Pits/ Terraces

Iwinui Station, Tauwhareparae Road, Tolaga Bay

  • Pits/ Terraces. Close-up of single raised rim pit on ridge above Patiki Stream looking west.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 14/11/2007.
  • Pits/Terraces. Looking north over site.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 14/11/2007.
  • Pits/Terraces. 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 6540 Date Entered 10th March 1986


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes part of the land described as Pt Paremata 3A Block, Gisborne Land District and the archaeological site Y17/125 (New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Record Number).

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Pt Paremata 3A Block (CT GS1C/1268), Gisborne Land District


New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Record Number Y17/125 is a pit/terrace site that forms part of the dense archaeological landscape of the Tolaga Bay (Uawa) area. It is located on Iwinui Station, to the west of the Tolaga Bay township.

Pit sites and the many other recorded archaeological sites including pa, midden, gardens and urupa reflect the intensive Maori occupation of the Tolaga Bay from the time of initial Polynesian settlement approximately 700 years ago. Access to abundant food resources from the sea, rivers, inland forests and horticultural production (kumara) meant that a large population could be sustained. It has been estimated that the early Maori population of Tolaga Bay totalled approximately 1200; and the main iwi was Te Aitanga a Hauiti.

Pit and pit/ terrace sites are very common in Tolaga Bay, and demonstrate the importance of horticulture to Tolaga Bay's earliest inhabitants. The Bay's fertile soils and temperate climate were well suited to kumara gardening, and the pits were used for storing harvested kumara over the winter months. Rectangular storage pits (which were once roofed with a layer of earth), are more prevalent than the underground storage pits found elsewhere in New Zealand, a pattern attributed to the harder substrate of the soil in this area. They are in fact the most common archaeological site type in Tolaga Bay, and are found along the river banks and on the rolling hills to the south of the Bay. They are generally located in clusters on knolls or terraces, or on ridge crests, in lines from end to end, as found with this site -Y17/125. Terraces are discrete areas that were deliberately levelled by Maori to create a flat surface for activities or buildings.

Pit/ terrace site Y17/125 is located under pasture at the northern tip of a north-south running ridgeline, approximately 430 metres east of Mangaheia Road and 750 metres south of Tauwhareparae Road. The Patiki Stream runs parallel to the western side of the ridgeline. There are a number of other recorded archaeological sites (mostly pits and pit/terraces) in the vicinity, particularly on the major ridgeline to the south, with Pukeatua trig at its peak.

This site was first recorded by archaeologist Kevin Jones during his archaeological survey work in the Whangara, Tolaga Bay and Uawa Catchment areas in 1982-1983. This survey work was undertaken to gain information about the nature of prehistoric settlement in this locality, and also to evaluate specific sites for registration under the Historic Places Act 1980. Jones recorded several terraces and 'upwards of 12 pits, most raised rim' on the gently sloping ridgeline, and commented that the pits were probably built to store crops cultivated on the silty flats adjacent to the Patiki Stream. He further noted that the site had been subject to stock damage (sheep and cattle trampling), but concluded that it was in good condition overall.

Y17/125 was revisited by archaeologist Vanessa Tanner in 2000 as part of the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme Upgrade Project. Tanner found the site to be as originally recorded, apart from an additional three terraces observed on the eastern side of the ridgeline. Tanner concluded that the site was in average condition, and under threat from further stock damage.

The site was revisited by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in November 2007, and no major changes were noted. The pits and terraces had been damaged by stock erosion, but were still clearly visible.

Y17/125 is one of numerous pit and pit/terrace sites recorded in the Tolaga Bay area. It is part of a dense archaeological and cultural landscape that is of considerable significance to Te Aitanga a Hauiti, reflecting the intensive Maori occupation and settlement of the Tolaga Bay area since the 14th - 15th centuries AD, and the important role that horticulture played in this.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

3rd March 2008

Report Written By

Joanna Wylie

Information Sources

Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation

Cooks Cove Walkway, Gisborne, 1998.


Kevin Jones, 'Tolaga Bay - Turangawaewae of Chiefs', Historic Places in New Zealand, No. 2, 1983

pp. 5-32

New Zealand Journal of Archaeology

New Zealand Journal of Archaeology

Kevin Jones, 'Polynesian Settlement and Horticulture in Two River Catchments of the Eastern North Island, New Zealand, Volume 8

New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA)

New Zealand Archaeological Association

Site Record Form for Y17/125, original 1982 form and 2000 update.

Other Information

Iwi/ Hapu/ Whanau: Te Aitanga a Hauiti

A fully referenced upgrade report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern Area Office

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.