Not far from where I live in Mangere Bridge, Auckland, Fletcher Living are proposing to create a housing development of around 480 homes. This development is located between Ihumatao (Auckland’s Oldest community) and the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve. This area is seen by many to be the birthplace of Auckland. This land is historically and culturally significant to Te Waiohua (the tangata whenua). In traditional stories this is where Hape (Tamaki Makaurau’s founding ancestor) came ashore and settled after his voyage from Hawaiki. It is far from any public transport, shops or other infrastructure. The development has drawn strong opposition from some nearby residents


This project will be directly adjacent to the Otuataua Stonefields. The Otuataua Stonefields are located amongst a group of small extinct volcanoes and for many centuries this was the site of an extensive network of Maori gardens. This place is like an archaeological palimpsest, a chalkboard that has been written on over and over but keeps traces of what was there before. The oldest stone structures are those created by volcanic eruptions. There are several small volcanoes, large scoria formations and lava caves. The next oldest layer is the structures built by early Maori gardeners. These are garden walls, kumara pits, gardens mounds and foundations of buildings. The volcanic soil and rocks here allowed early Polynesian settlers to create stone walled gardens which could extend the growing season. Later European settlers built long stone walls to enclose livestock and define boundaries. Quarries were created which ate into the volcanoes and destroyed much of the archaeology including the remains of the village on the Otuataua volcanic cone.


Nearby is the Papakainga (village) of Ihumatao. Here you can find people who have family trees with roots in this area that extend back 27 generations or more. The Te Wai-o-Hua people are mana whenua and have lived here continuously for around 1000 years. The whole peninsula was once known as Ihumatao. In 1863 at the beginning of the Waikato war, this land was confiscated.

The Otuataua stone fields are unique for several reasons:

  • The Otuataua Stonefields is the only place in Auckland where you can find pre-European stone structures.
  • It contains the last remining and possibly the oldest stone garden complex in Auckland. All the others have been destroyed
  • It has small areas of rare native rock forest containing the mawhai plant. This is only place on the New Zealand mainland where this plant can be found.
  • It contains the remains of a large whare. This is possibly the oldest architectural ruin in Auckland.
  • It is where Hape (Tamaki Makaurau’s founding ancestor) came ashore and settled after his voyage from Hawaiki.
  • This site is waahi tapu (a sacred place) to the Tangata Whenua. It contains ancient burial caves and the sacred manga Puketapapa.






Fletchers project is known as SHA 62 and received resource consent as a Special Housing Area. If completed the project will contain around 480 new houses. It appears the new houses will mostly be single detached units with a few terraced houses. This is much larger in scale than the existing Ihumatao village (approximately 70 houses) meaning that the rural character of the area and Ihumatao community’s identity will be lost. There is an existing house which may be converted to a cafe or shop, but other than this there is no allowance for shops. It is far away from any public transport, community facilites such as libraries, sports grounds and doctors surgeries. It will be close to Auckland Airports proposed second runway. The image above shows the relationship between the airport and the SHA. The red shaded area is the edge of the development and the green shaded area show the proposed new runway extension.

Heritage New Zealand expressed concern that the increase in population may have the potential to adversely affect the heritage values of the Otuataua Reserve. They suggested providing access to alternative recreation facilities and improved management measures for the Outuataua Stonefields reserve. It is hard to see how the Fletchers proposal achieves this.


Otuataua Hertigae Centre



A large housing development was not always the vision for this land. Previously Manukau Council planned to purchase the land and add it to the Otuataua Reserve. This would be part of a larger precinct known as the Mangere Gateway Heritage Area which would enhance and link to other amenities such as the Watercare Coastal Walkway and Villa Maria Winery.

Urban designer Garth Falcone was employed to design a master plan for the larger Otuataua Reserve. http://reseturban.co.nz/work/otuataua-stonefields-master-plan/


Architects Ken Crosson and Charissa Snidjers designed and completed construction drawings for a Heritage Centre. At the time this scheme had  support from local interested parties including Makarau Marae, Auckland Airport, Watercare and the Villa Maria Vineyard





Early in the process Iwi representatives decided to negotiate with Fletcher Living to mitigate some of the effects of the project. This included creating a buffer zone between the development and the Stone Field Reserve and the creating 40 low cost houses.


However many local residents were unaware that this had happened and strongly objected to the proposal. In early 2015 several local residents of Ihumatao formed the group SOUL (save our unique landscape) to oppose the SHA62. Since then they have setup a Kaitiaki Village on the site have been actively campaigning to stop the project. This includes several legal chalenges, publishing a newsletter and traveling to Geneva and New York to speak at the UN. They have received support from the local MP William Sio, councillor Kathy Kasey archaeoligist David Veart and many others. There have been many articles in the media including excellent articles in New Geographic and Cracuum as well as TV appearences on Maori Television and the TVNZ Sunday program.


More information can be found at