An old Māori tool and "fireplace" have been unearthed at Marlborough's Waikawa Bay, as pipework is carried out next to the seashore.
A senior archaeologist hired to watch over the work has dated the adze, or toki, to the late 1800s, and said the fireplace was lined with shellfish native to the area, such as cockle, pipi and mussels.
It would have been a "great spot to sit down by the shoreline, have a meal and enjoy company and the view", like it was today, said Blenheim woman Kirsty Sykes.
Sykes said it was an "exciting" surprise when she and a Te Ātiawa cultural monitor stumbled across the adze in the foreshore car park. This proved the site was of Māori origin.
Te Ātiawa o te Waka a Māui reluctantly relocated to Waikawa Bay after the Government purchased their principal settlement, Waitohi/Picton, in the mid 1800s.
The rūnanga said Waikawa Bay was a pātaka kai (food pantry) for the community.
"There are steps from the pathway on Waikawa Rd down to the beach. That area of the beach was a taunga waka (waka landing)," they said. "Opposite the steps on the other side of the road was the Waikawa Native School, established in 1877."
Their land was purchased by the Government in 1849, except certain portions, including 3.6 hectares at Waikawa for a landing reserve.
Sykes said despite this knowledge, there had been few archaeological investigations in the area.
"The opportunity to investigate this site whilst excavations were underway for the upgrade was therefore an exciting one, presenting an opportunity to look for archaeological evidence of the known occupation," she said in a statement.
The Marlborough District Council wanted to put in a new sewer overflow chamber in the Waikawa Bay car park, but needed permission from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.
Sykes was called in after Heritage NZ gave council the go-ahead in case any artefacts were found.
It was against the law to alter or destroy archaeological sites without a permit. The permits came with conditions in order to better the Government's understanding of the past.
Material from the Waikawa Bay site would be analysed as part of this process, with the findings forwarded to Heritage NZ and the council.
These would be returned to Te Ātiawa once testing was completed, except for the adze. Māori artefacts were protected in New Zealand and, once found, were left with the Government until they could be returned to their owner.
"The site is within the rohe (tribal area) of Te Ātiawa o te Waka a Māui, and the Māori associations of the features and materials encountered thus far provides a tangible link with the tūpuna (ancestors) who lived in this area," Sykes said.
Bottles and copper nails, similar to the ones used to build boats, also saw the light of day for the first time in a century as part of the work.
The finds caused a bit of disruption to the council's sewerage project, with workers unable to resume building until mid-July. The project was due to wrap up by the end of October.
The idea was to reduce the frequency and severity of sewer overflows in Waikawa, which trickled into the bay, creating a public health risk and degrading the water quality.
The project involved upgrading the wharf's pump station, laying a major sewage pipe between Waikawa Bay and Waimarama St, and building an overflow storage chamber.