Te Awamate

Forest Road, Parewanui, Rangitikei

  • Te Awamate.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: M Taylor.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 6234 Date Entered 23rd September 1986


City/District Council

Rangitikei District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 81993 (CT WN48D/103); Lot 1 DP 58226 (CT WN29C/163); Lot 1 DP 53307(CT WN29C/163), Wellington Land District

Location description

Te Awamate is located on private land at the western end of a series of swamps and lakes that have formed in an old channel of the Rangitikei River. It is approximately one kilometre south of Forest Road and one kilometre east of the eastern boundary of Santoft Forest. Access is from Bulls and then via Forest Road.


Te Awamate is located at the western end of a series of swamps and lakes formed in an old channel of the Rangitikei River.

The pa is a wet archaeological site that formed the main centre of occupation for Ngati Apa in the area during the latter part of the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century.

The site is connected to people of importance to Ngati Apa, particularly people of Ngati Tauira. Ngati Tauira are associated with the land through a common ancestor named Papawhenua, who links the peoples of Ngati Apa, Muaupoko, and Rangitane.

Te Awamate is connected with the southward movement of Ngati Toa under the leadership of Te Rauparaha in the 1820s and, as such, has historical value. The southward movement was the longest lasting and furthest reaching cycle of the Musket Wars. These Wars caused substantial social and economic dislocation among Maori in the early nineteenth century and remain the largest conflict fought on New Zealand soil.

Te Awamate has very high archaeological value as a swamp pa, which are noted for the preservation of abundant organic archaeological remains in the anaerobic environment. The significance of Te Awamate is also increased by other sites in the surrounding landscape that shed light on habitation of the area.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance: Te Awamate has a connection with the southward movement of Ngati Toa under the leadership of Te Rauparaha in the 1820s. This movement was the longest lasting, and furthest reaching cycle of the Musket Wars that caused substantial social and economic dislocation among Maori in the early nineteenth century, and that remain the largest conflict ever fought on what is now described as New Zealand soil. Ngati Toa halted at Te Awamate on their great migration south towards Kapiti Island in 1822-1823. This halt set off a train of events that would eventually result in the abandonment of Te Awamate.

The subsequent history of the pa provides insight into the impact of warfare on Maori during this period. Te Maraki, who had been influential in allowing Ngati Toa to rest at Te Awamate, was killed by Ngati Toa during an attack on a Rangitane pa. Ngati Apa retaliated, defeating Ngati Toa at Waimeha. During this attack, Ngati Toa leader Te Peehi Kupe suffered heavy personal losses and, to avenge these, he attacked Te Awamate, which resulted in the relocation of its inhabitants and the final abandonment of the pa.

Archaeological Significance: The pa is a wet archaeological site that once formed the main centre of occupation in the area. It has very high archaeological value as swamp pa are noted for the preservation of abundant organic archaeological remains in the anaerobic environment.

Cultural Significance:

The site was a major centre of occupation for Ngati Apa and was the scene of several conflicts.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

Te Awamate has a connection with the southward movement of Ngati Toa under the leadership of Te Rauparaha in the 1820s.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

Te Awamate has high archaeological value. The archaeological remains associated with the site have the potential to provide important information about the late prehistoric and early historic settlement of the area. Anaerobic conditions within swamps frequently preserve items such as wooden artefacts that do not ordinarily survive in the archaeological record. Items were sometimes deposited into swamps for safekeeping or may have been discarded there. Whilst no wooden artefacts have yet been recovered from Te Awamate, it is possible that such items are present.

The limited archaeological investigations at the site have indicated that people were obtaining food from both the adjacent wetlands and the coast. This can provide more information about local resource exploitation, economy and settlement patterns.

(d) The importance of the place to tangata whenua

Te Awamate is of importance to Ngati Apa. It is associated with conflict within Ngati Apa and between Rangitane and Ngati Apa during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and subsequently with Ngati Toa during the 1820s. The site is considered wahi tapu.

