Archaeologists and Waikato Tainui have begun collecting and preserving items from New Zealand’s buried past in preparation for work to start on the $458M Huntly section of the Waikato Expressway.
The Huntly section is set to start taking shape in September, after the New Zealand Transport Agency today announced the contract to construct the 15.2km route has been awarded to a consortium of Fulton Hogan, HEB Construction, Jacobs and Opus International Consultants.
Project archaeologists began work alongside tangata whenua on site last week, collecting and preserving historical information ahead of the planned start date.
Archaeologist Warren Gumbley says projects such as the Waikato Expressway provide an opportunity to uncover the past buried in the ground and bring that to life for the likes of museums and the public.
“So far the archaeology team have found evidence of borrow pits and storage pits in the area as part of a large pre-European Maori horticultural operation,” he says.
“This was part of a massive horticultural complex which stretches along the Waikato River, possibly the largest in Polynesia. It was a major resource but it’s one we still don’t know much about. This project is allowing us to document this important part of the Waikato Maori economy.”
The site goes back to the earliest settlement period of inland Waikato around the late 15th century.
The Transport Agency’s Project Services Manager Peter Simcock says the contract award for the Huntly section is great news for the Waikato region and the overall expressway project.
“The Huntly section is an important link in the expressway project,” he says.
“This section will deliver significant travel time savings for motorists, shaving a further five minutes or more off the journey between Auckland and Hamilton. The Huntly to Hamilton stretch of State Highway 1 (SH1) is the highest risk road in the country based on the number of fatal and serious injury crashes per kilometre, according the most recent KiwiRAP report.”*
“Once built, this section will significantly improve safety for the more than 17,000 motorists who travel this route every day.”
Mr Simcock says the archaeologist team will continue to work on site until work on the Huntly section begins, to ensure everything of cultural and historical value is preserved.
Historically important items are returned to tangata whenua and documented for historical purposes.
“This project will also make a sizeable ecological contribution to the area, with more than 100ha of forest and bush habitat enhancement, including landscape and restoration planting of riparian, forest areas and wetland,” Mr Simcock says.
The project team has also partnered with iwi to ensure the Huntly section recognises the rich cultural history of the area.
A number of pou will also be installed along the route and distinctive designs reflecting the awa (river) and native wildlife will be incorporated on three of the section’s bridges.
The historic paa sites of Kimihia and Te Uaapata will also be recognised.
Waikato-Tainui Chief executive Parekawhia McLean is very pleased that the Transport Agency continues to actively engage tribal members in all areas of the Huntly Project.
“The involvement of our people in this project is of great importance to the tribe. We established a Tangata Whenua Working Group comprising of marae representatives, so that they could engage directly with the Transport Agency and its contractors on this project,” she says.
“Our people have been working closely with the project’s archaeologists; their recent archaeological finds reaffirms our historical connection to these lands. We are direct descendants of the early Maori who successfully settled and thrived in this area. They were our ancestors and we are their legacy.”
HEB Chief executive Derrick Adams said the company was delighted to be able to continue their involvement with the Transport Agency and the expressway project.
“We are also very pleased to be teaming up with our construction partners, Fulton Hogan and designers, Jacobs and Opus.”
Fulton Hogan Chief Operating Officer Robert Jones said Fulton Hogan was pleased to have been awarded the project by the Transport Agency.
“This provides continuity for the very successful Fulton Hogan – HEB Construction Alliance Team currently completing the Tauranga Eastern Link project.
“We also look forward to renewing our previous partnerships with Waikato Tainui and the Waikato District Council,”
The Waikato Expressway is one of seven Roads of National Significance (RoNS) identified by the government as key to unlocking New Zealand’s potential for economic growth.
Earlier this month the Transport Agency board approved $1.08 billion to fund construction of the Hamilton and Longswamp sections, enabling completion of the Expressway.
The green light from the board means that all seven sections of the expressway will be built, under construction or out to tender by the end of 2015.
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