Pit Complex

450 Clifton Road, Clifton

  • Pit Complex. View from edge of (W21/12) looking south-west showing the natural defences of the site.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: David Rudd. Date: 1/04/2014.
  • Pit Complex. Overgrown kumara pit (W21/12).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: David Rudd. Date: 1/04/2014.
  • Pit Complex. Plan from Archaeological Site Land Title Form.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 6511 Date Entered 22nd April 1985


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 3 Deeds 915 (CT HBW4/33) and part of the land described as Sec 5 Blk II Kidnapper SD (CT HBM4/866), Hawkes Bay Land District, and the archaeological site known as Pit Complex (W21/12) thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Heritage New Zealand Board meeting on 25 June 2015.

City/District Council

Hastings District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Lot 3 Deeds 915 (CT HBW4/33) and Sec 5 Blk II Kidnapper SD (CT HBM4/866), Hawkes Bay Land District


NZAA site W21/12 (New Zealand Heritage List no. 6511) is a pit complex in pasture on the east side of the Maraetotara River off Clifton Road, Clifton. There are a number of these pit/terrace sites on this uplifted marine terrace through which the Maraetotara River flows. The presence of these pits indicates that the area was extensively used for horticulture. The pits are predominantly of the raised rim variety. The pit/terrace site is of cultural, traditional, archaeological and historical significance.

Archaeological evidence and Maori oral history points to the settlement of Hawke’s Bay around 1250–1300 AD. Different hapu gradually settled the area from Mahia to Porangahau in a variety of different landscapes from the coast to the inland forests. Access to these inland areas was often via rivers like the Maraetotara. The tangata whenua of the Te Awanga (Clifton) area can trace permanent occupation back to the Te Kakano or archaic period of Polynesian settlement. Isolated pockets of Kupe people settled along the Wairarapa coast and came into contact with the descendant of Whatonga who had migrated south from Mahia. Whatonga’s son Tara was born at Te Awanga and is the ancestor for Ngai Tara.

The sites in the area are associated with the descendants of Te Aomatarahi. Mahangapuhua, a son of Whiringarakau, established a pa called Te Pa o Mahanga at Te Awanga. Tama-ariki and Hine-te-ao also occupied this area. Later the area was under the influence of Te Whatui-a-piti through his son Hikawera. Through strategic marriage of the descendants of Ngati Kahungunu, Te Whatui-a-piti and Te Aomatarahi merged the people into the hapu of today. The main hapu interests in Te Awanga are Ngati Kurukuru, Ngati Hikatoa, Ngati Whakaiti, Ngati Ura ki te ao and Ngati Hawea.

While pit complex W21/12 is not rare in this area the pit and terrace site reflects the importance of horticultural production (kumara) to sustain tangata whenua in this archaeologically rich setting inland of Cape Kidnappers / Mataupo Maui. The terraces of this area provided fertile, flat land on which to grow crops which were then stored in specifically designed raised rim pits.

This site was initially recorded in 1985 as a group of eight pits scattered on a triangular river terrace remnant. During a site visit in March 2014 only four pits were recorded. All were approximately 4 x 2 metres. The area was heavily overgrown so the other four pits were not relocated due to vegetation cover. It is likely that the pits are a remnant of a village/kainga site. At this point in time the location has not been identified with a specific Maori name.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

3rd June 2015

Report Written By

Christine Barnett

Information Sources

Jones, 1994

Kevin L. Jones, Nga Tohuwhenua mai te Rangi: A New Zealand Archaeology in Aerial Photographs, Wellington, 1994

Parson, 2007

Parson. Pat. (2007) Cultural Impact Report, Prepared for the Hastings District Council by the Waimarama Maori Committee – Ocean Beach Facilitation team. Appendix II, An Overview History of Waimarama

Pollock, 2012

'Hawke’s Bay region - Māori settlement and occupation', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 13-Jul-12

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 Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand