Bones discovered at Mount Maunganui's main beach area have been identified as belonging to a cow.
The bones were found at the Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service's construction site yesterday.
Contractors stopped work after a deluge of rain uncovered the bones that afternoon behind the area where the club's new $3million community facility is being built.
The project's cultural advisor visited the site this morning and confirmed the bones were bovine, clearing building work to carry on and leaving club chairman Paul Manning relieved but philosophical.
"It's hugely important we take any find like this seriously, not only because of our established protocols but also because of the club's role as one of the kaitiaki (guardians) of this area," Manning said.
"We know how important Mauao is to the three local iwi and this building project has been a great chance for our members to learn a little more about the history of this site and build stronger relationships with the original guardians here."
Human remains (kōiwi tangata) are often uncovered by natural erosion in coastal areas and in excavation work. This week, the New Zealand Transport Agency reported a find of bones from at least six kōiwi - possibly between 200 to 400 years old - on a stretch of the Waikato Expressway being built around Hamilton.
Mauao is a sacred maunga for Tauranga's three iwi - Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi, and Ngāti Pūkenga - and pā sites and middens on the flanks of the mountain date back nearly 1000 years.
By contrast, the lifeguard service has only been on the site at the base of Mauao for the past 90 years, although the new community-driven facility being built is aimed at increasing that longevity significantly.
The 38-year-old former building was demolished last month because of weather-tightness issues and increasing maintenance costs, with the construction phase of the new build now gathering steam. Footings are now in place for three-story concrete tilt slabs to go in place early next week, with a clear patch of weather and lighter winds forecast.
Manning was confident the basement of the building would be ready at the end of this year, ready for response and rescue services during the next season, with the rest of the structure - including community function and emergency service operations rooms - ready by early next year.
"We still need at least $700,000 to complete that second phase and we're looking for community support to help with that but it was vital we pushed ahead with the project to make sure we were ready for the busy part of the next lifeguarding season."