The Waharoa (gateway) structure overlooks a historic pa site which once stood in the area of the new Paengaroa roundabout. The work marks the most eastern entry and exit point of the Tauranga Eastern Link (TEL).
Completed by Te Toi Takapu carvers, the design represents a father and his sons who lived and grew vegetables in the area, in the 1600s.
NZ Transport Agency TEL senior project manager, Wayne Troughton, said the Waharoa captured the essence of the former Maori village and would give motorists travelling on the TEL a greater appreciation of the history of the area.
"It adds distinctive character to the area, the landscape and the driving experience," he said.
Mr Troughton said the Transport Agency had worked closely with the TEL Tangata Whenua Advisory Group (TELTWAG) and a Heritage New Zealand archaeologist during construction of the Paengaroa roundabout, due to the site's importance to local iwi and its historic value.
TELTWAG co-chair, Dean Flavell, said the pa site was once part of a network of waahi marakai (gardening village) in the Pukaingataru tribal lands.
"It was established during the 1600s, in the times of the Tapuika ancestor, Marukukere," Mr Flavell said.
"The village was defended by stockade, which are represented in the Waharoa design.
"The carving depicts Marukukere holding a kaheru (cultivating tool) and kumara while his children are shown in the pou of the palisade.
"The work tells the story of the site and what it was once used for and also welcomes and farewells motorists using the TEL."
The TEL project is expected to be open to travellers by late 2015.