Swamp kauri unearthed at Auckland construction site

More than 20 pieces of swamp kauri, one of the world’s most expensive timber, have been unearthed at an Auckland construction site.

Construction workers at the site of what will be New Zealand’s largest retail store in Henderson, West Auckland, made the discovery of a “significant cache” of swamp kauri, which can be valued up to $10,000 (SGD 8998) per cubic metre.

The more than 20-log haul contains pieces up to seven metres in length and 90cm in diameter.

One of the construction workers at the new 27,000sqm Nido furniture and homeware store “immediately recognised” the significance of the buried wood stumbled upon during excavation work for the foundations of the store.

“Our assistant site manager Lisa Wade identified the significance of the find straight away,” Nido managing director Vinod Kumar said.

“We’re thrilled to be able to return this ancient taonga to local Māori, the local wānanga and their tohunga whakairo.”

While carbon-dating has yet to be carried out on this find, swamp kauri are prehistoric kauri trees which can be buried for 800 to 50,000 years under peat swamps in the North Island – predating the last Ice Age.

Kumar says the centuries-old wood was discovered at a depth of four metres and has been anaerobically sealed in a chemically balanced environment that has kept it preserved in exceptional condition.

In March this year a massive 60-tonne swamp kauri log was also discovered during excavations for a new power station at Ngāwhā.

Henderson construction site manager Wade says the trees appear to have been blown over in a storm and were all facing the same direction – which has cultural significance.

“Tāne Mahuta – the Māori god of forests and of birds – was said to be made of kauri making this taonga is particularly precious to the Māori people.”

The “ancient taonga” will be donated to traditional carvers and students at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Mangere, a Māori learning environment in South Auckland.

A pou whenua, carved wooden post, will be carved by expert wood carver Troy Hart-Webber from some of the swamp kauri find.

Construction on the more than 31,000sqm construction site at 158 Central Park Dr, Henderson began in October 2018 and is expected to be completed around spring of this year.