Maori & Early European Historic Site Opens
15 January 2001
MAORI & EARLY EUROPEAN HISTORIC SITE OPENS
Manukau City Council will officially open the 100 hectare Otuataua Stonefields early next month – one of the Region’s most important cultural and archaeological sites that traces the lives of early Maori and European settlement in New Zealand.
The Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve will officially be opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark on Saturday 10th February 2001. A powhiri will be held at Makaurau Marae in Mangere at 9.30 am followed by an official ceremony at the Otuataua Stonefields at 10.30 am. A commemorative brochure has been produced to mark the opening and will be available during the opening weekend. Guided tours of three available walks – a historical walk, a geographical walk and a botanical walk, will ensure visitors are fully informed about the manmade artefacts and natural resources around the site.
The Council bought the Stonefields in 1999, with financial assistance from the Department of Conservation, the Lottery Grants Board and the Auckland Regional Council. The stonefields represent a very small fraction of the once extensive stonefield gardens found throughout the Tamaki Makaurau Region. Council purchased the Stonefields in order to preserve the unique characteristics of the site.
Director of Environmental Management, Leigh Auton, says the Otuataua Stonefields are a heritage item of international, national and regional significance and their preservation is a remarkable achievement for the public agencies involved.
“It’s exciting to participate in a project that involves protecting the City and the Region’s treasures. The Stonefields are the last of their kind in an urban environment. They can provide us with a history we can see for ourselves.
“A wonderful aspect of the Otuataua Stonefields is not only its’ heritage significance, but that it’s part of quite a magnificent network of open space. This extends from Mangere Mountain, Ambury Regional Farm Park, the proposed rehabilitation of the foreshore at the Mangere Waste Treatment Plant through to the Stonefields,” says Mr Auton.
All but 160 of 8000 hectares remain of the original stonefields in the Auckland region after the rock resource was utilised for Auckland’s urban development. The 100-hectare purchase by Manukau City Council represents over sixty percent of what little is left.
The Crown had made previous attempts to purchase the Stonefields in the early 1990’s but negotiations with the five landowners fell through. Leigh Auton says Manukau City Council was successful in its bid to buy the land after receiving strong support from the former Minister of Conservation, Dr Nick Smith. Mr Auton extends his appreciation to the landowners for their role as ‘custodians’ as well as their ongoing support during and after the purchase of their land by the Council.
The Otuataua Stonefields were an important area of Maori agricultural settlement over the last 800 years but became abandoned during the 19th century. 800 year-old stone formations including house sites, storage pits, cooking shelters, terraces, garden plots and garden walls can be viewed at the site. The garden plots used for growing kumara, yams, hue (bottle gourd) and taro were specially designed to absorb warmth from the sun, giving plants an extra month of growing potential.
Remnants of an early pa site are still situated on the Otuataua cone while descendants of the Stonefields' original residents are still living at the nearby Makaurau Marae. Pakeha settled in and around the Stonefields from the 1840s and many of their descendants still live in the area.
Environmental Services and Management
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