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Expressway works bringing Kapiti Coast’s hidden history to life

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Over 200 new archaeological sites uncovered as part of the Mackays to Peka Peka (M2PP) Expressway works are providing fascinating insights into the Kāpiti Coast’s history.

The M2PP Expressway works have made way for the first large scale archaeological project on the Kāpiti Coast and the findings are proving that small things tell big stories.

M2PP Archaeologist Mary O’Keeffe has been both surprised and excited by what she’s found in the ‘big picture’ phase of the project.

“The expressway route is like an archaeological ‘test trench’. Every time a machine dug into the ground, I’d be there alongside our Iwi Monitor Danny Mullen to keep an eye out for any sign of archaeological sites. If we spotted something of interest, work would stop and we’d investigate, taking our time to respect the history of the area, take samples, and then work would continue. We’ve tested different types of environments along the coast, from sand dunes to river flood plains,” Ms O’Keefe says.

“What we’ve found is telling us a fascinating story that we’ve never been privy to before. The coastal dunes appear to be the ‘fish and meat aisle of the supermarket.’ It seems people came to the coast to get the rich coastal resources, but didn’t settle permanently – this is demonstrated by the fact we’ve found no evidence of gardening in any of the sites along the route.”

“Now that most of the earthworks on the project are complete, we’ve got the big picture story – where people were travelling and trading on the coast and why. Now we’re moving into the small picture phase where we take the samples we’ve found and process them to get the nitty gritty details, like what people were eating, how much, and what types of species were around,” Ms O’Keefe says.

The M2PP team have recently released a four-minute video about the findings so far, and once the expressway project is complete, an archaeological report will be produced, alongside a series of published resources sharing the full story. To view the video, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKhkSZrMlXE(external link)

The Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway(external link) is a $630 million NZ Transport Agency project to build 18km of four-lane expressway along the Kāpiti Coast, including 18 bridges. It will improve road safety, reduce travel times and take freight traffic off local roads. 

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