A 10-metre-long historic waka has been uncovered during excavation work on the Ara Tuhono Puhui to Warkworth motorway project.
The waka, still attached to a trunk of a Kauri tree, was made near the Okahu inlet north of the Johnstone's Hill Tunnel on State Highway 1 on April 16.
New Zealand Transport Agency's senior manager of project delivery Chris Hunt said the discovery was made during piling work for a viaduct on the new motorway.
"A digger identified a wooden object under the surface of the inlet. The mud around the object was carefully removed exposing a large rectangular wooden object that extended across the excavation," Hunt said.
Hunt said NZTA had strict protocols for when unidentified artefacts were uncovered.
"We will treat the site with the utmost care and respect to ensure the correct cultural practice is carried out," says Hunt.
Crown Maori/Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said it was a significant discovery that would grow understanding of where and how waka were made.
"It reinforces traditional korero around the use of resources including waka forests, where particular trees were identified and nurtured for waka construction."
Excavation of the waka is underway with consultation of project treaty partners Hokai Nuku, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and Auckland Council.
Hunt said the object would be lifted into a storage container and taken to a new site under the close supervision of Hokai Nuku and Heritage New Zealand to be examined more closely and preserved.
It is not yet known how old the waka is, who it belonged to or how it came to be left in an unfinished state.