Titirangi Station, Main Highway 35, Tolaga Bay

  • Pits.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joanna Wylie.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Joanna Wylie.
  • .
    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 6643 Date Entered 10th March 1986


Extent of List Entry

Lot 64 DP 1324, Gisborne Land District and the archaeological site Z17/234 (New Zealand Archaeological Association 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 Z17/234 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, as is the case with this site - Z17/234.

Pit site Z17/234 is located at the southern end of a remaining section of low ridge running runs parallel to the sea on the eastern boundary of Titirangi Station. It is in pasture, and is situated approximately 100 metres north of the mouth of the Whakamarino Stream. A cleft at the southern end of the site separates it from Z17/233. One of the main farm roads leading through the station is located to the west of the site, and there are a number of other archaeological sites in the vicinity, including a pa (Z17/265) and several other pit and pit/terrace sites.

Z17/234 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 a row of pits with 'two conventional raised rim pits'. Four of the pits were recorded as being located on a slightly elevated platform, which had distinct entrances to both the north and west. The site plan records measurements for two of the pits; a raised rim at the northern end of the site measured 2 metres x 2 metres, whilst a pit to the south was recorded as 1.5 metres x 1.5 metres. Jones concluded that the site was in good condition overall, but did observe slumping of the cliff edge immediately to the north.

The site was revisited by archaeologist Vanessa Tanner in 2000, as part of the New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Recording Scheme Upgrade Project. Tanner concluded that it was in poor condition, under threat of continued stock erosion. The northern extent of the site was noted as being particularly eroded and slumping was occurring. A recommendation was also made that Z17/234 and Z17/233 be combined as one archaeological site, due to the fact that a recently eroded stream gully was all that separated them. A revised sketch plan of the site was completed, which indicates that the northernmost pit in the row of pits on the raised platform was no longer visible. A 2007 New Zealand Historic Places Trust site visit to Z17/234 revealed continued damage to the site through slumping and coastal erosion but no major changes were observed. The northernmost pit on the raised platform was still visible, but was certainly not as clear as the other three pits in the row.

Z17/234 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

10th 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. Vol. 8 1986, pp. 5-32

New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA)

New Zealand Archaeological Association

Site Record Form for Z17/234 - original 1983 record and 2000 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.