Schoolhouse Creek Moa Hunting Site

Nevis Road, Lower Nevis, Otago

  • Schoolhouse Creek Moa Hunting Site.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Date: 9/10/1966.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5615 Date Entered 4th June 1985


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Sec 8 SO 475739 (CT 676072), MARS MD SO 475739, and part legal road Otago Land District, and the Schoolhouse Creek Moa Hunting Site thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage New Zealand Board meeting on 30 April 2015.

City/District Council

Central Otago District


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 8 SO 475739 (CT 676072), MARS MD SO 475739, and part legal road Otago Land District

Location description

Located alongside the Bannockburn-Nevis Road close to Schoolhouse Creek

GPS: (NZTM) E 1284774 N 4986750


What is known about the Moa hunting site at Schoolhouse Creek in the Nevis Valley contributes to the understanding of this significant aspect of New Zealand’s history through the physical evidence of the site and through the associated artefacts now in the collection of the Otago Museum.

Most inland moa-hunting camps are located in the ‘range-and-basin’ country east of the six large lakes drained by the Clutha and Waitaki rivers. This was largely open country prior to the arrival of the Polynesians. The significant sites in inland Otago provide evidence of moa-hunting and occupation. The Nevis Valley is one such basin. Occupation sites recorded show that Maori butchered moa near Schoolhouse Creek, with remains of a camp site and moa butchering site nearby dating from around the fourteenth century. This site is thought to have been a large one, where as many as 2000 moa may have been butchered.

In 1917, Philip George identified this site ‘on a fairly level, shingly, and dry flat, sheltered from the prevailing winds by the sweep of the higher terraces’ as a ‘moa-hunter camping place’. George identified ‘two grass-grown circular depressions about three feet [0.91 metres] in diameter. He excavated the depressions, finding ‘that the pans were very shallow, not deeper than twelve inches [30.48 centimetres] at the centre. There was a complete circle of stones bounding each pan, the stones being placed in position with considerable care, each overlapping the next as shingles or tiles overlap.’ He identified the site as ‘hut fireplaces’ rather than ovens because of the absence of burnt oven-stones and midden material. He found that the pans of the fireplaces were filled with charcoal and ashes, over which a layer of silt about three inches [7.62 centimetres] deep had been deposited by rain-wash or flooding. George found artefacts, including scrapers, hammer stones and an adze as well as other stone implements, at the site that he deposited with the Otago Museum. Nearby he found a ‘quantity of Quartzite clippings’ and a fragment of moa bone. Gold miners in the area told George that before the area was mined there were several acres of camp-site covered with ovens and moa bones were ‘plentiful.’

Maori valued the Te Papapuni/Nevis River, with values including kaitiakitanga, mauri, waahi tapu, waahi taoka and as well as traditional trails. Maori trails in the South Island high country provided significant social and economic links between distant places, and they tended to follow valleys such as the Nevis.

When the site was relocated in 2009, it appeared that part of it visited by Philip George in 1917 has survived. As such, there remains the possibility that evidence at the site is still present. The site requires a systematic ground survey to confirm its extent and survival.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

18th February 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

Anderson, 1989

Atholl Anderson, Prodigious Birds: Moas and moa-hunting in prehistoric New Zealand, Cambridge, 1989.

Hamel, 1994

Jill Hamel, 'The cold sequestered Nevis.' Report to the Department of Conservation as part of a series on historical values of pastoral leases in the Central Otago high country. September 1994

Hamel, 2001

Jill Hamel, The Archaeology of Otago, Department of Conservation, Wellington, 2001

George, 1937

Philip George, ‘A Maori Stone Dagger from the Nevis.’ The Journal of the Polynesian Society, Vol 46 No. 183, 1937

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand