The New Zealand Transport Agency has uncovered an unfinished waka during excavation work on a Pūhoi motorway site.
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Staff working on the Ara Tūhono Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway project found the 10m-long waka on April 16 near the Ōkahu inlet, north of the Johnstone's Hill Tunnel on State Highway 1.
Crown-Māori Relations Minster Kelvin Davis says it is an exciting and significant discovery.
"This will grow our understanding of where and how waka were made. It reinforces traditional korero around the use of resources including waka forests, where particular trees were identified and nurtured for waka construction."
A digger hit something under the surface of the inlet, and workers carefully removed the surrounding mud to expose the rest of the object, said NZTA senior manager project delivery Chris Hunt.
It is believed to be an unfinished waka that is still connected to the trunk of a kauri tree.
The contractors stopped work immediately, said Mr Hunt, as protocol dictates.
"We will treat the site with the utmost care and respect to ensure the correct cultural practice is carried out."
Mr Hunt says the next step is to secure the waka and figure out how to preserve it in partnership with iwi partners Hōkai Nuku and Heritage New Zealand.
It's not yet known how old the waka is or who built it.