Figure 1. The view from Kakamatua Inlet looks west toward Whatipu Beach, capturing the foothills of Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa/Waitākere Ranges at the center of the scene, along with the distinctive Paratutae Island, also known as Paratūtai Island, located at Whapitu near the mouth of the Manukau Harbour. These foothills are remnants of the original Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa/Waitākere Ranges that erupted between 22 - 16 million years ago. In the foreground and middle ground of this view, you can observe the Waitimata Group, sedimentary rocks deposited 20 million years ago in a basin between the Northland/Western volcanic belt off the west coast of the North Island. These rocks served as the parent material for both the Waitākere Ranges and the Coromandel/Eastern volcanic belt to the east. Uplifted 4 million years later, they shaped the coastal cliffs that characterize the northern edge of Manukanuka o Hoturoa/Manukau Harbour and Tāmaki Makaurau’s East Coast beaches.

Walking through time and reading landscapes

The Aotearoa Deep Time Walk is inspired by two complementary ideas that help us to understand the ecological foundations of Aotearoa. The Deep Time Walk1 was created by ecologist Dr. Stephan Harding with geologist Sergio Maraschin - a 4,600 metre walk through 4,600 million years, where every metre equals 1 million years. Reading the Landscape2 is the name of a new film following David Holmgren, one of the originators of permaculture, together with family and friends, sharing insights and practices into ways of observing and interacting with the land / whenua as a shared, co-evolutionary practice.

The following article was developed as a script for a narrated, immersive experience, covering the last 251 million years of earth’s history focused around Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia and what has become Aotearoa New Zealand, with a finer grain focus on Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa / Manukau Harbour (Figure 2). When developing and editing the deep-time walk and deciding what should be included, we were conscious about including events that qualify as significant events in deep time - for example, as impactful as the eruption of Mount Tarawera was for the inhabitants of Aotearoa New Zealand in 1886, the fullness of geological time is unlikely to record this event as significant, whereas the extinction of many of Aotearoa’s endemic species and the introduction of species novel to Zealandia will shape the future ecologies of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Figure 2. Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa / Manukau Harbour and Te Puhinui.

The arrival of humans in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the impact this has and will continue to have on future ecologies marks a significant deep-time event. While the emergence of our hominid and hominin ancestry is not directly related to Aotearoa’s history and does not reflect significant deep-time events in the history of planet Earth, we have included the evolutionary journey of the hominid and human family to help ground the walker/reader in their own origin story and provide perspective on humanity’s place, and relative insignificance, across the vast history of Aotearoa. In the narrated walk through deep time below, text in italics maps hominid/human lineages and their journeys within and out of Africa.

The Aotearoa Deep Time Walk follows the template set by the original The Deep Time Walk, and integrates deep time knowledge from a range of publications, in particular, building on work completed as part of Te Whakaoranga o Te Puhinui3 in south Auckland,  Out of the Ocean into the Fire: History in the rocks, fossils and landforms of Auckland, Northland and Coromandel by Bruce W. Hayward and New Zealand Through Time: An illustrated journey through 83 million years of natural history by Ronald Cometti.

For the sake of readability, te reo Māori and English common names are used in the narrative text and scientific names are included as footnotes where relevant. The two shorthand conventions we use to mark time are mya (million years ago) and ya (years ago). The inaugural Aotearoa Deep Time Walk was part of an Aotearoa Permaculture Workshop Social Club event at Puhinui Reserve in September 2023.

To recreate the experience of the Aotearoa Deep Time Walk we invite you to pace out 251 metres and read the script while walking. Because this is designed as an immersive experience of walking through time from the past to the present time, this narrated walk is written in the present tense.

A narrated walk back in time

The Aotearoa Deep Time Walk is a shared walk through deep time, where every metre represents 1,000,000 years. We will start here, at the present day, and walk 251 million years back in time. During this walk back in time, we want you to consider the immensity of the time scales we are travelling through, we want you to have a visceral experience of deep time by consciously experiencing and contemplating the walk, 1 million years at a time. A walk where every step is longer than is humanly possible to comprehend. When we arrive 251 million years in the past, we will pause and set the scene by describing what we understand to be happening in the world and Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia at the time.

