Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Part 2 of The disappearing maunga of Ihumātao

 Click here for part 1, read on for part 2 of the disappearing maunga of  Ihumātao.......



Like all of the main volcanic features in this area, Otuataua was an important historic pa site, and has also been referred to as Ihumatao Pa. It consisted of an approximately 60m high scoria cone, flanked on the south side by ash deposits, while towards the coast lava flows containing caves extended towards the shores of the Manukau. Lava caves were important burial sites, and the ash and scoria mantled flats were important gardening areas. The European name of "Quarry Hill" given to Otuataua by the 1930s meant the fate of this spectacular terraced scoria cone was no doubt seen as inevitable.

What remains of Otuataua is a hollow resembling a crater surrounded by the truncated slopes of the maunga, with the remains of some terracing and shell midden deposits visible in the highly worked soil. Both Otuatau and Pukeiti and some of their surrounding geological and archaeological features have been incorporated into the OSHR. However, the area immediately adjacent to the maunga within the reserve has also been subject to quarrying, in the process destroying the historic remains of a considerable papakaianga (village). Lava caves were used as dumping sites by farmers, and have been closed off by grills to discourage dumping and public access. For now, further damage directly to the cone and its associated features has been halted, but further damage to the integrity of the landscape is inevitable should the housing development on the northern lower slopes of Otuataua outside the boundaries of the reserve go ahead.

circa 1896 view from Waitomokia across swamp to Otuataua (Ihumatao Pa) on right and Maungataketake on left. This is believed to be the only complete profile of Otuataua prior to quarrying,  clearly showing earthworks such as the ring terrace halfway up the slopes. Detail from "Digital facsimile of  'Index to Negatives of Auckland pas and Surroundings taken by Hugh Boscawen 1899'". Source: Ian Lawlor (2013).

1937 view of Otuataua from the South (across clear paddocks
in photograph below). Referred to here as "Quarry Hill" damage 
to the interior is visible. Circular terrace is still visible on outer
slopes. Source: C.W. Firth (1937). Geology of the North-West
portion of the Manukau County, Auckland. Retrieved from:
National Library of NZ (2017).

1964 aerial view over Otuataua, showing the destruction of the 
64 metre high cone well advanced as it was quarried for local projects. 
In the bottom left of photograph are pit and terrace earthworks 
(removed by subsequent quarrying). In the bottom right is a typical
 'mound' garden, preserved in the OSHR.The small saucer shaped cone
 to the left is Pukeiti. The clear paddocks seen in top right are the site of the 
proposed housing development. Source: Whites Aviation (1964). Retrieved
from: National Library of NZ (2018).

The truncated remains of Otuataua (originally over 60 metres high) viewed
from the OSHR. Outcrops of scoria exposed by quarrying are
visible on the lower slopes. Source: Author (2016).

All that remains of Otuataua after quarrying ceased in 2001.Remnants 
of quarrying are visible above and to the left, while lava flows extending
to the coast can be seen. In this area are also extensive stoneworks
and stone garden systems. These are all within the boundary of the 
OSHR. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from: (2017).

Puketaapapatanga a Hape "The flat resting place of Hape", or Pukeiti "the little hill".
Both the names in common usage for this maunga, Pukeiti and Puketaapapa, speak to the geological nature of this feature, and the spiritual importance of the maunga for local iwi and hapu. According to legend this is where Hape (Tāmaki-Makaurau's founding ancestor) first rested after ariving in Aotearoa on the back of a stingray, before the arrival of the waka he had been forbidden from riding in. The saucer shaped crater, as opposed to the more steep-sloped and deep craters typical of scoria cones certainly suggest a resting place with a panoramic view over the harbour and surrounding land. The cone is now incorporated into the OSHR, and the summit and crater are considered tapu, because of the importance of this maunga in the foundation story of the people that came to populate this area.

