Otuataua Stonefields

  • Otuataua Stonefields. CC Licence 2.0. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Steve Attwood. Taken By: Steve Attwood. Date: 24/06/2006.
  • Otuataua Stonefields. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
    Copyright: Bryndlefly - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Bryndlefly. Date: 1/10/2010.
  • Otuataua Stonefields. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Chris Gin. Taken By: Chris Gin. Date: 12/04/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed - Review Initiated List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 6055 Date Entered 21st November 1991 Date of Effect 21st November 1991


City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Otuataua-Pukeiti Stonefields site, Parts lot 170-175, 177B & 181, Parish of Manurewa, Block XII, Titirangi SD


The following information is based on the Statement of Evidence by Susan Evelyn Bulmer prepared in relation to 'In the Matter of the Town and Country' Planning Act 1977 on 19 July 1990, that was appended to HP290/1991 considered by the Maori Heritage Committee 24 October 1991.

Please note: the double 'a' or double 'u' has been used here for Maori words rather than macrons, as this was the convention used in the following report by S E Bulmer.

History of Otuataua:

The area proposed for preservation consists of nearly all of the volcanic fields that surrounded the two small volcanic cones, Otuataua and Pukeiti. This area will be referred to as "the site" in this report although it is in fact a complicated network of hundreds, possibly thousands, of different archaeological features.

Otuataua is a part of a larger district of volcanic lands in south-west Maangere known as Ihumatao (Te Ihu a Mataoho - 'the nose of Mataoho', a mythical giant). The place names used here were collected by George Graham and edited by D.R. Simmons (1980). The name Otuataua is, in this report, applied to part of the volcanic field which contains two of the four volcanic cones of the district. These cones were terraced paa - Otuataua ('the place at the rear from where the war party came') and Pukeiti ('the small hill'). The other two cone paa in the same volcanic field are Maungataketake ('the everlasting mountain') to the south and Waitomokia ('the water that flows underground'). Waitomokia explosion basin contained three small scoria cones in the basin interior: each of these little cones seems to have been a site with natural defensive features.

The history of these four named paa are interrelated and they are mentioned in a large number of traditional accounts. The following is a brief summary of some of the important historic events and people of the area, based mainly on published sources. It is not meant to be an exhaustive account, but only to indicate the very great historic importance of the area, firstly to the Maaori people, and, more recently, to the wider community.

The first Maaori inhabitants are remembered under the name Ngaaiwi (Waitangi Tribunal 1985:20). The paa of the Ihumatao district belonged to the Waiohua tribes of the Taamaki area. This tribal name belongs to the 17th and 18th centuries, but the paa and their fields were settled much earlier - artefacts collected indicate settlement in the Archaic period between about AD 900 and 1400. The name Ihumatao itself is traditionally linked to the very earliest period of human occupation in the Taamaki region.

Although there are no radiocarbon dates as yet to support this from Ihumatao sites, the age of the artefact types is well-established elsewhere in the Auckland region. On genealogical grounds the earliest reference to one of the paa is the sacking of Maungataketake, probably 16th century (A Sullivan, pers. comm. 1988). One of the four paa was also associated with the famous chief Kiwi Taamaki, who lived at Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) from about 1720 to 1760 (Fenton 1869:62-3).

The name Ihumatao was also used to refer to one of the local villages in the 19th century, the other names being Oruarangi (the name of the stream north of Otuataua), and Puketaapapa ('the flat topped hill'). The Ihumatao district was abandoned, as was most of Taamaki during the musket wars of the 1820s . Ngaati Whaatua returned after an absence of years and formally re-occupied Ihumatao and other areas in the region in October-November 1835 (A Sullivan, pers. comm. 1988). Occupation in the early 19th century up to and including 1840 was (a) episodic, and (b) largely seasonal (early summer) from available indications - and Otuataua was therefore occupied at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

Ihumatao was the location of the first Christian mission in the Maanukau area, in 1847, where it was established on 3.2 ha of land west of Maungataketake. Te Kawau is said to have established a village next to the Mission (Tonson 1966:36, 47, 49, 111). The Mission village lasted until 1863 and, along with Oruarangi village to the north, it was visited by a number of people, such as Ligar and White in 1853 and Hochstetter in 1858.

In the 1850s the area around the Mission at Ihumatao, probably the area of tuff soils that could be easily ploughed, was intensively cultivated by the Maaori people growing wheat and oats to take to Onehunga by boat for the Auckland market (Tonson 1966:60). There was a threshing mill, which was presumably near the Mission, but its site is not yet recorded. It is likely that during this period the Otuataua fields were also under cultivation, to provide food for the Mission and local Maaori communities.

In 1857 there was a huge hui held at Puketaapapa to discuss the appointment of the Maaori King (Tonson 1966:103). In 1863 at the beginning of the Land Wars the Maaori of the area departed for the Waikato and the Mission closed down. Maaori settlements at Maangere were burnt and pillaged after their departure.

