A hapu leader wants the realignment of the road towards Normanby overbridge redesigned or halted completely if urupa or other significant tapu elements are discovered.
The road is in the process of being realigned to meet up with the Normanby overbridge – a notorious accident hotspot – which will be replaced. A pa, or Maori fortified village, has possibly being discovered during the roadworks.
Araukuuku hapu chair Clive Tongaawhikau said it was looking very likely it was Ketemarae that had been unearthed.
“The project is on the border of where our ancient pa site was and so when they said they had found palisades there, well straight away I’m thinking there’s other things in the ground.”
Mr Tongaawhikau’s ancestors would put things into the swamp, or bury artefacts in the swamp at times, such as when they were invaded.
A pa is a fortified village, and Ketemarae was a four palisade pa at the centre of a wealthy village. It was overrun in 1886 by 600 men General Chute had assembled to clear rebellious Maori from Taranaki – the last campaign by imperial troops in the country.
The New Zealand Transport Agency had been keeping the hapu up to date with developments during the project, Mr Tongaawhikau said.
“They’ve found remnants of old papakaianga (housing) along the way and old things just up and down the place you know, old houses and things. And how old they are I don’t know but they have to let us know.
“And when I see some of our old sketchings of what was there it doesn’t surprise me that they have found palisades there to be honest.”
Ketemarae was still dear to the hearts of his people.
“One of the whare tipuna (ancestral houses) that’s sitting on our marae which is just up the road, that comes from Ketemarae and in actual fact a lot of our old people still call our marae, Ngarongo, Ketemarae because of the mana of that particular whare tipuna.”
If the archaeological find involved something significant Mr Tongaawhikau said he would want roadworks halted.
The transport agency, Heritage New Zealand and other interested parties will meet at Ngarongo Marae tomorrow to discuss the possible discovery.
It was important archaeologists had access to excavate, examine and record what is underneath the roadworks, Mr Tongaawhikau said.
Heritage New Zealand issued the archaeological authority for the roadworks.
Central region manager Claire Craig said it had been kept in the loop over developments.
“We have had an archaeologist head out on site to have a preliminary look at the situation out there and her recommendation is there needs to be a little more testing to identify the extent of this and get an idea of what the site actually is.”
Ms Craig did not foresee the realignment of State Highway 3 being derailed.
“I don’t see that that is a likely outcome of the situation in hand at the moment but as I say we have so little knowledge about the extent of the site at this point it really wouldn’t be wise to speculate on that.”
The transport agency’s regional highways manager David McGonigal said it had strict protocols around what to do when items were discovered, and it was working with local Maori to get it right.
It was not unusual to make archaeological discoveries on major roading projects, particularly in areas with a cultural heritage like Taranaki, Mr McGonigal said.
“Such discoveries are always exciting, as they help to reveal more about a region’s history and how its people lived.”
Work on the Normanby overbridge realignment was continuing, but not in the area of the archaeological find.