Possible ‘partially complete’ waka discovered

By Leo Horgan

What is believed to be a partially finished waka has been uncovered during excavation work on the Ara Tūhono Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway project.

The discovery of the waka, which is about 10 metres long, was made on April 16 near the Ōkahu inlet on State Highway 1.

Crown/Māori Relations Minster, Kelvin Davis says the discovery represents an exciting insight into the rich cultural past of the area.

“This is a significant discovery that will grow our understanding of where and how waka were made,” says Davis, “It reinforces traditional korero around the use of resources including waka forests, where particular trees were identified and nurtured for waka construction”.

The discovery was made during piling work for a viaduct on the new motorway. 

The Transport Agency’s Senior Manager Project Delivery Chris Hunt says, “A digger identified a wooden object under the surface of the inlet. The mud around the object was carefully removed exposing a large rectangular wooden object that extended across the excavation”.

It is believed the object may be a waka which is still connected to the trunk of a Kauri tree.  In total, the waka and tree trunk are about 17 metres long.

On discovery of the taonga, the project’s environmental manager and onsite archaeologist were notified along with iwi partners Hōkai Nuku.

“It’s an amazing discovery and the Transport Agency has strict protocols for when unidentified artefacts are uncovered. We will treat the site with the utmost care and respect to ensure the correct cultural practice is carried out,” says Hunt.

The age of the waka, who it belonged to and the reason for it's unfinished state unfinished state is yet to be discovered.

According to Hunt, the immediate objective is to protect the waka and decide how to preserve it as the wood will deteriorate in contact with the atmosphere.

It’s expected the object will be lifted into a storage container and taken to a new site under the close supervision of Hōkai Nuku and Heritage New Zealand to be examined more closely and preserved.