Titirangi Station, Main Highway 35, Tolaga Bay

  • Pits. Looking northwest over faint depressions towards farm road leading down into Cook's Cove - Z17/184.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 12/11/2007.
  • Pits. Looking approximately north across Z17/184 to the 'Hole in the Wall', Cook's Cove and an oval-shaped pit in the centre foreground.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 12/11/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 6630 Date Entered 10th March 1986


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes part of the land described as Lot 64 DP 1324, Gisborne Land District and the archaeological site Z17/184 (NZAA Site Record Number).

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Lot 64 DP 1324 (CT GS126/62), Gisborne Land District.


New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Record Number Z17/184 is a pit site that forms part of the dense archaeological landscape of the Tolaga Bay (Uawa) area. It is located on Titirangi Station, to the southeast 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

Pit site Z17/184 is located at Cook's Cove at the northern end of Titirangi Station. It is located in pasture, approximately 20 metres south of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) Monument commemorating Captain Cook's visit to the Cove, towards the northern end of a broad ridge above the coastal flats.

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 described the site as comprising a number of depressions - 'probably pits', to the south of the NZHPT plinth and adjacent to a scarp. A sketch plan of the site was completed, showing an oval-shaped pit (3 x 2 metres) and two rectangular pits (2.5 metres x 1.5 metres and 2 metres x 1 metre). A terrace is shown to the right (east) of the round pit, measuring 4 x 2 metres.

Z17/184 was revisited by archaeologist Kate Hill in 1999 as part of the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme Upgrade Project. Hill described the site as being in average condition, recording that the pits were 'fairly vague'. Stock damage was also noted as an issue for the site.

A 2007 New Zealand Historic Places Trust site visit re-confirmed Hill's findings. The oval-shaped pit was still clearly visible, but the other pits to the south (approximately 2.5 - 3 metres from the oval-shaped pit) showed only as faint depressions. Thistles were growing throughout the site and ongoing stock damage was noted.

Z17/184 is one of numerous pit and pit/terrace sites recorded in the Tolaga Bay area, and is part of a dense archaeological and cultural landscape that is of considerable significance to Te Aitanga a Hauiti. This landscape reflects 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

9th March 2008

Report Written By

Joanna Wylie

Information Sources

Department of Conservation

Department of Conservation

Cooks Cove Walkway, Gisborne, 1998

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, 1986, pp. 5 -32.

New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA)

New Zealand Archaeological Association

Site Record Form for Z17/184 - original 1982 site record form and 1999 update.

Historic Places in New Zealand

Historic Places in New Zealand

Kevin Jones, 'Tolaga Bay - Turangawaewae of Chiefs', No. 2, 1983, pp. 18-20.

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.