Road workers uncover 10-metre-long waka

Road workers have uncovered what‘s thought to be parts of a waka on a motorway project north of Auckland.

The object that’s believed to be a partially complete waka is under wraps at the Ōkahu inlet on the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway project. Photo: NZTA

The discovery was made on 16 April while road workers were excavating near Ōkahu inlet north of the Johnstone‘s Hill Tunnel on State Highway 1.

The waka is thought to be 10 metres long and is still connected to the trunk of a kauri tree, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) said.

“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,” NZTA‘s Chris Hunt said.

The waka is thought to be 10 metres long and is still connected to the trunk of a kauri tree. Photo: NZTA

Mr Hunt said all Transport Agency contractors were trained in anticipation of a taonga find like this, and work ceased immediately under the Transport Agency‘s Accidental Discovery Protocol.

“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.”

Mr Hunt said the immediate objective was to secure the discovery and decide , as the wood would deteriorate in with the atmosphere.

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

Crown/Māori Relations Minster Kelvin Davis welcomed the discovery as 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. It reinforces traditional kōrero around the use of resources including waka forests, where particular trees were identified and nurtured for waka construction.”

NZTA is working with Hōkai Nuku and an archaeologist to find out the waka‘s age and origin.