The site is connected to people of importance to Ngati Apa, including the peoples of Ngati Rangiwaho, and Ngati Maero. These peoples were branches of Ngati Tauira, which is a large collective of families associated with the land through a common ancestor named Papawhenua. Papawhenua is the tangible link between Ngati Apa, Muaupoko, and Rangitane, as this ancestor is both a descendant of Ruatea and of Whatonga of the Kurahaupo waka. Papawhenua's descendants occupied lands from Waipatiki in the north, to Omarupapako in the south, and inland to Aorangi on the Oroua River.

(i) The importance of identifying historic periods known to date from early periods of New Zealand history

This site dates to the late prehistoric-early historic period in New Zealand. The site is connected to the Musket Wars, with Te Awamate being abandoned following an attack on the pa by Ngati Toa in the 1820s.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or cultural and historical landscape

Te Awamate is described as being part of a “rich complex of archaeological sites”. This complex includes a pa, middens, ovens, eel trapping channels and garden boundary ditches. This complex is likely to have existed because of the important access to valuable resources. Wetlands were a rich source of resources and Te Awamate “was in an ideal position in relation to the coast, the backswamps of the river, and the wetlands of the sand country”.

The survey during which Te Awamate was recorded showed that there were an unusual number of sites around Te Awamate, which included the nearby wooden remains of a canoe (S23/62), and a structure recorded as an eel weir (S23/63). Another site (S23/81) located on a sand dune immediately above the structure recorded as an eel weir consisted of hangi stones, charcoal and freshwater mussel shell.

Approximately 114 sites were recorded in the adjacent pine forest, ten of which were described as scatters of shell and rocks. At one site, located on a high point above the eel weir, pit-like depressions were recorded in addition to shell and rock (S23/63).

A complex of 22 shallow channels in the sand grouped into six groups was recorded as S23/66. Some of these channels were over 100 metres long and were originally considered to be garden boundary ditches. These are now considered to be for eel trapping by confining migrating eels to a single path to facilitate capture. Eels would have formed an important part of the economy at Te Awamate.

River Mouth during the 1840s and 1850s. The inhabitants of the lower Rangitikei River exploited coastal, riverine, and wetland resources and would travel long distances to do so. Downes observed that people from one of the upriver settlements “very often went to the mouth of the Rangitikei River fishing, when they would send large supplies of food to their own places”. Eels are known to have been an important food source during the 19th century.

Limited excavation of one of the middens near Te Awamate was carried out in the 1980s after the area was prepared for afforestation. The excavation yielded important information about local resource exploitation. The main shellfish species present were freshwater mussel or kakahi (Hyridella menziesii), tuatua (Paphies subtriangulata), and mud snail (Amphibola crenata). Analysis of the sample suggests that tuatua, an open beach species, was the most important. Other shellfish species present in smaller quantities included toheroa (Paphies ventricosa), pipi (Paphies australis), mactra (Mactra discors), volute (Alcithoe Arabica), scallop (Pecten novaeseelandiae), Penion sulcatus, and paua (Haliotis iris).

Most of these species are likely to have come from the Rangitikei River estuary and open beaches. The paua must have come from further afield as this is a rocky shore species.

A large quantity of bone was recovered. At least 10 rats were identified in the midden as well as a number of bird species. Birds came from oceanic, forest and wetland habitats. They included Fairy Prion (Pachyptila turtur), Fluttering Shearwater (Puffinus gavia), Grey Duck (Anas superciliosa), Brown Teal (Anas aucklandica), Pukeko (Porphyrio melanotus), the extinct New Zealand Gallinule (Tribonyx hodgeni), Kaka (Nestor meridionalis), Tui (Prosthemadena novaseelandiae), and Parakeet (Cyanoramphus sp.). This range of species is entirely consistent with occupation on the edge of a coastal wetland site with nearby forest.

A limited number of fish species was identified. Eel (Anguilla sp.) appears in the greatest quantity, in addition to snapper (Pagrus auratus), sharks and rays (Elasmobranchii), John Dory (Zeus japonicus), and Groper (Polyprion oxygeneios).