The old Mission site was purchased by the Ellett family in 1872, while other Maaori land in Ihumatao, including the land in the proposed reserve, was a part of the confiscation after the wars. One estimate is that 440 ha in Ihumatao were confiscated.

Thus the Otuataua fields were part of a densely settled and cultivated area, from early prehistoric times until the late 19th century, a key region in the history of Auckland and the wider region.

Ihumatao is apparently unique among the Auckland stonefields in having extensive surviving evidence for post-1840 Maaori occupation in the later 19th century. This is a very important area for preservation; its archaeological features, and the memories of the Waiohua descendants who still live next to it at Oruarangi, together are the representatives of the history of a numerous and powerful tribe.


Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description

The following information is based on the Statement of Evidence by Susan Evelyn Bulmer prepared in relation to 'In the Matter of the Town and Country' Planning Act 1977 on 19 July 1990, that was appended to HP290/1991 considered by the Maori Heritage Committee 24 October 1991.

Please note: NZHPT does not normally use the double 'a' or double 'u' that some people use when spelling Maori words, but the following report by S E Bulmer does and we have left it as is.


The Otuataua fields have not yet been properly mapped archaeologically, except for part of the Wilkins & Davies Ltd quarry area. Many individual features were, however, recorded by Student Community Service workers employed by the NZ Historic Places Trust during the summers of 1978-9 and 1979-80. Since then archaeologists have been refused access by the landowners, except for the mapping of the quarry area already mentioned. An overall sketch map of some of the more conspicuous features has been done without field inspection, with the use of aerial photographs, but extensive surveying will be needed in future to properly map and understand the complex surface evidence.

There used to be 24 volcanic fields surrounding the cone pa of Taamaki Makaurau; now Otuataua is the only one of significant size and in good condition. Although parts of a few fields in South Auckland - Wiri, East Taamaki, and a small area at Crater Hill - have been archaeologically investigated, most have not. It has not been possible to preserve them in the path of industrial and urban development. As well, it has only been possible to excavate a small sample of the significant features in advance of their destruction. Therefore, the history of most of the stonefields has disappeared without record.

The preservation of an example of a total field is important because there are a variety of zones within the volcanic fields, each with contrasting soils, topography, and other resources. The different zones typically contained different kinds of archaeological features, and together they make up the garden and settlement landscape of the community the fields supported. Some supported village sites, others individual houses with interspersed gardens, others had wet terrace and mound gardens in natural swamps, and many others.

The fields contain a large number and variety of archaeological features, many of which are made of rock and therefore highly visible. Otuataua is unusual in having been explored in the 1960s by an amateur archaeologist, A. Taylor, who lived nearby and collected artefacts and wrote about many of his field observations (see References). There has, however, never been an archaeological excavation at Otuataua.

Otuataua is also unique in having a well preserved intensively occupied early historic (18th and 19th century) landscape. Of the three named Maaori villages in the area in the 1840s to 60s referred to above, two are in the Otuataua field. Of special interest also are the early historic gardens that would have included introduced crops and methods as well as the traditional ones.

The Otuataua fields were also probably lived on for many hundreds of years earlier as well. The sites of the relatively recent villages are superimposed on or have replaced earlier prehistoric features. Among the more unusual early archaeological features still remaining are stone walled houses, examples of which have been dated at Matukurua to the 16th century (Bulmer 1987).

Otuataua is truly a remarkable landscape, a national treasure that should be preserved and looked after carefully.

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Information Sources

Auckland Institute & Museum

Auckland Institute & Museum

D R Simmons 1980. George Grahma's Maori Place Names of Auckland. Records of the Auckland Institute and Museum. 16:11-39.

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

J Macdonald & S Bulmer 1981. Archaeological sites of west Manukau City. NZ Historic Places Trust, Auckland 1981/5.

V Rickard, D Veart and S Bulmer 1983. A review of Archaeological Stone Structures of South Auckland. NZHPT Auckland 1983/4.

Journal of the Polynesian Society

Journal of the Polynesian Society

F G Fairfield, 1938: Puketutu pa on Weeke's Island, Manukau Harbour, 47 (187): 119-28

School of Architecture Library

School of Architecture Library, Auckland

A Sullivan 1975a. Slope gardens at Wiri Mt., Manurewa. Working papers in Anthropology No. 31 Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland.

Fenton, 1979

F D Fenton, Important Judgements Delivered in the Native Land Court, 1866-1879, Auckland, 1979

Searle, 1981

E J Searle 1981. City of Volcanoes. A geology of Auckland (Revised edition). Auckland , Longman Paul.

Tonson, 1966

A E Tonson, Old Manukau. Auckland, Tonson Publishing Co., 1966

Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria University of Wellington

Maori occupation of the Otahuhu District up to 1840. Dept. of Maori. Wellington, Maori Department, Victoria University. Reissued NZ Historic Places Trust, Auckland 1986.

Other Information

A copy of the original report is available from the NZHPT Northern region 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.