We will then begin our long journey back to the present. During the walk back, we will highlight events along the way, pausing occasionally at significant events to unpack them more fully. Through this deep time walk, we want to reveal the timing and sequence of processes and events that have come together to form the place we see and experience today in this part of the world / whenua / landscape. We hope to give people a deeper experience of time beyond one’s own lived experience to connect to something larger than oneself - our ecological self.

Before 251 mya - Setting the Scene in Aotearoa

From around 336 mya, the earth was composed of a single land mass named Pangea, meaning “all land”, and an ocean named Panthalassa, meaning “all ocean.” Over a period of approximately 160 mya, Pangea gradually splits into two supercontinents - Laurasia in the northern hemisphere and Gondwana in the southern. 320 mya, the sediments eroding off Pangea / Gondwana accumulate in a trench where the Pacific plate was moving beneath the continental crust that would later be Australia and Antarctica, forming as a mass known as the New Zealand Geosyncline, a linear trough in the earth's crust within which vast amounts of sediment accumulate.

During this time, Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia continental landmass forms along the eastern coast of Gondwana, a process that will continue for another 150 million years. The oldest areas of Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa / Manukau Harbour can also be traced back to this time and are found in the foothills east of Papakura and form the upper catchments of Otūwairoa (Slippery Creek) and Papakura Stream.

1 million years earlier, the largest extinction event the earth has ever experienced occurred - the Permian–Triassic extinction/transition - killing 70% of all land species and 96% of all marine life. This event appears to have been caused by a massive volcanic eruption that flooded basalts across and through Siberia for thousands of years, increasing the temperature by as much as 15 degrees Celsius, potentially from the effects of increased C02 and possibly through the release of toxic hydrogen sulphide gas and greenhouse methane - the details are not known. In addition to bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes, the foundation of all other life on earth, the life forms that made it through this extinction bottleneck included jawed fish, mosses, plants with leaves, roots and seeds, fungi, insects, amphibians, living soils, and the ancestors of dinosaurs and mammals.

In Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia, land animals, including the tuatara, archaic frogs, large land snails, ngaokeoke / peripatus and wētā are all present at this time as well as the ancestors of podocarps - trees such as tōtara, kahikatea, rimu, mataī, miro and kauri; whose modern relatives in the same family include the Queensland kauri pine, the Norfolk Island pine, the South American monkey puzzle tree, and the Australian bunya pines - of these, New Zealand kauri are the largest and oldest. 

230 mya - The first dinosaurs appeared

Having split from the last common ancestor with the tuatara 50 million years earlier, the first dinosaurs appeared in the fossil record around 230 mya.

221 mya - Gaia has recovered from the great extinction

The disruption caused by the Permian–Triassic extinction event is of such magnitude that it took approximately 30 million years to regenerate fully.

150 mya - The earliest known birds appear

Over millions of years, a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods, a species of dinosaur that included the Tyrannosaurus rex, started to evolve bird-like characteristics such as feathers, beaks and small body size, and by 150 mya, the first true birds had appeared. These new features proved incredibly successful, setting the scene for the adaptive radiation and evolutionary explosion of birds across the earth.

145 mya - First flowers, pollinators and social insects evolve

Hundreds of millions of years after the first plants colonised land, flowering plants coevolved with the first pollinators and social insects, including termites, ants and bees emerged. Plants in Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia include hutu, a small bushy tree of wetter forests rarely found in Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island and one of the very first flowering plants to appear in Zealandia as well as the ancestors of plants such as the southern beech, grass trees, horopito / mountain pepper tree, and while not a flowering plant tānekaha / celery pines.4

135 mya - Aotearoa’s Podocarps develop

In a process that began around the beginning of this walk, the ancestors of Aotearoa’s podocarps5 continue to evolve as they travel with Gondwana as it broke away from the great supercontinent Pangea.

130 mya - The first outlines of Aotearoa New Zealand emerge

As the first outlines of Aotearoa New Zealand emerge, the ancestors of modern tree ferns, including ponga / silver fern and wheki / rough tree fern, club mosses and a wide range of ground ferns6 are abundant in Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia. 

