Families who were distant relatives of the landowner from the outer islands were originally buried on the land because they did not own any land in Rarotonga.
The site is on a large section of prime land overlooking the airport and ocean where the family of late Papa Haua Ebera Aberahama gathered earlier this month to collect Papa Haua’s remains and the ashes of his daughter Caroline Munokoa Hutton (nee Marsters).
Grace Hutton, daughter of Caroline Hutton, says her mother’s ashes were brought to Rarotonga in 2003 so they could be buried beside Papa Haua.
“We were giving money to help with the cleaning of the grave and we have been coming to Rarotonga regularly to both paint and clean it.”
Hutton said that because all the graves were in danger of being levelled, her family had received permission from the Ministry of Health to remove her grandfather’s remains and her mother’s ashes.
She said a casket had been purchased to transfer Papa Haua’s remains in a respectful manner and the casket had been wrapped ready to be shipped to Palmerston Island.
“I am happy and the family is happy because mum’s mother, Papa Haua’s wife, is buried in Palmerston and they will all be reunited after years of being apart.”
Papa Haua’s wife died in 1926 after a hurricane hit the Cook Islands, severely affecting Palmerston.
“It was a sad moment but we are happy because now they will all be together.”
She said her mother was born in Palmerston and left the island for Rarotonga when she was five years old with her six siblings for further education. One sibling remained on Palmerston.
In 1942 Caroline left for New Zealand where she was employed by a doctor as a “house girl” for eight years.
Hutton said Caroline then married and had six children. Although she did not see Papa Haua again she stayed in contact with her relatives.
“She passed away in 2002 at the age of 80 and they thought it would be good for her to be buried with her father.”
She said while the remains had been removed from the graveyard the family had received plenty of support and she acknowledged the support of her nieces, nephews and everyone else that had helped.
Caroline is survived by her six children, two grandsons, two granddaughters and two great-granddaughters.
The casket is expected to be taken to Palmerston by February depending on when a vessel is available.