The recent discovery of moa bones on Te Ahu a Turanga: Manawatū Tararua Highway site is seen as highlighting the rich history of the area.
Project site archaeologist Patrick Harsveldt described the find as being of great significance.
The bones of at least two individual smaller-sized moa have been found, with further smaller bird bone fragments still to be analysed.
The largest complete moa bones found so far include a tibia bone approximately 350mm long and two femur bones of varying lengths, both from the right side which indicates at least two moa. A pelvis bone, vertebra and other leg bones have also been uncovered.
Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis said the discovery was truly exciting for Tararua, both culturally and environmentally.
"This area had very special flora and fauna within the great forest that covered the land. It was known as the great food basket.
"The last recorded sighting of a tree huia was in this area and to know that moa also roamed there as well is very special."
Collis said the people of Tararua could now start telling their story of what makes this a special part of New Zealand to live in.
Collis said the construction team was well prepared for finding items of significance and to have done so was exciting.
"Many discussions took place regarding these significant sites during the pre-consenting process so for me this is about seeing the plans that were made kick into place."
Rangitāne o Tamaki Nui a Rua chair Mavis Mullins said the discovery was exciting news.
"Moa bones haven't really been found in this region. Initially it appears they were found in an area that potentially looks like an old waterway."
Mullins said she was really impressed with the Alliance and the processes it had in place in case of accidental discoveries such as koiwai (human) bones and artefacts.
"I was very impressed with the processes and systems and the Kaitiaki provided the right level of cultural engagement."
She said the discovery was not likely to delay work on the highway.
"Work was diverted away from this particular area but it won't stop progress."
Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki nui-a-Rua chair Hayden Hape said the discovery of the bones was something that had been predicted.
"We knew something special would be found, whether it would be human remains or the remains of extinct birds so it's certainly exciting.
"It's given this project its own uniqueness."
Hape said the discovery was a great thing for the district, depending on how this finished in terms of where the bones would be stored.
"This will really shine a light on this district."
He said the discovery was culturally huge.
"This was very special for our cadets who were able to walk alongside the archaeologist."
The discovery was made on Tuesday, March 9, when crews were undertaking excavation work in a gully at the western end of the new highway alignment.
"The team was really excited when it became clear what they'd found. It's not every day we dig a hole and come across a moa," Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency owner interface manager Lonnie Dalzell says.
"It's not unusual on projects like this for us to uncover animal bones, midden and sometimes even koiwi, but moa bones are rare. We believe it is one of first moa bones finds in the area, and is an amazing discovery for our project whānau and the region."
Following the discovery, the area was cordoned off and earthworks halted until Harsveldt and kaitiaki representatives could attend the site and inspect the find.
Further bones were discovered after the initial find, and Harsveldt began his archaeological investigation with the assistance of kaitiaki representatives.
"As kaitiaki, it was important for us to monitor the investigation and ensure the correct tikanga was followed," Kaitiaki Coordinator Terry Hapi says.
"We were concerned the find could potentially be koiwi, but we were all very excited when we realised these were moa bones. It was a privilege to be able to assist in the archaeological excavation."
Harsveldt says he is delighted with the find, which is rare for the area.
"This discovery of in situ moa bones is of great significance for the region. Archaeological investigations are currently continuing to determine whether there is any evidence of human activity in association with the moa bones, such as butchery marks."