85 mya - Te Tai-o-Rēhua / Tasman Sea starts to form

As Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia starts to separate from Gondwana, Te Tai-o-Rēhua / Tasman Sea starts to form, demarking Aotearoa New Zealand’s long journey as a separate landmass.

70 mya - Zealandia before the world changes again

Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia is a low-lying, gently contoured landscape with a warm, humid climate with dense rainforests. While drifting away from Gondwana, Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia stretches, thins and cools down, and in so doing, it loses buoyancy and begins to sink slowly into the ocean. The islands we now call Aotearoa New Zealand comprise the high points of this land mass. Altogether, these high points make up only 7% of the original area that existed at the beginning of the Cretaceous 145 mya. In time, the low-lying coastal terrain becomes swamp. Vast quantities of fallen plant material are buried in acidic conditions, creating the ideal environment for peat development. Over long periods, buried peat becomes lignite coal, mined in places like Greymouth and Māui and Kapuni gas fields. 

65 mya - The last mass extinction event - the Cretaceous-Palaeogene Extinction

An asteroid 10-15 km wide travelling at 100,000 kilometres per hour hits the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico as well as a volcano in India erupts creating the Deccan Traps, an area of land covering approximately 500,000 square kilometres in extent (about the size of Spain). About 17% of all biological families, 50% of all genera, and 75% of all species become extinct. This event marks the extinction of the dinosaurs, the start of the age of mammals and the emergence of primates.

Rock layers in Aotearoa New Zealand contain large amounts of soot, indicating widespread forest fire outbreaks. They also have a lot of fern spores but very little pollen from mixed forest vegetation, revealing that while flowering plants and conifers are decimated, ferns fairly rapidly take their place.7

With the extensive extinction of life, new niches open up and new plants and animals soon begin to exploit the niches that have been left vacant. The warm climate encourages the explosive evolution of planktonic life in the southern oceans supporting penguins, seabirds, dolphins, porpoises and whales in the seas around Aotearoa New Zealand. 

55 mya - Aotearoa is its own separate land mass.

The process of separating from Gondwana began 85 mya and ended by 55 mya. Aotearoa is now its own separated land mass in a similar location to where it will remain for the next 55 million years. Between 56-47 mya, planet Earth is a global 'Hot House' with an average temperature of 12-16 degrees Celsius higher than the average global surface temperature between 1961 and 1990.

45 mya - Aotearoa New Zealand begins to sink

Two-thirds of modern Aotearoa New Zealand is submerged (45-17 mya - land is inundated). During this period, coal-forming swamps become covered with marine sediments in Northland, Waikato and northern Taranaki. Skinks and geckos native to Aotearoa New Zealand are present and evolving, giving rise to the more than 90 species found in Aotearoa as of 2023.

34  mya - Australia and Antarctica separate 

Home to some of the Earth’s oldest rocks, Australia and Antarticita separate, marking the end of the once great supercontinent Gondwana.

33 - 28 mya - Zealandia continues to sink

Drifting from Gondwana, Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia is at its most submerged between 33 and 28 mya. During this time, Aotearoa New Zealand is made up of three strings of islands - one off the west coast of Tāmaki Makaurau / Auckland, another one extending from Taupō up through Te Tara-o-te-Ika-a-Māui / Coromandel and extending past Aotea / Great Barrier Island to the north and another in Murihiku / Southland.

 25 mya - Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates intersect

Approximately 25 mya Aotearoa New Zealand is intersected by the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates, changing the landform significantly. Volcanic activity begins soon after.

22 mya - Volcanic activity in Te Tokerau / Northland and  Te Tara-o-te-Ika-a-Māui  / Coromandel

Beginning around 22 mya through to about 16 mya, two significant volcanic chains emerge - the Northland-Coromandel Arc, which extends along the eastern side of the Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island to Te Tara-o-te-Ika-a-Māui / Coromandel Peninsula and the Waitākere Arc along the west coast. Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa / Waitākere Ranges is all that remains from this once giant strata-volcano - the largest in Aotearoa New Zealand’s history, reaching 50 km in diameter and as tall as 4,000 metres. This volcano forms the foundation of the Waitākere Ranges and the northern headland of Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa / Manukau Harbour. Currently, the highest peak in Te Wao Nui o Tiriwa, Te Toiokawharu, is approximately 1,000 metres tall or 474 metres above the modern sea level. 

