Forestry Road, Rabbit Island, Waimea Inlet

  • Midden/ Ovens.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5867 Date Entered 1st May 1985


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Island No 5 Rabbit Waimea East District (NZ Gazette 1909 p.3312), Nelson Land District and the archaeological site known as Midden/ Ovens (N27/101) thereon, as shown on the location map appended to the notification letters dated 1 May 1985

City/District Council

Tasman District


Tasman Region

Legal description

Pt Island No 5 Rabbit Waimea East District (NZ Gazette 1909, p.3312), Nelson Land District

Location description

N27/101 is located in Forestry Block 1, Part Block 2.3 at the southwestern end of Rabbit Island in the Waimea Inlet. To access the site travel through the centre of Rabbit Island down Redwoods Road and turn left down Faulkners Road to the southwestern tip of the island. The site is visible along the coastal margin.


N27/101 has been described by archaeologists as a 'midden/ovens' site. Middens are places where food remains, fire debris and discarded tools were deposited, and ovens are scatters/groupings of burnt stones and charcoal which indicate the former presence of a cooking oven, not dissimilar to the modern-day 'hangi'. The site is located at the south-western end of Rabbit Island and covers quite an extensive area. The site is visible in discontinuous sections along the estuarine bank, and extends as far as 20 metres inland into the coastal margins of the forestry blocks. The midden generally consists of shellfish (cockle, pipi, mudsnail, mussel and oyster), fishbone and burnt stone mixed in a charcoal rich sand. Stone artefacts such as quartz flakes and a minnow fishing lure (with bone point) have also been found at the site.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Archaeological Significance:

N27/101 is one of a number of archaeological sites recorded on Rabbit Island and the nearby Mapua Peninsula, and it may date to an early phase of Maori occupation in the area. Whilst it has been subject to damage as a result of forestry activities and coastal erosion processes, N27/101 is an extensive site and still has considerable potential to contribute important information to archaeological research in the wider Nelson/Tasman area. N27/101 also has value as an example of an increasingly rare site type, as many coastal occupation sites are rapidly eroding.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Amateur archaeologist F. V. Knapp recorded evidence of Maori occupation in the south-western corner of Rabbit Island and along the western side during his survey of the area in the first half of the 20th century. Knapp (n.d) observed the remains of Maori fishing camps and numerous artefacts such as fishing sinkers and adzes, leading him to believe that the western end was the most frequented part of the island.

Archaeologist Atholl Anderson visited the south-western end of the island as part of his 1966 Masters thesis, 'Maori Occupation Sites in Back Beach Deposits Around Tasman Bay', and recorded a c. 270 metre discontinuous length of shell midden along the coast. The midden was roughly 20 centimetres deep and consisted of black sand interspersed with midden and a small amount of beach pebbles. Fish bone (snapper) and quartz flakes were also observed. M.J. Hurst recorded the site for the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme in 1977 as 'artefact find/midden/ovens', and noted that it was subject to coastal erosion processes. Hurst also commented that it would be seriously damaged by harvesting of Pinus radiata. The Nelson Museum Archaeology Group updated the site record form for N27/101 after a 1982 site visit, and noted that the site had been damaged by tree roots and as a result of felling and replanting.

Consultant archaeologist Amanda Young revisited the site in January 2003 as part of her archaeological assessment for PF Olsen and Co Limited, who were preparing for the harvesting of Pinus radiata from two Council-owned forestry blocks (Blocks 2.1 and 2.3) at the south-western tip of Rabbit Island. Young (2003) observed archaeological deposits associated with N27/101 along the estuarine bank and further inland amongst the pines on western edge of these blocks. The Tasman District Council subsequently applied for an archaeological authority for the harvesting from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and an authority was granted in June 2003. Harvesting was subsequently completed in 2004 without archaeological input and the surface evidence of N27/101 was significantly damaged. Remediation works have subsequently been undertaken, with exposed areas of archaeological material being recovered with weed mat and bark, and replanted in natives.

Physical Description

N27/101 is a large midden/oven site that covers an area of approximately 100 - 150 metres. It is exposed in 5-20 centimetre deep sections along the bank of the estuary in the southwestern corner of Rabbit Island, and discrete patches of midden are also visible further inland within the coastal edge of the forestry blocks. N27/101 contains fishbone, oven stones, fire-cracked rock, stone artefacts and shellfish such as pipi and cockles that are typical of midden located within an estuarine environment.

Archaeological material associated with N27/101 in the coastal strip behind the estuarine bank was badly damaged as a result of recent harvesting of Pinus radiata and associated forestry vehicle activity, but archaeological material along the coastal bank does not appear to have been affected. Exposed areas of archaeological material have now been remediated.

Notable Features

shell midden

charcoal deposits

oven stones

find spot - minnow lure

Construction Dates

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

29th May 2006

Report Written By

Jo Wylie

Information Sources

Young, 2003

Amanda Young, 'Archaeological Assessment: Forestry Block 2.1 and pt Block 2.3, Rabbit Island', Nelson, 2003 (Held by NZHPT National Office & Central Region Office)

Young, 2004

Amanda Young, 'Post-Harvest Inspection of N27/101', Nelson, 2004 (Held by NZHPT National Office & Central Region Office)

Nelson Provincial Museum

Nelson Provincial Museum

F V Knapp, Notebook, n.d

Other Information

Iwi - Nelson Iwi Resource Management Komiti (Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, Nagti Koata, Ngati Rarua and Ngati Toa)

Imperial Map/Site No: S14/173

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.