Pukeiti, or "little hill", is an equally appropriate name for the maunga, as it is the smallest volcanic cone in the AVF. Also unusual is the style of eruption forming this feature. Unlike a vent erupting highly gaseous lava through a process known as fire-fountaining which produces familiar steep-sided scoria cones, this appears to have been a small vent splattering lava with very little gas content, thereby forming the small distinctly shaped cone. Some lava flows also erupted from Pukeiti, which can be seen in the OSHR where they form the hummocky topography between the maunga and the foreshore. Lava caves are also a feature, and they were widely utilised as burial chambers, or places of refuge during warfare. Where part of the cone has been removed, one can see outcrops of slaggy globular basalt welded together to form the cone.

Quarrying commenced in the late 1920's, and has removed approximately half of the cone, but left the crater and many associated features intact. These have been incorporated into the OSHR. However, one significant cave colloquially known as "rubbish cave" due to its use as a rubbish dump as part of farm activities, remains outside of the boundaries of the reserve, and is part of the block of land proposed as the site for the housing development. While the upper slopes of the maunga are protected within the OSHR, the northern lower slopes could be lost beneath a high density housing development, and the integral connection between this sacred maunga and the people who whakapapa to it disturbed. In addition, it is presently unknown what may lie beneath the ground, but given the connection of this block of land to nearby pa, it would be reasonable to suggest it was well utilised, and midden have been found in the area confirming this. In addition, it could be argued that while this is one of the most relatively intact volcanic features remaining in the area, disfiguring its lower slopes with housing is an action that belongs in a past when it was considered acceptable to see them as nothing more than an economic resource of construction materials.

circa 1896 view from Otuataua across the small shallow splatter cone of Pukeiti, looking towards the multiple cones of Waitomokia on the right and Te Pane o Mataoho Mangere Mountain on the horizon on left. Quarrying of Pukeiti took place in the late 1920's, so this is likely one of the only, or very few, images of the maunga in its enitirity. From "Digital facsimile of  'Index to Negatives of Auckland Pas and Surroundings taken by Hugh Boscawen 1899'". Source: Ian Lawlor (2013).
1960 aerial view of Pukeiti (top) and the larger Otutaua below. Approximately half of Pukeiti cone has been
removed by quarrying, and the removal of Otuatau is well advanced. Lava flows running towards the coast
from both maunga can be seen, in addition to numerous stoneworks and stone structures. By this stage the foreshore was heavily modified for the Manukau Sewage Scheme, which meant the destruction of many waahi-tapu, and freshwater springs which played an important role in facilitating settlement of the area. Clear paddocks in the top right corner have been cleared of any stone, but it is highly likely that these areas were an important area given their proximity to the pa sites on the maunga. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from: (2018).

Detail from above, showing extent of damage to the maunga
from quarrying. Still preserved is the unusual shallow saucer-
like crater, which along with its small size, make
this splatter cone (rather than a scoria cone, which would have
involved a more gaseous eruption) a unique
volcanic feature of the AVF. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from: (2018).

Within the boundaries of the OSHR, lava flows and 
collapsed lava channels extend towards the foreshore.
Despite quarrying, the distinctive squat profile of 
Pukeiti is still preserved from some angles. Source:
Author (2017).

Due to the short height of the cone Pukeiti displays a 
distinctive profile from within the OSHR. Here it is seen
looking across the proposed development site towards the OSHR,
 gentleslopes of fertile soil formed from the ash and tephra
originating from Pukeiti, Otuataua, and possibly further
afield. Source: Author (2017).

A potential view from Pukeiti or Otuatau. The Fletchers
Residential development at "Stonefields" in the old Mt.
Wellington quarry. Source: B. Corbett (2017).