22 mya - The Great Ancestor of hominids emerges.

In the Early Miocene epoch the great apes evolve, diversify and begin to spread throughout Africa and Eurasia.

20 mya - Basin between Northland/Western and Coromandel/Eastern volcanic belts

The area of land between the Northland/Western and Coromandel/Eastern volcanic belts subsides, creating a large basin where sediment are deposited between 1,000-4,000 metres below sea level (bathyal depths) and hardened with burial into sedimentary rock over millions of years. 

16 mya - Coastal cliffs

These sedimentary rocks are uplifted due to the shifting of the Indian and Pacific plates and now form the cliffs around the inner Tīkapa Moana o Hauraki / Hauraki Gulf and Waitematā Harbour, the cliffs on the northern edge of Te Manukunuka o Hoturoa / Manukau Harbour and the land in the upper catchment of Puhinui - this geology is known as the Waitematā Group and includes  Cornwallis Formation and East Coast Bays Formation which are made up of sandstone and mudstone, weathering into a soil that is dominated by clay. 

15 mya - Oldest moa fossils found

The oldest moa fossils discovered so far are ‘only’ 15 mya, however, because moa are the only birds ever discovered that lack any trace of wings; it is presumed their ancestors were present when Te Riu-a-Māui / Zealandia broke away from Gondwana. 

6-7 mya - First human ancestors diverge from chimpanzee and bonobo ancestor

Two pre-Australopithecus apes8 with anatomical features that suggest they walk upright, are alive in central Africa, making them likely the earliest humans to walk the Earth.

5 mya - Aotearoa New Zealand starts to take shape

The outline of modern Aotearoa New Zealand is taking shape, two main islands are visible, and Te Tiritiri-o-te-moana / Southern Alps emerge. New alpine plant and animal species evolve, including the South Island edelweiss, large mountain daisy, snow tussock, korikori, giant buttercup, the upland moa, and the Pīwauwau / rock wren9. This change in the landscape also sets the conditions for the common ancestor of the kea and kākā10 to separate, the kākā travelling north and into the forest, and the kea travelling south and into the mountains to become the world's only alpine parrot. The Manukau lowlands are occupied by sea, and the Āwhitu Peninsula has not yet formed.  

3.8-3.6  mya - The first human footprints

In a layer of volcanic ash, two individual early hominins, assumed to be of the species Australopithecus afarensis, leave a 24.4-metre long trail of footprints in central-east Africa. Australopithecus afarensis survives in Africa for 900,000 years.

2.58 mya - Ice age

The Pleistocene, better known as the ‘Ice Age’11, is a geological epoch that lasts from approximately 2.58 million to 11,700 years ago. During this time, the climate slowly oscillates between glaciations and interglacial climates over 40,000 to 100,000-year-long periods. During glaciations, water is captured in continental ice sheets 1,500 to 3,000 metres thick, causing the sea level to fluctuate by up to 150 metres, exposing large areas of the continental shelf as dry land.

The climate is warm during the interglacial periods, allowing kauri forests, which only occur in the upper Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island in 2023, to grow as far south as Wellington. While Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland is not glaciated, the sea level is 135m from 2023 levels due to global glaciation. Manukau, Kaipara and Waitematā harbours and Tīkapa Moana / Hauraki Gulf are drained and forested with streams and rivers extending to meet the coastline. 

2.5 mya - Manukau Harbour forms

At approximately 2.5 mya, Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa / Manukau Harbour starts to take shape. The ancestral Waipā River flows through the west coast and across the Manukau lowlands, depositing sediment derived from the Taupō Volcanic Zone and forming a highly fertile soil mantle. Longshore drift transports the sediment northward to create the Āwhitu Peninsula, which encloses Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa / Manukau Harbour from the sea, as well as forming the northern and southern headlands of Kaipara Moana / Kaipara Harbour. This geology is located in the middle and lower Puhinui catchment, including where we are standing and is characterised by alluvial sedimentary soils known as the Puketoka Formation. The soils in this area include silts, clay and some layers of sand.

