Morning commuters crawl over State Highway 29A - most are unaware that defensive trenches once stood in this place.
A gathering of about 100 people stood together in the cold on Fridaymorning to unveil pou whenua to mark the land's significance.
In March 2017, contractors were preparing the site for the installation of a median safety barrier on SH29A near Maungatapu Bridge, when they discovered the Tukiata Pā site.
The trench was about 40 metres long and appeared to have been used as a coastal defence from the 1830s to 1860s.
Numerous kumara and fire pits had already been found when project archaeologist Sian Keith noticed an unusual pattern in the exposed ground.
She told the Bay of Plenty Times that as soon as the discovery was made, work stopped.
"We had to figure out what the best thing to do was, but as an archaeologist, I wanted to dig it."
Sometimes sites were left untouched she said, but if it wasn't dug, they would have never known what had taken place.
Five musket balls and a gunflint were also sifted out of soil dug from the trench, leading to speculation it dated back to the New Zealand Land Wars or the earlier inter-tribal Musket Wars.
A test dig confirmed it was indeed a trench system, with zig-zag buttresses to stop one inside shot sweeping the whole length of the ditch.
The pou whenua, carved by artist Pohe Luttenburger, includes three components: the top portion will cast its gaze towards Mauao, the middle portion will face the coast, and the lower portion will look back to the mountain ranges of Maungamana and Mangatawa, Kopukairoa.
The pou whenua is accompanied by a kōhatu (large rock), sourced from Ngāti Hē rohe as a memorial to Tukiata Pā and the commanders of the pā, the Tīpuna Tareha Kiharoa and his brother Manihera.
Ngāti Hē Hapū Trust chairman Mita Ririnui said, the discovery of this important ancestral site in 2017, reaffirmed the presence of Ngāti Hē in this part of Rangataua Bay prior to European settlement.
"The pou whenua and kōhatu will stand as a bold reminder to the nation of the struggles endured by tangata whenua to retain and protect mana over the area.
"They also recognise the kotahitanga of the three hapū to bring this project to life for future generations."
Waka Kotahi portfolio delivery manager Darryl Coalter said the 2.94m pou whenua acknowledged the traditional pā site, as well as the connections of tangata whenua to the area.
"We are proud to have worked with Ngāi Tukairangi, Ngāti Hē, Ngāti Tapu and Heritage New Zealand to recognise the cultural archaeological features discovered during the safety barrier installation works."
Waka Kotahi is working with the hapū to develop an educational resource to enable students and the community to learn about the regional and national significance of the Tukiata Pā site and what it means to mana whenua.