One of the reasons for the delay in constructing the new roundabout on the Te Puke Highway/Welcome Bay Road intersection was the discovery of the remains of a Maori village or Kainga during earthworks.
The finds weren't a complete surprise, as the area was previously identified as one of archaeological significance for tangata whenua.
“When the finds were made work was stopped immediately and the agreed cultural protocols were enacted with local hapu,” says NZ Transport Agency Project Manager, Wayne Troughton.
More than 300 archaeological features were identified during the works including postholes, large hangi pits, hangi stone cache and kumara pits.
Taken together, the recorded features and material imply that the site was occupied by a large group of people and was likely the remnant of a Maori village or small settlement, otherwise known as a kainga.
Obsidian flakes were also found.
Many postholes were structurally aligned and could be floors belonging to whare. In total, four adjacent whare were excavated and further postholes located in the southern end of the site formed a large structure.
The kainga dates from 1600-1800 with some finds being from the earlier period and other features added over time. These types of finds are common across New Zealand.
Numerous pits were located of varying sizes and most were identified as crop storage pits, most likely for kumara, while several smaller bin pits may have been utilised for storing other items.
Several large hangi pits were also excavated which displayed a large amount of fire reddening on the base and sides as well as concentrated deposits of charcoal and fire cracked rocks.
Obsidian pieces retrieved from the pit infills include complete flakes as well as angular fragments, all of which appear to have been sourced from Mayor Island (Tuhua), says Wayne.
“Obsidian may indicate that artefact manufacturing was taking place at the site, although it could also be utilised as cutting and scraping implements for food processing or working with plant and fibre material.”
Tuhua obsidian was widely used and is found across New Zealand.
The finds were excavated and documented by the archaeologist and the local hapu cultural monitor. Once the documentation was completed the objects are removed from site by the archaeologist and construction activities resumed.
Traffic will be switched to the new road over the next couple of months.
The next step in the roundabout project is to move traffic on to the newly constructed road, says Wayne.
“This will enable re-construction works on the existing road. This traffic switch will occur from August till October.
“The project is now scheduled to be complete later this year because of delays due to the archaeological find, wet weather and challenging ground conditions.”
The roundabout will remove the t-intersection and improve safety for people using Te Puke Highway and Welcome Bay Road.
Construction of the roundabout is part of the $15 million revocation package, agreed once ownership of the road was handed to Western Bay of Plenty District Council on opening of the Tauranga Eastern Link.
The package included a range of improvement and maintenance works to the Te Puke Highway; safety improvements like wide centre lines, resealing, and improvements in Waitangi and the Te Puke main street.