This midden site is interpreted as the seasonal camp of a family group possibly associated with the settlement of Te Awamate. A single radiocarbon date from this midden suggests that it is roughly contemporaneous with the pa. These people visited the open beach and estuary at the mouth of the river to obtain food in addition to the wetland resources. Whilst rarely visible in the archaeological record, it is likely that they also utilised flax, raupo and toetoe. Thus, it is possible to develop a model in which fortified villages were located on the margins of lakes and from which people dispersed in certain seasons for subsistence activities.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The exact date of construction of the pa is unknown. It was occupied from at least late in the eighteenth century when fighting between Ngati Apa and Rangitane occurred in the vicinity. Historian and ethnologist Thomas William Downes (1868-1938) noted that the pa was in existence in the early years of the nineteenth century and was the scene of several conflicts between different factions of Ngati Apa.

Te Awamate features in the traditions relating to the arrival of Te Rauparaha (?-1849) and Ngati Toa in the area in about 1819-20. According to Maori Land Court records Ngati Apa chief Te Arapata Hiria and his sister, Te Pikinga (fl.1819-1834) , were captured by Ngati Toa. Te Pikinga was taken as a wife by Ngati Toa leader Te Rangihaeata ((?-1855). Te Rangihaeata then sent Te Arapata Hiria and another captive to Te Awamate, to make peace with Ngati Apa.

When Ngati Toa began its migration south in 1822, the marriage between Te Pikinga and Te Rangihaeata worked to their advantage. Ngati Apa relatives of Te Pikinga, including Ngati Tauira chief Te Maraki, were able to persuade their tribe to allow Ngati Toa to stop at Te Awamate, possibly during the summer of 1822-23.

However, in 1823, Ngati Toa attacked a Rangitane pa called Hotuiti (Motuiti?) near what is now known as Foxton, in revenge for the theft of canoes. During the attack Ngati Toa learnt that Te Maraki and some of his people were inside the pa. Although Te Maraki and his people were given the opportunity to leave the pa they chose to remain. Consequently, Ngati Toa and their allies overwhelmed the pa and Te Maraki was amongst those who fell. . Ngati Apa then combined forces with Rangitane and Muaupoko and retaliated, attacking and overwhelming Ngati Toa and their allies at Waimeha.

Ngati Toa retreated to their new stronghold on Kapiti Island , which Te Peehi Kupe (?-1828) had recently captured from Muaupoko and Ngati Apa. They were attacked there the following year by Ngati Apa and other local iwi, who had joined forces under the leadership of Te Kōtuku of Muaupoko. Despite superior numbers, the combined forces were unable to overcome Ngati Toa's defences, and were defeated. The attack was disastrous for Ngati Apa, whose losses included esteemed leaders Te Ahuru and Te Rangimairehau. After this battle, a period of quiet followed and Te Rauparaha, who had fought with Ngati Toa on Kapiti Island , was said to have visited Te Rangihauku of Ngati Apa to make peace.

In 1824 Te Peehi Kupe returned to New Zealand. Te Peehi Kupe had suffered heavy personal losses when Ngati Apa had attacked Ngati Toa at Waimeha, and had travelled to England to obtain muskets for use in a counter-attack. He returned after Ngati Toa's victory on Kapiti Island, and so his personal losses had not been avenged. Despite the peace that had been made between Ngati Apa and Ngati Toa in his absence, Te Peehi Kupe led a war party that included Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata in an attack on Ngati Apa at Te Awamate.

It is unclear exactly what happened at Te Awamate. One account is that Ngati Toa were unable to reach the island pa, but that Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata succeeded in luring the chief of Te Awamate, Te Rangihauku, and Koupeka, out of the pa. Upon falling in with Ngati Toa they were executed and, seeing this, the occupants of the pa fled, travelling with Te Hakeke to Oroua. Another account claimed that ten Ngāti Apa people were killed in this engagement. Te Awamate was then abandoned.

