Tauwhareparae Road, Tolaga Bay

  • Pits. Looking west over pits -Y17/167.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 16/11/2007.
  • Pits.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Joanna Wylie. Date: 16/11/2007.
  • Pits. 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 6545 Date Entered 25th September 1986 Date of Effect 25th September 1986


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 2874, Gisborne Land District and the archaeological site Y17/167 (New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Record Number).

City/District Council

Gisborne District


Gisborne Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 2874 (GS5D/1165), Gisborne Land District


New Zealand Archaeological Association Site Record Number Y17/167 is a pit site that forms part of the dense archaeological landscape of the Tolaga Bay (Uawa) area. It is located approximately 1.1 kilometres to the southwest of the Tauwhareparae Road/ Mangaheia Road intersection, to the east 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 Y17/167.

Pit site Y17/167 is located under pasture on a northwest-running ridgeline very near to the boundary between the property of M and N Story and Mangaheia Station. A farm track runs along the southern side of the ridgeline, and there is a fence line to the north. A block of vegetation included species such as bluegums and manuka is located to the northwest of the site. Ratau pa (Y17/178) is located immediately to the south-east, and a number of other archaeological sites can be found in the surrounding area.

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 a series of pits (some with raised rims) along the ridgeline, with a further three pits located on a 'subsidiary terrace' to the south-west. He completed a sketch plan of the site, which reveals that the pits were all quite large in size, including one measuring 6 metres x 2 metres x 1 metre (depth).

Pit site Y17/167 was revisited in 1997 by archaeologist Gordon Jackman, as part of his heritage study of Te Aitanga a Hauiti lands at Tolaga Bay. Jackman stated that the site comprised 'an impressive set of 10 pits', and noted that it had not been subject to any significant change since its initial recording in 1982. No major changes to the site were observed during a New Zealand Historic Places Trust site visit in November 2007. The pits were all clearly visible and in good condition.

Y17/167 is one of numerous pit and pit/terrace sites recorded in the Tolaga Bay area, and is of particular note as a well-preserved example of a large pit complex. It is also 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

8th 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 Z17/167.

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.