Waitomokia and Puketutu are both similar in that while they were each formed at a single  eruption centre, multiple events and an evolving eruption style resulted in the volcanic complexes that formed these unique and beautiful features of the landscape. Eruptions are believed to have started with an initial phase whereby hot magma interacted with water laden sediments to produce a wide and shallow explosion crater surrounded by a tuff ring. This type of eruption is called phreatomagmatic, and was common to many of the eruptions in this area as the original topography was very close to sea level, or magma erupted through groundwater laden sediments. Some small remains of a similar large explosion crater and tuff ring can be seen on Puketutu, but the subsequent series of eruptions forming the lava flows and scoria cones all but smothered this earlier feature.

At Waitomokia, through a process called vent migration, other smaller craters were opened up on the original crater rim, and within the larger explosion crater. As the groundwater dried out the eruption evolved into a purely magmatic eruption, which over time built the three distinctive scoria cones, only one of which had a crater. Since the eruption the original explosion crater became infilled and swampy, and swamp also came to partly fill the crater of the largest cone. A volcanic feature such as this complex, left in its entirety would provide a wealth of information enabling better understanding of eruption dynamics and volcanic processes. Unfortunately, once industrialisation began to take place in this area, these volcanoes met a similar fate to others of the area, where they were either viewed as a source of construction material or a physical hindrance to industrial development deemed neccessary and unavoidable. Nonetheless, within the maze of industrial development that has smothered the area where Waitomokia once stood, clues to the volcanic processes that took place here thousands of years ago can be found, and research continues to focus on valuable information these outcrops can provide. Of the three remarkable cones that once stood proud above the surrounding swamps, we only have pictures and memories to show what has been lost forever.

1937 view of several small scoria cones sitting within the wider
explosion crater formed by the initial eruption of Waitomokia. Terracing
is clearly visible on the two larger cones. Source: C.W. Firth (1937),
Geology of the North-West portion of the Manukau County, Auckland.
 Retrieved from:National Library of NZ (2017).

circa 1896 view of Waitomokia and surrounding swamp, looking 
towards the largest terraced cone. Only one cone had a crater, which 
prior to draining contained a swamp. The surrounding explosion
crater also contained areas of swamp. From "Digital facsimile of 
 'Index to Negatives of Auckland Pas and Surroundings taken by 
Hugh Boscawen 1899'".Source: Ian Lawlor (2013).

circa 1896 view from within Waitomokia, between scoria cones looking
towards Puketutu on the horizon across the harbour. From "Digital 
facsimile of  'Index to Negatives of Auckland Pas and Surroundings
 taken by Hugh Boscawen 1899'".Source: Ian Lawlor (2013).

Aerial view across the three cones of Waitomokia, showing vegetation in the 
largest crater, and swampy vegetation infilling part of the explosion crater surrounding the 
cones. Period unknown but estimated to be 1950-60, photographer unkown.
What appears to be some quarrying activity appears to have commenced
on the far side of the largest cone, but the rest of the complex appears
still intact at this stage. Source: University of Auckland Library. 
Retrieved from: (2018)

1960 aerial view of Waitomokia, with quarrying well advanced on the outer tuff ring. A roadway has cut through the main cone and its crater, starting what would become the total destruction of this geological feature and historic pa site. A bund enclosing one of the sewage settling ponds can be seen extending from the foreshore, and the foreshore itself has been highly modified, essentially becoming an industrial roadway as part of the Manukau Sewage Scheme. The awa to the right of Waitomokia is the Oruarangi awa which was cut off from the harbour in order to facilitate the sewage scheme.  Ihumātao papakaianga is visible as the group of houses in the bottom corner of photograph. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from: (2018)

1983 aerial photo of Waitomokia, showing faint outlines of the explosion crater, with some quarrying continuing. No sign remains of the three scoria cones that once stood here except for a depression with some vegetation. The Manukau Sewage Scheme has been operational for some time, on the left of photograph is the Mangere wastewater plant. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from: (2018).

A winery occupies the shallow depression of Waitomokia explosion crater, while where the scoria cones once stood is an industrial site, with some rock extraction still taking place. In 2003 the sewage settling ponds were decommissioned, the remains of one of the bunds can be seen protruding from the foreshore and the coast has been revegetated. Despite these efforts, the most distinctive feature of this area, the multiple scoria cones remain only in memory and the photographic record. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from: (2018).


