One of Northland's most important pa sites has been revealed for the first time in more than a century.

Vegetation removal at Kerikeri Basin means Kororipo Pa - from where Hongi Hika launched his war parties, but also offered protection to the fledgling Kerikeri Mission Station - can now be clearly seen.

The work has also exposed terraces previously unknown to archaeologists.

Ngati Rehia representative Kipa Munro said even long-time locals were surprised when terraces, defences and waka landing sites were uncovered.


"By exposing it, we've brought it back to life. It's been a fantastic exercise."

Department of Conservation historic ranger Andrew Blanshard said part of the pa nearest the kainga, where the village used to be, had been bulldozed in the 1960s before locals thwarted an attempt to turn it into a subdivision.

However, the area which had been covered by vegetation was remarkably well-preserved with even the pathways between terraces still visible.

The pa was now the clearest it had been since the late 1800s when the gum trees were planted.

Other improvements at Kororipo Pa, which is directly opposite the Stone Store and accessed via a short walking track, include a carved gateway between the car park and the kainga, and a pourewa, or sentry tower, offering commanding views.

Mr Munro said the next step will be to remove some of the gum trees along the track to the pa to reveal more of the kainga. The cleared area will be grassed.

The pa was one of the most significant within Ngapuhi, he said.

When there were issues within the tribe, hapu would gather at Kororipo to talk them out - hence the name Kororipo, or Whirlpool, referred not just to the Basin's swirling waters but also also to debate and discussion.

The work to reveal Kororipo Pa is part of an ongoing project to enhance Kerikeri Basin which began with the removal of the road bridge in 2008.

Kerikeri Basin is managed by the Kororipo Heritage Park Management Group, which brings together Ngati Rehia, DoC, Far North Holdings, Heritage NZ, Far North District Council and the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board.

The 200th anniversary of the founding of Kerikeri Mission Station will be marked in 2019.