2.35 mya - Homo genus emerges

Our great ancestor, the first known species of the genus Homo - Homo habilis or ‘handyman’ is walking the earth, thought to be the first hominin to make stone tools and to supplement their plant-based diet with animal meat from scavenging and hunting.

2 mya -  Homo erectus emerges

Homo erectus emerges in Africa. With a major increase in brain size and reduction in molar size, ‘upright man’ has the cognitive capacity to adapt and thrive in vastly different environments and adapts to a softer and richer diet.

1.6 mya - Volcanic activity in south Auckland

The Bombay Hills, extending from Waiuku through Pukekohe to the Hunua Ranges, begin to erupt. Basaltic volcanoes shower ash over the Auckland region and deposit sediment into the Manukau lowlands. Volcanic activity also occurs in Timaru, parts of Ipipiri / Bay of Islands, Pirongia and Karioi, Te Tara-o-te-Ika-a-Māui / Coromandel and around Rotorua about this time. A highly fertile soil mantle forms over the middle and lower catchment of the Puhinui. Puhinui is more like an estuary than a stream, creating the soils along the edges of modern Puhinui Awa / Stream.

1.8 - 1 mya -  Homo erectus migrates out of Africa

Homo erectus starts migrating north and east across Eurasia, making it to the island of Flores in the Indonesia archipelago by 800,000 years ago.

300,000 - 200,000 ya  - Homo sapiens arrives on the scene

Estimates of the approximate population of early Homo sapiens in Africa are between 100,000-300,000 individuals.

193,000 ya Auckland’s volcanic field emerges 

Pupuke erupts in modern-day Takapuna, marking the origins of the Auckland Volcanic Field—a volcanic field spanning the Auckland Isthmus that would continue to erupt for the next 193,000 years, giving rise to approximately 53 monogenetic volcanoes.12

120-90,000 ya - Homo sapiens leave Africa 

While there is still uncertainty about modern humans migration out of Africa and evidence of multiple smaller migrations into the Levant / Middle East as early as 185,000 ya, widespread migration east at this time is thought to have been driven by drought and famine in Africa.  

117,000–108,000 ya - Homo erectus goes extinct 

The last known population of Homo erectus dies off in Java, Indonesia.

74,000 ya - Toba Eruption, Sumatra, Indonesia

The Mount Toba super volcano erupts in modern-day Sumatra, causing a volcanic winter lasting up to ten years, potentially reducing Homo sapiens population to as low as 1,000 to 10,000 individuals globally.

65-50,000 ya - Homo sapiens leave mainland Asia

Modern humans leave Sunda (modern mainland South-East Asia) and land in Sahul (modern Australasia) and begin the exploration of the western Pacific Ocean.

60-40,000 ya - Homo sapiens migrate into Europe

While there is still debate about when Homo sapiens arrived and settled in Europe, permanent populations of modern humans are well established there by 40,000 ya. 

50,000 ya - Homo Floresiensis go extinct

This dwarf species of humans, whose evolutionary ancestry is still in question, lives on the island of Flores in Indonesia from 190,000 to 50,000 ya. 

39,000 ya - Neanderthals go extinct

With modern Homo sapiens having established themselves firmly in Europe, Neanderthals, our last remaining human relative, go extinct.  

35,000 ya - Aucklands volcanic field awakens 

After a period of dormancy, Auckland's volcanic field reawakens, shaping Tāmaki Makarau’s two harbours. Around Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa/Manukau Harbour, volcanic cones include Maungataketake, Ōtuataua (Moerangi), Te Motu a Hiroa/Puketutu, Pukeiti, Manurewa, Waitomokia (Crater Lake), and Te Pane o Mataoho/Māngere Mountain. In the Te Puhinui catchment, three volcanic cones—Matukutūruru, Matukutūreia, collectively known as Ngā Matukurua, and Ash Hill erupt.

