History in the making at proposed Expressway site


The Kapiti public will have a unique opportunity this Sunday to have an up close and personal look at history being unearthed at Nga Manu for the proposed MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway.

The MacKays to Peka Peka Alliance, who are carrying out the work on behalf of the NZ Transport Agency, will be holding an archaeology open day on Sunday 20 October, 11.30am – 3pm at an archaeological site at Nga Manu Bird Sanctuary on Ngarara Rd where people can learn more about the archaeology of the region and have a close up look at some of the artefacts that the team have discovered.

The project team have been working with a group of archaeologists and local iwi to examine this historic area as part of preparatory work ahead of construction for the proposed Expressway. Transport Agency Wellington state highways manager Rod James says the team have already uncovered several artefacts that provide a rich source of information about the history of local area.

“The Expressway passes through 16km of land that has been undeveloped for the past 50-years so the recent discoveries have uncovered important findings about past activity along the Kapiti Coast. We have located a number of middens, which essentially are rubbish heaps, typically containing shells along with fish, rat and bird bones”, he says.

Other artefacts that have been discovered so far include:

  • two small adzes (used to carve wood) made of argillite from the Nelson area dating from approximately 700 years ago. They are in good condition and the precise age is still being determined
  • stone flakes which were either used as small cutting tools, or are waste pieces that have been chipped off bigger pieces
  • obsidian - volcanic glass, used as cutting tools
  • hollowed out piece of pumice (used to keep embers glowing for fire lighting or as pigment containers)

“This is an exciting opportunity to learn more about this area’s rich history and preserve significant findings for current and future generations to learn from,” says Mr James.

“The interesting thing about these items is that none were made from materials found locally on the Kapiti Coast - this means that the materials must have been brought to the region from elsewhere in New Zealand, suggesting trade routes existed for food and goods.

“No human remains have been found and no evidence of settlements exists at the sites of these discoveries, suggesting these sites were used by a small number of families for a short period of time”,

All artefacts have been taken back to Otago University for analysis, cataloguing and photographing, and will then be registered with the Ministry of Culture and Heritage (a legal requirement), before being returned to iwi. Local iwi have been monitoring the archaeology work since the start of the project, and the Historic Places Trust have been closely involved with the excavation work.

Archaeologists will continue to work closely with the construction crews to record any sites that turn up during the construction phase. The archaeological work currently underway forms part of the Expressway's enabling (preparatory) works. A date is yet to be set for the formal start of construction.

The M2PP Expressway is one of a number of projects that make up the Wellington Northern Corridor (Levin to Wellington), one New Zealand’s seven Roads of National Significance introduced by the Government to move people and fright around the country more safely and efficiently.

For more information on the project or queries about the open day, people can visit www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/mackays-to-peka-peka