Physical Description

Te Awamate Pa is approximately three kilometres north of the modern river course of the Rangitikei River and around two kilometres inland from the coast. The pa is located where the wetlands of the floodplain of the Rangitikei River and the sand country merge with the boundary between the mobile and fixed dunes, giving a variety of environmental conditions and soils. When occupied, the site was located in a small lake and canoes were necessary to gain access.

Te Awamate Pa is surrounded by a shallow swamp that is part of an old river channel of the Rangitikei River - the name 'Awamate' literally translates as dry riverbed or a ditch outside a palisade. The swamp was a major resource area in prehistory and provided a wide variety of resources including food such as eels, birds, and freshwater mussel, and material for weaving such as flax and toetoe. On the inland side of the pa a small lake has been enhanced or created by digging it out using machinery. Spoil from the excavation of the lakebed is piled around the lake especially on the western and northern sides.

The Pa now consists of a series of low mounds about one metre high covering an area of approximately 150 x 50 metres. These mounds are made up of substantial layers of shell midden and occupation debris. The mounds are oriented approximately east-west.

When the pa was first recorded as an archaeological site in the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme in December 1983. At that time 30 posts, between one to three metres in height with a diameter of ten centimetres, were recorded. Some of these are likely to be the remnants of pallisading. Some of the posts were standing upright while others were lying on the ground. Today, only two posts remain visible and it is likely that many of the other standing posts have fallen over.

The pa site itself appears to have remained unmodified from when it was abandoned until comparatively recent times when poplars were planted every four metres in rows across the entire island. These are now substantial trees. Cabbage trees are another prominent feature on the mound.

The heavy occupation of the area is evidenced by numerous other recorded sites around the pa site. The majority of these are midden and oven sites, which were recorded on land designated for forestry purposes to the north and west of the pa. The midden sites contained fresh-water mussel shells and some tuatua shells. The oven sites also included fire-cracked stones and charcoal. In addition to these, an eel weir, canoe remnants and garden boundary ditches have also been identified.

Notable Features

Palisade posts.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
The original construction date of the pa is unknown.

Evidence of occupation.

1824 -
Te Awamate abandoned.

Public NZAA Number



Completion Date

1st May 2006

Report Written By

Archaeology North with NZHPT(E Brooks & R O'Brien)

Information Sources

Ballara, 2003

Ballara, A., 2003. Taua: 'musket wars', 'land wars' or tikanga?: warfare in Maori society in the early nineteenth century, Penguin Books, Auckland.

Belich, 1996

James Belich, 'Making Peoples. A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century', Auckland, 1996

Burns, 1983

P. Burns., 1983. Te Rauparaha: A new perspective. Penguin Books, Auckland.

Carkeek, 1967

W. W. Carkeek, The Kapiti Coast; Maori History and Place Names of the Paekakariki-Otaki District, Auckland, 1967 (2nd ed. 2004).

Cassells, 1986

R. Cassells, Report on the excavation of a shell midden, N148/55, at Parewanui, Rangitikei, New Zealand. Manawatu Museum Field Work Report No. 5. 1986

Colless, 1985

L. Colless, A. Snell and R. Cassels, 'An Archaeological Survey of the Lower Rangitikei River, North Island, New Zealand.' Palmerston North: Manawatu Museum Society Incorporated, 1985

Downes, 1909

T. W. Downes, 'Early history of Rangitikei, and notes on the Ngati Apa tribe'. Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Vol. XLII, 1909

McEwen, 1986

J. McEwen., Rangitane a Tribal History, Auckland, 1986.

New Zealand Journal of Archaeology

New Zealand Journal of Archaeology

Cassells, R., K. Jones, A. Walton, and T. Worthy. 1988. Late Prehistoric Subsistence Practices at Parewanui, Lower Rangitikei River, North Island, New Zealand, 10: 109-128.

Ryan, 1997

P.M. Ryan., 1997. The Reed Dictionary of Modern Maori. 2nd Edition. Reed Books, Auckland.

Other Information

A fully referenced review report is available from the Central Region of the NZHPT.

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.