Matukutūruru erupts approximately 30,000 - 35,000 years ago. Its scoria cone reaches 80 metres above sea level. The lava flows from the formation of Matukutūruru create Wiri Lava Cave. At 290 metres long it is Tāmaki Makaurau’s longest known lava cave and considered to be Aotearoa New Zealand’s best. Matukutūreia, also known as McLaughlin’s Mountain, erupts around this time. The peak is 73 metres above sea level, its scoria cone is crescent-shaped13.

26,500 ya - Taupō Eruption

The Oruanui eruption is responsible for the modern caldera's shape - This last global mega volcano produces more than 800 cubic kilometres of lava and ash. Before this eruption, the Waikato River flowed into Tīkapa Moana / Hauraki Gulf. 

20,000 ya - Peak glaciation

Temperatures are at their lowest - 5 degrees below 2023 mean - glaciers are at their fullest extent, the sea level is 120-130 m below present levels, and Aotearoa/New Zealand is one continuous landmass. Winds are stronger, and the climate is generally drier. Forests are restricted almost entirely to Muriwhenua / the Far North with some patches of forest surviving in a landscape dominated by shrub and grassland for most of Aotearoa. Beech is the most common tree, and even this is rare in Murihiku / Southland. Birds such as Pouākai / Haast’s eagle, kea and the upland moa14 expanded their range and forest dwellers are rare. The Te Manukanuka o Hotorua is a shrub grassland mosaic with small beach forest areas and small and rare conifer / broad leaf forest patches. 

11,700  ya - The ice age ends

The ice age ends, and planet earth enters its current interglacial period. The sea is 50 metres higher than its low during peak glaciation. Forests begin to recolonise grasslands and ice begins to retreat.

11,700 - 10,000 ya - First signs of agriculture emerge

Beginning around 12,000 years ago, and sprouting up in different regions of the world including Asia and Papua New Guinea, agriculture triggers such a change in society and the way in which humans live that its development has been dubbed the “Neolithic Revolution.”

9,000 ya - Reforestation

Sea level is 27m below 2023 levels, and Aotearoa New Zealand is being recolonised by conifer-broadleaf forest. 

8000 ya - First human cities emerge

The oldest known cities and city-states are emerging in Turkey, Sumeria and Mesopotamia, housing 10,000 or more people. Global human population at this time is estimated at 5 million. 

7,000  ya - Period of climatic warming

Between 9,500-5,000 ya the temperature might be as much as 2 degrees warmer in Aotearoa New Zealand than in 2023. It is a post-glacial period with sea levels rising to their modern day level. Waitematā transforms from a valley to a harbour as the water rises. 7,000 ya - Conifer-broadleaf forests are dominated by rimu in the north and west and mataī and tōtara to the east; beech forest is scarce with conifer broadleaf extending to the tree line. Only grassland exists in dry central Otago. 

6,000 - 5,000 ya - Writing, documented history and the first human civilisation emerges

3,500 ya - Lapita culture complex emerges in Near Oceania (Bismark archipelago)

The earliest ancestors of many Pacific people and Māori – the people provisionally named Lapita – appeared in Oceania, spreading over time to what is now Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and then down to New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

3,000 ya - Extensive South Island Wild Fires

Fires become more common, and limited outbreaks destroy some low forest and scrub in southeastern Te Wai Pounamu /South Island. Mysteriously, kiore (Polynesian rat) is present in Aotearoa; we don’t know how it arrived; either way, it is likely responsible for the death of millions of frogs, other amphibians and one of Aotearoa’s bats.15

1,800 ya - Taupō Erupts

Taupō erupts in an event that will later be known as the Hatepe eruption, the most powerful eruption the world has seen for the last 3,000 years. 

1,000 - 875 ya - Polynesian way finders migrate east

Polynesians settle the Cook Islands, Society Islands, and the Marquesas Islands

1,100 ya - Kupe Lands

According to some tribal narratives, Kupe is the first Polynesian to discover Aotearoa and travel back to Hawaiki with tales of the Long White Cloud.

875 ya  - Toi establishes a settlement in Aotearoa

Living around 1150, Toitehuatahi is recognised as one of the first Polynesian inhabitants in Aotearoa. Several other migrating waka leave Hawaiki for Aotearoa, and the Polynesian settlement of Aotearoa begins.

