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Trench find highlights strategic value of Matapihi
Credit: NZTA

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A Ngati Tapu representative says the discovery of a defensive trench beside a Tauranga motorway casts new light on oral histories of the area.

Work on widening the motorway at Matapihi and installing a median barrier has stopped while the trench and surrounding area are excavated and recorded by Heritage new Zealand archaeologists.

Puhirake Ihaka says signs of the trench were spotted by monitors from the hapu, and the New Zealand Transport Agency and contractors acted quickly to call in the archaeologists.

He says the trench was probably built during the musket wars of the early 19th century to protect a weak point between the three pa in the area, and formed part of a string of defensive positions along the harbour.

"It tells us our tupuna were protective of their whenua in that area. We know orally there was a time pre-European when many other iwi from inland and down the coast and tried to occupy our whenua, so it feels very important," Mr Ihaka says.

Once the find is recorded and covered over, the hapu hope to put up information boards and or some other way to acknowledge the history of the site.

FULL INTERVIEW WITH PUHIRAKE IHAKA

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