Pa Sites at the Gateway to Manukau

As you drive along Puhinui Road from the airport towards Papatoetoe and Manukau City Centre, you’ll pass some of Papatoetoe’s oldest historic places.

These are pa sites that today guard this gateway to Manukau. The major site here is the Papatoetoe Pa (NZAA reference number: R11/59).  The pa was formed on a headland near the upper reaches of the Waokauri Creek, where it controlled the Papatoetoe portage. Papatoetoe Pa was protected on its landward side by a ditch and bank originally about 50 metres long. The pa was about 105 metres in length, 60 metres wide at its broadest point; reducing to 25 metres wide at its tip.

Ref: Map showing the headland pa (R11/59), Cultural Heritage Iventory (CHI), Auckland Council GIS Viewer. Please note the data shown in the map provides a rough guide to the site only

 The photo below looks down at a branch of the Waokauri Creek from the pa entrenchment.

Ref: Footprints 01427, Papatoetoe Pa, 1948, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Papatoetoe Historical Society, South Auckland Research Centre
This photo below shows the ditch or entrenchment at the Papatoetoe Pa.

Ref: Footprints 01427, ditch at the Papatoetoe Pa, 1948, photograph reproduced by courtesy of Papatoetoe Historical Society, South Auckland Research Centre

Both of these photos were taken in 1948.  Today the remains of Papatoetoe Pa lie adjacent to the Papatoetoe cemetery; now part of the Manukau Garden of Memories. 

There was another pa was on a small headland opposite Auckland Airport.  Today this headland is called Chapel Point.  The headland marks the junction of the Waokauri and Pukaki Creeks.  The pa’s archaeology reveals that after the first occupants left, it stood empty for a long time before being reoccupied.  This sequence is common to recurring periods of unrest and warfare.

There was another pa site where Self’s Quarry is located today.  Archaeologists think this would have been a small defensive terraced pa on a volcanic cone.  This pa was the centre of a large complex of sites.  Over the whole area between the two main branches of the Waokauri Creek there is evidence of middens, terraces, scoria-faced platforms, pits rock shelters, gardens and other habitation sites.  The pa complex may have been occupied over an extended period.

In New Zealand it is illegal to damage or modify an archaeological site without prior consent from Heritage New Zealand. All archaeological sites are recording as part of the New Zealand Archaeological Association's (NZAA) site recording scheme. This is important because it helps us protect these valuable heritage sites and the historical evidence that they represent.

Author: Christopher Paxton, South Auckland Research Centre