680 ya - Bubonic Plague spreads through Eurasia and North Africa

Between 1346 and 1353 the Black Plague kills between 75-200 million people - the most fatal pandemic in recorded history.

675 ya - Evidence of early Māori occupation of Matukutūruru

Archaelogical evidence confirms that in the 1350s Māori were living in and around the rich volcanic soils of Matukutūruru, gardening and living off the abundant marine resources of Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa.

650 ya - Tainui waka lands at East Cape. 

Exploration of Tāmaki Makaurau led the Tainui waka from Te Wai-o-Taiki / Tāmaki River through Ōtāhuhu portage to Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa /Manukau Harbour. Several other voyaging waka from Hawaiki land in Aotearoa around this time.

600 ya - Moa extinction

Moa and Pouākai / Haast’s eagle go extinct as do many other lesser known species of birds, including Moho / North Island takahē, a sea eagle, adzebill, poipoi, laughing owl, New Zealand quail, Hodgen’s waterhen, North and South Island flightless geese, ducks and swan as well as a New Zealand and Chatham Island sea lion.16 

600 ya - Rangitoto eruption

Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s youngest volcano, Rangitoto erupts, creating a new island in Tīkapa Moana / Hauraki Gulf and destroying existing Māori settlements on nearby Motutapu.

400 ya - Abel Tasman visits Aotearoa

In 1642 Abel Tasman sights the west coast of Te Wai Pounamu / South Island, makes first contact with Māori in Mōhua / Golden Bay and sails the west coast of Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island.

300 ya - Captain Cook visits Aotearoa

In 1769-1770, travelling on the HMS Endeavour, Captain Cook charters and visits Te Ika-a-Māui / North Island and Te Wai Pounamu / South Island. He visits again in 1772-73 and 1776 paving the way for future European trade and settlement.

200-100 ya - Extinctions due to European settlement and urbanisation 

From the 1840s onward many more species go extinct, including huia17, whose last confirmed sighting is in the Tararua Range in 1907 with unconfirmed sightings as late as 1924.

2023 - Te Puhinui in the 21st Century

Today Te Puhinui is home to a variety of coastal and forest birds as well as a wide range of insects, spiders and other invertebrates, frogs, skinks and geckos, fish and eels and even bats native to the area. Due to the significant urbanisation of the Puhinui, it is also home to a wide range of introduced plant and animal species. Exotic plants include easily recognisable species such as pine, macrocarpa, eucalyptus, pampas grass, blue convolvulus, Japanese honeysuckle, jasmine, moth plant, onion weed and tradescantia. Exotic animals include dogs, cats, rats, feral cats, stoats, rabbits, hedgehogs, possums and wasps.

The ecosystems of Puhinui have been significantly modified. With an average canopy cover of between 9-15%, the Puhinui catchment has some of the lowest canopy cover in the region. The remaining forest cover is fragmented and isolated and is composed mainly of exotic species. With the exception of the patches of forest in the Auckland Botanic Gardens, Tōtara Park, David Nathan Park and along the coastal edge and inner harbour around Puhinui Reserve, Puhinui is an urban ecology. The remaining patches of indigenous ecosystems are under threat due to the pressures of urbanisation and the associated stresses of habitat loss, mammalian pests, competition from noxious plants and kauri dieback. These stresses are likely to be exacerbated by the intensification of the catchment and a changing climate. 

The Puhinui catchment was once home to six distinct ecosystems. These can be described as three broad ecosystem types: inland forests, coastal ecosystems and stream and aquatic habitats. Mangrove forests are the only ecosystem type in the Puhinui that is not endangered or critically endangered. As much as we may wish to do so, we can not re-create the ecosystems of the past. As well as being an urban ecology, Puhinui is a ‘novel ecosystem’ composed of a unique collection of species that include both exotic and native species that result from human agency and influence but are often not directly or consciously managed by people. 

