Pukekiwiriki Pā Historic Reserve

During the Auckland Heritage Festival 2020 we've been sharing hidden histories of Auckland places written by Auckland Council Heritage Unit staff. Myfanwy Eaves is a Senior Specialist Archaeology and has been working with mana whenua and the Papakura Local Board on a project to improve access to Pukekiwiriki Pā.

Image: Myfanwy Eaves. View from east to Pukekiwiriki Pā, September 2020.

Pukekiwiriki Pā has recently seen some improvements in access and these are open to all from September 2020. Mana whenua have strong cultural, traditional, and historic links with Pukekiwiriki Pā, its associated harbour, wetlands and inland waterways, including rivers, streams and springs.

There is a long occupation history for Māori in Tāmaki Makaurau where cultural heritage sites were the places and settlements of ancestors. Pukekiwiriki Pā is one such significant site. The pā is a taonga that is significant and closely linked to the identities of the mana whenua. Pukekiwiriki Pā is co‐governed with six mana whenua groups and the Papakura Local Board, as the Pukekiwiriki Pā Joint Committee.

Image: Ernest Clarke. Pukekiwiriki Pā, about 1970. Courtesy of Papakura Museum.

The Joint Committee, as joint decision makers, have worked together to pursue protection and enhancement of this place but also to improve access for visitors. Now a new staircase and improved track allows visitors to access this important and sensitive cultural heritage place. In return, we ask you remember this place is a significant heritage place and is not where eating or drinking should occur. We also remind you the pā is a council park, accessible to the public and protected from inappropriate activities, to ensure protection and continued enjoyment for all generations now and in the future. Any type of digging or planting, including metal detecting is absolutely not permitted. 

The strategic advantages of this site are documented by Māori; this place was a battlefield well before Europeans and muskets and the physical evidence is earth defences (a ditch and raised earth bank) as well as many storage pits. 

Image: Ernest Clarke. Pukekiwiriki Pā east side, about 1970. Courtesy of Papakura Museum.

This reserve can be accessed from a small carpark on the south side of Pukekiwiriki, the ‘Red Hill’. From the Papakura motorway interchange follow Settlement Road to Dominion Road, then turn left to follow Red Hill road and climb the hill until you reach bush on the left (Red Hill Scenic Reserve is on the south side of the road) and the road narrows to a single lane. The small parking area will soon have signage providing a full site history, however at this time it is still being prepared. Regenerating bush surrounds the newly stabilised track which leads to the new access stairs to the summit; please be careful at the summit because three sides are precipitous!

Image: Myfanwy Eaves. Pukekiwiriki Pā, September 2020.

Pukekiwiriki sits on top of a volcanic tuff and breccia outcrop which itself is on top of a tilted block of Waitematā series bedrock made up of sand and siltstones which were laid down about 25 million years ago. The Waitematā rock sits on older greywacke rock formed in the late Triassic period (about 200 million years ago) and was raised and faulted between 130 and 65 million years ago. The faulted block was in strong contrast to the sedimentary flats (forest and swamps) of Papakura.

The surrounding landscape is mantled with tuff and pyroclastic breccias (conglomerates) which were welded together in layers and are still visible on Pukekiwiriki. Evidence of this is found in mudstone and sandstone clasts within the welded tuff. Other rock in the tuff layers on Pukekiwiriki includes siltstone and greywacke along with basalt which is mixed with the fine-grained tuff (ash).

Image: Ernest Clarke. Pukekiwiriki Pā south and east side, about 1970. Courtesy of Papakura Museum.

Pukekiwiriki is the remainder of a much larger extensive tuff deposit. The promontory therefore is highly significant geologically as the only geological evidence of the activity of the red hill centre. The top of the pā is covered with about 1.5-2.0m of volcanic soils, being stiff sandy and clayey silts of only moderate strength. 

Due to the significance of Pukekiwiriki, there are no public facilities - this is a place for quiet reflection. The nearest public facilities are at Ken Down’s Park on Dominion Road. Nearby are the Children’s Forest, Margan Bush, Red Hill Scenic Reserve, all open spaces that can be explored!

Author: Myfanwy Eaves

Myfanwy Eaves is a Senior Specialist Archaeology in the Auckland Council Heritage Unit and has been working on this project in Papakura with mana whenua and Papakura Local Board.