Pre-European bones discovered in Long Bay

Archaeologists are investigating a site at Long Bay after human remains were discovered buried under a demolished building.

Auckland Council has confirmed the "koiwi", or pre-European, bones were found by contractors on July 2 during redevelopment of the Long Bay Restaurant near the beachfront of the regional park.

Work stopped immediately as police were notified.

Ngati Whatua's Glenn Wilcox says there was initial thoughts the remains were missing Torbay woman Cissy Chen.

Kaumatua, or Maori elders, performed a blessing at the site on July 4 and security guards have been keeping watch over the fenced-off area.

A coroner has confirmed the bones are historic and could date back to the early 1700s.

The condition of the remains suggests they are those of a young child, Mr Wilcox says.

"Around 300 years ago was a time of constant unrest in this area. Ngati Whatua was moving south.

"We expect there are many more bodies buried in the area."

Local iwi, including Ngati Whatua and Ngati Paoa, are now working alongside Auckland Council regional park staff, heritage advisers and the restaurant project team.

The bones have been removed from the site for safekeeping, Mr Wilcox says.

Local iwi are not particularly surprised at the finding, he says.

"It sounds a bit mumbo-jumbo, but around six weeks ago a dolphin and a shearwater washed up on the beach just in front of here.

"That was taken as a sign that something was imminent," Mr Wilcox says.

An archaeological assessment report is expected to provide more detail on the find.

Building work has since come to a halt and a council spokesperson says it is unclear whether it will resume.

An application will be made to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust for an authority to permit further investigation of the site.

Mr Wilcox says it is possible a protection order may be placed on the area if it is found to be of particular historic significance.

"We knew there were koiwi here, we just haven't been able to locate them. That is why there was such a large investigation into the Long Bay residential development."

Council northern regional parks principal ranger Mathew Vujcich says: "This is a sensitive discovery and it is important that we handle it with the appropriate care and attention."

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