During the last ice age, Tāmaki Makaurau was a shrub and grassland, as was much of Aotearoa New Zealand. Since this time, Tāmaki Makaurau has evolved into a temperate rainforest ecosystem and the tendency of the Puhinui catchment is to ‘succeed’ from the current state toward a forested landscape - this is nature’s response to disturbance. 

Whether it is planned or not, as the Puhinui continues to evolve, new and novel ecosystems will emerge that will create communities of plants and animals that have never coexisted before. These new communities will provide the genetic material for the ecosystems of the future. While the catchment cannot be revegetated to replicate a historic ecosystem, patches of native vegetation and green infrastructure in parks and open spaces, reserves, streets, roads, schools and backyards present the opportunities for the novel, urban ecologies to emerge and integrate with the built fabric in a way that reflects the older and deeper patterns of Te Puhinui.





4. Hutu - Ascarina lucida; southern beech - Nothofagus; grass trees - Dracophyllum elegantissimum; Horopito / mountain pepper tree - Pseudowintera colorata; tānekaha / celery pines - Phyllocladus trichomanoides.

5. Podcarp is the common name given to Podocarpaceae - a large family of mainly Southern Hemisphere conifers. Aotearoa has 13 podocarp tree species, including Rimu - Dacrydium cupressinum; Kahikatea - Dacrycarpus dacrydioides; Miro - Prumnopitys ferrugineus; Mataī - Prumnopitys taxifolia; and Tōtara - Podocarpus totara.

6. Ponga / silver fern - Cyathea dealbata; wheki / rough tree fern - Dicksonia squarrosa;  Club mosses - Lycopodiaceae family; ground ferns is a common name for the wide range of ferns found throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

7. Scientists led by Chris Hollis, a paleontologist with GNS Science, recently studied the rock layer in several New Zealand locations. Hollis announced that 'New Zealand has the only southern hemisphere record of the extinction event across a wide range of environments. This rock layer can tell us a lot about what happened 65 million years ago.

8. Sahelanthropus tchadensis approximately 6-7 mya and Orrorin tugenensis approxaimelty 6 mya.

9. South Island edelweiss - Leucogenesgrandiceps; large mountain daisy - Celmisia semicordata; snow tussock - Chionochloa pallens; korikori - Ranunculus insignis; giant buttercup - Ranunculus lvalli; upland moa - Megalapteryx didinus; rock wren - Xenicus gilviventris.

10. Kea - Nestor notabilis; kākā - Nestor meridionalis.

11. The Pleistocene is in fact one of at least five major ice ages that have occurred throughout Earth's history, the earliest occurring between 2,500 and 2,200 mya.

12. A monogenetic volcanic field consists of small monogenetic volcanoes that erupt only once, in contrast to polygenetic volcanoes that erupt repeatedly over time.

13. Extensive quarrying has led to only a small pyramid-shaped mound remaining as the summit. The eastern side of the cone has been left unquarried, and a large area of lava flow to the south of the cone remains intact. The remaining areas of the volcano have recently been transferred to the Department of Conservation management, primarily because of the high heritage values of the nearby Matukutūrua Stonefields garden

14. Pouākai / Haast’s eagle - Hieraaetus moorei; Kea - Nestor notabilis; upland moa - Megalapteryx didinus.

15. Aurora frog - Leiopelma auroraensis; Markham's frog - Leiopelma markhami; Waitomo frog - Leiopelma waitomoensis; and New Zealand greater short-tailed bat - Mystacina robusta.

16. Moa - Order Dinornithiformes; Pouākai / Haast’s eagle - Aquila moorei; Moho / North Island takahē - Porphyrio mantelli; Sea eagle - Haliaeetus australis; adzebill - Aptornis sp; Poipoi - Turnagra sp; Laughing owl - Sceloglaux albifacies; New Zealand quail - Coturnix novaezelandidae; Hodgen’s waterhen - Tribonyx hodgenorum; North Island goose - Cnemiornis gracilis; South Island goose - Cnemiornis calcitrans; Manutahora / Finsch’s duck - Chenonetta finschi; Poūwa / New Zealand swan - Cygnus sumnerensis sumnerensis; and New Zealand sea lion - Phocarctos hookeri.

17. Huia - Heteralocha acutirostris