Looking across the mouth of Te Toto Gorge and out to the Tasman Sea

Image: Gareth Nichols | Creative Commons

Introduction

The three natural coastal amphitheatres at Te Toto were once the site of extensive Māori gardens. Remnants of stone rows which would have outlined garden plots can still be seen in places, as well two small pā, storage pits and terraces.

There is little recorded tradition about this area but the rather eroded state of the earthworks suggests it was occupied between about 1700 and 1800.

When Polynesian ancestors of Māori settled in New Zealand they brought several plants with them such as kumara, yam and taro. The climate they encountered here was vastly different to that of their tropical homeland and new techniques were developed to improve the yield of crops.

Such techniques included:

  • terracing complex drainage systems
  • stone rows and mounds
  • the modification of soil to improve warmth and fertility.

Many of these techniques have left archaeological remains that can still be seen today. At Te Toto Gorge car park, a viewing platform provides stunning views of the coastline and into the amphitheatre where the gardens once flourished.

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