfalls and landslides.
Working closely with Christchurch City Council, their park rangers identified multiple rocks that could potentially serve as the unit’s anchor stone. One stood out from the rest given it had captured particular media attention at the time of the quakes by partially blocking the route over the Port Hills to Lyttleton. The rangers said there “is one rock on Dyers Pass Road but good luck moving it.” SSGT Turner engaged with the local iwi, Ngāti Wheke of Ngāi Tahu, to seek their blessing for the stone to be moved to Burnham Military Camp, while the council assisted with the logistics of the move given the significant road hazard the rock created.
LTCOL Linehan says that initiating this dialogue with Ngāti Wheke has been a significant step towards 3CSSB and Burnham Military Camp reconnecting with local iwi and that leaders have a responsibility to maintain those connections.
“Iwi played a significant role in our process to find an appropriate anchor stone. This koha given from the heart will remind us of that connection with iwi and our responsibility to be there for them in times of need,” ~ LTCOL Linehan
Attended by representatives from Ngai Tahu, Rapaki Marae, and soldiers from the unit, Te Kōhatu Pukeatua was officially blessed by Māui Stuart of Ngāti Wheke. The ceremony concluded with a haka performed by the soldiers of 3CSSB led by PTE Ion in recognition of this koha from Ngai Tahu.