Puketutu was unique as an island volcano in the Manukau, featuring a diverse combination of volcanic landforms and features, including a spectacular complex of scoria cones, mounds, and hills. The most prominent hill lends the island its name Puketutu, meaning pinnacle hill. Volcanic bombs and blocks were widely used to form shelter walls and demarcation of gardening sites, which were readily visible till many of them were destroyed to make way for farming activities. This was an important settlement in its own right, relatively accessible from the mainland over a shell bank exposed at low tide, which in time came to be supplanted by a causeway. Despite encroachment of farming activities on some archaeological sites, features of the island remained relatively intact, until the  island was earmarked as a suitable source of construction material for the Manukau Sewage Scheme, and new Auckland International Airport, and by the mid 60's the fate of this geological and cultural jewel in the Manukau was sealed. The tidal waters circulating Puketutu were disrupted by the construction of sewage settling ponds, further disrupting the ecology and mauri of the island. In the present day, only one cone remains, the rest destroyed by qaurrying, with an industrial composting site occupying the island. Decommissioning of the sewage ponds has opened up the waters once again, yet the island itself still faces threats, with a proposal being considered to use the island as a site for disposal of bio-wastes. The following pictures, and description of Puketutu, by geologist E. J. Searle describe the almost magical landscape that was Puketutu Island, and the rapidity with which the precious geological and cultural features of the island came to be destroyed.

"Tihi (Citadel), Puketutu Pa, Manukau Harbour (Weeks Island)." by
Geoff Fairfield (date unspecified, most likely late 1930's).
This was the most prominent of the scoria cones on Puketutu,
 with this pa site lending its descriptive name Pinnacle Hill/Puke-tutu to
the whole island. View looking towards Ihumātao with Maungataketake 
visible on the right and Otuataua on left.  Source: Auckland Museum. 
Retrieved from: (2018).

Geological sketch of Puketutu. The clearly marked cones were ideal 
pa sites, while low-lying tuff, basalt, and scoria mantled with ash provided 
ideal gardening sites. Source: C.W. Firth (1937),
Geology of the North-West portion of the Manukau County, Auckland.
 Retrieved from: National Library of NZ (2017).

1940 aerial view of Puketutu, with geological and archaeological features
clearly distinguishable due to the lack of tree cover, with most pre-European
stone features described by Fairfield in 1938 as being in "almost perfect
condition". Source: LINZ. Retrieved: from (2018).

1938 aerial view of stone garden boundary walls probably unchanged 
since they were constructed by inhabitants of the island using what 
would have been an almost endless source of volcanic rocks and bombs.
These were amongst the first of the features to be destroyed, when the walls
were deconstructed in order to clear paddocks for farming.
Source: Fairfield (1938). Puketutu Pa on Weekes' Island, Manukau
Harbour. The Journal of the Polynesian Society.

Sketch map of pre-European stroneworks, taken from 1939 aerial photo. Many of
the features can be distinguished in the previous photograph. In time
many of these features came to be destroyed by farming activities and quarrying, 
however some features may remain intact, but are still threatened by proposed
industrial activities. Source: D. Veart (1994). Archaeological Survey of 
Puketutu Island for the Department of Conservation.

1946 aerial view across multiple cones of Puketutu and surrounding
flats. Terrace earthworks are clearly visible on several of the cones. 
On the right hand, far side of the island can be seen well-preserved
stoneworks marking garden boundaries. Source: Whites Aviation (1946). 
Retrieved from: National Library of NZ (2018).

1949 view across Manukau Harbour, showing profile of multiple peaks
of Puketutu. All peaks except for one have been completely removed by quarrying, 
while this part of the harbour would come to form sewage settling
ponds for the Manukau Sewage Scheme, and would remain cut off from the
wider harbour until they were decommissioned in the early 2000s. 
Source: Whites Aviation (1949). Retrieved from: National Library of NZ (2018).

