Ruapekapeka Pā
Image: Claudia Babirat | DOC


Trace our heritage back through the large collection of Māori sites we manage.



It is generally thought that the main migrations from Eastern Polynesia to New Zealand occurred around 1200 AD. New Zealand's temperate climate meant that the Polynesian settlers had difficulties growing many of the tropical crops they brought with them.


In the first centuries of settlement this was offset by the abundance of moa and other ground birds and the seal colonies found all around the New Zealand coastline. Fish and shellfish were also a major food source.

Māori were not known as such when they migrated, their culture was developed in New Zealand. They had a significant impact on the New Zealand environment, with the extinction of the moa and a number of other birds, the destruction of the northern seal colonies and the burning of large areas of forest. With the reduction in food sources and the growth of population, warfare became more common. A major culture of pa building developed in the more populated parts of New Zealand.


By the mid-eighteenth century a range of Māori economies and lifestyles existed in New Zealand. In the far North a relatively dense population based around intensive horticulture and fishing, supplemented by hunting and gathering, with extensive pa building. In the far South, by contrast, a purely hunting and gathering economy existed, with a sparse, migratory population and relatively few fortified settlements.

Māori travelled throughout Aotearoa (main North Island) and Te Wai Pounamu (main South Island), as evidenced by their detailed knowledge of topography, geology, fauna and flora, and their development of complex mythology linking themselves to the environment through ancestral connections.

Arrival of Europeans

The arrival of Pakeha had enormous impacts on Māori society, both positive and negative. Disease and the musket made deep inroads into the Māori population, while the pig and the potato provided major new food sources. Māori proved themselves remarkably adept at turning Pakeha technology and ideas to their own uses, adopting literacy, building their own ships and mills, and developing their own forms of Christianity, kingship and parliament.

We manage around 10,000 Māori sites

The department manages around 10,000 Māori sites, ranging from sites of earliest Polynesian settlement to nineteenth-century Māori economic, spiritual and military sites.

All these sites are protected from development pressures and from avoidable harm, which makes them a key national collection.





Bay of Plenty

  • Matata Scenic Reserve
  • Matekerepu Historic Reserve
  • Maungaruahine Pa Historic Reserve
  • Moutohora, Raetihi pa/ Kumara gardens
  • Ohope Scenic Reserve
  • Paparoa Pa Historic Reserve, Paparoa pa/ Motu o rei pa
  • Tarawera rock art
  • Tauwhare Pa Scenic Reserve, 1610
  • Te Ikawhenua fieldcentre, Rangitaiki artefacts, 1800
  • Te Paripari Pa Historic Reserve, 1865
  • Te Tapiri Pa, 1865
  • Tokitoki Historic Reserve, Tokitoki Midden, 1315


  • Opotaka Pa
  • Te Porera Pa
  • Tongariro National Park

East Coast/Hawke’s Bay

  • Heipipi Pa (titi-o-hawea) Historic Reserve
  • Hine Rae Historic Reserve
  • Opou covenant
  • Otatara Pa Historic Reserve, 1430-1640
  • Rangitoto Pa covenant
  • Tiwaewae Memorial Historic Reserve
  • Tutira Domain
  • Waiotahi Historic Reserve
  • Whakaari Pa/whaling station


  • Awa-te-take Pa Historic Reserve, Waitara
  • Kaukore waterwheel and water race, Whanganui River, 1854
  • Kawana mill and cottage, Whanganui River, 1854
  • Kawau Pa Historic Reserve, northern Taranaki
  • Ngangana Pa, Waitara
  • Okoki Pa Historic Reserve, Urenui (Sir Peter Buck memorial)
  • Pararoa Pa, Katere Scenic Reserve, New Plymouth
  • Pou Tehia Historic Reserve, Tongapurutu
  • Pukemiro Historic Reserve, Urenui
  • Pukerangiora Pa Historic Reserve, Waitara
  • Puketakauere Historic Reserve, Waitara
  • Puketarata-Parihamore Historic Reserve, New Plymouth
  • Tapuinikau Pa Historic Reserve
  • Tataraimaka Pa historic reserve, Oakura
  • Taumata Historic Reserve, Taumata, 1854/1920
  • Te Rau o te Huia Historic Reserve
  • Te Urinui Historic Reserve, Urenui
  • Waitaha Pa, Whanganui (very old pa)
  • Whatarangi Pa, inland Taranaki
  • Mahoetahi Historic Reserve, Bell Block-New Plymouth


  • J.R. Barker Hapupu National Historic Reserve, Chatham Islands
  • Lake Kairae Historic Reserve, Chatham Islands
  • Mana Island, Mana Island habitation sites, 1500
  • Matiu/Somes Island, Te Moana-a-kura Pa, 1500
  • Taia Historic Reserve, Chatham Islands, pre 1769 
  • Te Kahu o Terangi, Kapiti Island 1832
  • Kupe's Sail, Wairarapa, c1100
  • Whitireia Park, pre 1769

Chatham Islands


  • Bark Bay archaeological site, 1500
  • Crail Bay pits, 1600
  • Horahora Kakahu , 1840
  • Kaikoura Pa, 1600
  • Karaka Point Pa, 1600
  • Moioio Island, 1600
  • Nga Niho Pa, 1825
  • Parapara Spit, 1500
  • Pariwhakatau Pa, 1600
  • Peketā Pa, 1550
  • Puponga farm park archaeological sites, 1500
  • Sawpit Point archaeological sites, 1400
  • Titirangi farm park archaeological sites, 1150
  • Wairau Bar archaeological sites, 1250
  • Waitui gardens, 1500
  • Whangamoa Spit archaeological site, 1300

West Coast

  • Heaphy River mouth


  • Cave Stream Scenic Reserve, Cave Stream rock art shelter
  • Craigmore (ppl), Craigmore rock art site (administered by NZHPT)
  • Frenchman's Gully (ppl), Frenchman's Gully rock art site (administered by NZHPT)
  • Kura Tawhiti/Castle Hill Conservation Area, rock art shelter
  • Onawe Pa Historic Reserve, Onawe Pa (vested in Ngai Tahu)
  • Oruaka Pa Historic Reserve, Oruaka Pa (vested in Ngai Tahu)
  • Raincliff Historic Reserve, rock art shelter
  • Te Puke-ki-Waitahu Historic Reserve
  • Weka Pass Historic Reserve, rock art shelter


  • Mapoutahi Pa Historic Reserve, 1750
  • Nenthorn Conservation Area, rock shelter, 1350
  • Onewhenua Historic Reserve, 1350
  • Te Umu Kuri Historic Reserve, 1831


  • Enderby Island Māori occupation (1200 ad), Auckland Islands
  • Indian Island occupation site, Tamatea/Dusky Sound
  • Port Pegasus Māori occupation site, Stewart Island
  • Round Island occupation site, Preservation Inlet
  • Te Wera settlement, bluff

Further reading

Davidson, J. (1984) The Prehistory of New Zealand (Longman Paul Ltd).

Houghton, Phillip. (1980). The First New Zealanders. (Hodder and Stoughton, Auckland).

Related links

Back to top