'He kōtuku rerenga tahi' is a whakatauki or proverb, which means 'a white heron's flight is seen but once'.

It is used to indicate a very special and rare event.

On February 11-13, Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga hosted one of those very special and rare events for students ranging in age from 14-17.

Around 20 young scientists joined in a research project of Te Kauae a Māui, commonly known as Cape Kidnappers.


A special team consisting of the University of Otago Archaeology Department, Heritage New Zealand, the Conservation Department, the landowner, Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga and mana whenua representatives, have been working on this research project.

Findings of the research such as a moa skull and a still-sharp blade (obsidian only from the Taupō area) are already providing context to early Māori societal life, diet, practises and inter-regional connections that existed at the Cape. These are amazing findings.

In order to preserve the history of the area for posterity there have been a series of archaeological digs completed along 250 metres of Te Kauae a Māui.

University of Otago Archaeology Head of Programme Professor Richard Walter views all archaeological sites as a non-renewable resource that are disappearing at a phenomenal rate due to inland and coastal erosion.

The coastal erosion at Te Kauae a Māui is estimated at 20 metres or more over the past three decades.

Ngāti Kahungunu Iwi Inc. Environment and Natural Resources duo Ngaio Tiuka and Shade Smith headed along to support the day led by Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga Senior Executive Manager, Marei Apatu.

On reflection they were happy to see rangatahi engaging at this level of the research project.

The opportunity for these young people to visit the site and see what's being done to preserve history may or may not be realised by these young people right now, but they were privileged to experience this rare event that will sadly wear away in the future.