"Puketutu (Weeks Island), a volcanic island joined to the main-land by a causeway, is rich in Maori history; it is privately owned and its volcanic features have been well cared for. In structure it is like a miniature Three Kings but so far is unspoiled and beautiful. It would be a tragedy should it ever be permitted to suffer the same despoilation and mutilation as the Kings. Here is a volcano complex in detail, beautiful in form, and with everything on a fascinatingly small scale - rather like a Japanese garden. 

Early explosive eruptions formed a large crater on Puketutu and a widespread tuff cone but later acvtivity destroyed all but three remnants of the encircling rim. The centre of the island is a cluster of coalescing cones with the sequence of formation showing in the piling up of cones in lower craters. There are smooth-walled scoria cones and peaks of jumbled lava blocks, small entire craters and horseshoe craters that fed lava flows. Yet none of the peaks rises to more than 200 feet above sea level. Lava flows surged out between the remnants of the original tuff cone and filled the moat between scoria cones and tuff ring in some sections. A small lava field was built and now surronds the island except where wedges of tuff separate flows. Wise development has formed pasture on the tuff wedges and scoria cones, and thousands of trees have been planted on rough lava flows and rocky peaks, giving the whole an air of gracious parkland. May Puketutu long continue to be one of Auckland's beauty spots. *

*It is sad to note, while revising this script, that despoilation of this lovely island is already under way. In the last few weeks qexcavations of large quantities of scoria  for use on the runways of Mangere Airport, at present under construction, have bitten deeply into the heart of the island. One small cone has already gone completely and the dominating peak on which was sited the ancient Maori fortification of Puketutu has been destroyed and soon will be levelled to its base. No doubt attempts will be made to heal the scars and cover the ugly wounds but the effects of man's rude surgery cannot be obliterated. It is perhaps inevitable that twentieth century man should value a flat strip of concrete more than the charming but 'useless' hills with which nature so lavishly adorned the city."  Source: E. J. Searle (1964).  City of Volcanoes. A geology of Auckland.

1980 aerial view of Puketutu island, and Manukau Sewage Scheme. Oxidation ponds have cut off tidal flows from around the island, and the huge scar left by quarrying can be seen in the middle of the island. In the bottom left can be seen Te Pane o Mataoho Mangere Mountain, with the Mangere Lagoon formed by an explosion crater completely cut off from the harbour and forming oxidation ponds. The foreshore has been
modified from Ihumatao, to farmland formed on lava flows emanating from Te Pane o Mataoho Mangere Mountain, which necessitated the destruction of many fresh-water springs, waahi-tapu, and archaelogical sites. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from (2018).

In 2003 the sewage oxidation ponds were decommissioned, and the harbour around Puketetu opened to tidal flows. In addition a restoration project was undertaken on Oruarangi awa, the Mangere Lagoon was opened to the harbour, and the foreshore that used to be the edge of the settling ponds restored and replanted. Permanent scars mark Puketetu where multiple scoria cones were removed by quarrying, with an industrial green-waste facility occupying the site of the quarry. Some public access to the island is possible via a new causeway, however whatever restoration attempts are undertaken on the island itself it is doubtful that the remarkable profile of the multiple peaks of Puketutu will ever be visible from the Auckland isthmus again. Source: LINZ. Retrieved from: (2018).

From the Otuataua Stonefields, looking across the Manukau towards
Puketutu, one hill is all that remains visible of the multiple cones that
once graced the island. Source: Author (2017).

To learn more about the campaign to protect Ihumātao visit the Save Our Unique Landscapes website here or facebook page here and find out how you can support the campaign to protect Ihumātao.


Protest sign on the fence at the corner of Oruarangi and Waipouri Rd.
Andrew Pettengell. Source: Auckland Libraries Heritage Images
Collection. Retrieved from: (2018).



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