Log’s waka credentials looking a little shaky

Locals are questioning the discovery of a partly constructed waka in Puhoi.

Archaeologists might be paddling up the wrong river in their claim that an artefact found on the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway construction site is a partly completed waka.

Transport Agency’s senior manager of project delivery, Chris Hunt, says the discovery was made during piling work for a viaduct on the new motorway, near Billings Road, south of Puhoi, in mid-April.

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.

Clough and Associates archaeologist Dr Sarah Phear confirmed it to be a partially completed waka, but some local residents are not convinced.

Their theory is that it could be nothing more than a rimu log from the days when timber workers would send them down the river.

If this is the case, then it is likely to have the West brand somewhere on it and be shaped at one end with a notch for towing it. If it is a West log, then it would be around 150 years old.

However, a NZ Transport Agency spokesperson says the shape of the object is consistent with a waka.

“The stern has been shaped and the trunk hollowed out,” he says.

Even so, he has not ruled out the possibility that it could be something other than a waka.

“We won’t know for sure until the object is completely removed from the site and examined.

“The tidal location is proving a challenge to removing the object from the site and it could be sometime before a definitive identification can be made.”

At an earlier media conference, Dr Phear said that no markings had yet been discovered on the wood.
Puhoi Heritage Museum coordinator Jenny Schollum says that in her opinion, it is more likely to be a waka than a log.

She says Maori were present in the area until the 1880s. They then shifted to the west coast and possibly abandoned the waka before completion.

She adds that logs were usually more refined than what was discovered so they could be sent down the river with little resistance.

Dr Phear did not wish to make any further comment at this stage.


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