Hangi pits discovery helps playcentre celebrate Māori heritage

5:56 pm on 17 March 2023

By David Hill, Local Democracy reporter

Kaikōura Playcentre children

Two little whare, for the tamariki to play in, and a firepit adorn the site, and a mural has been painted on the wall. Photo: Supplied / Kaikōura Playcentre

An archaeological site has been brought to life at the Kaikōura Playcentre.

When the former Kaikōura Primary School dental clinic building was demolished and the site excavated five years ago, some old hangi pits were unearthed.

The playcentre was already in the process of moving into some old classrooms and decided to incorporate the site's heritage into its landscaping, session facilitator Jackie Wadsworth said.

She said tamariki were presented with a little greenstone adze when they headed off to school, so it was fitting an old greenstone adze was unearthed during the excavation.

Now two little whare, for the tamariki to play in, and a firepit adorn the site, and a mural has been painted on the wall.

Wadsworth said the playcentre planned to use the firepit for family nights and sausage sizzles.

She said the playcentre was planning an official opening for the new site soon.

''It has been a long time coming. It has been a project over more than 10 years.

''Over that time we have been fundraising and planning and there has been delays and hiccups and we have been consulting with different experts and iwi representatives.

''There has been so many people in the town who have been involved, including former playcentre families. It is going to be a big community opening.''

Rawiri Manawatu from Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura offered advice during the project on the heritage of the area.

The project was also supported by the Kaikōura Lions and the Kaikōura District Council, while local businesses and volunteers had pitched in.

Wadsworth said the playcentre was open three days a week, with around 50 children attending the weekly sessions.

Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura chairperson Hariata Kahu said a large number of archaeological sites had been found in the area.

Archaeological findings had confirmed a Ngāti Kurī presence in Kaikōura going back more than 700 years, but recent discoveries suggested settlement as early as 1000 years ago, she said.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air