The Catlins area was visited and settled within a few generations of the Polynesian discovery of Aotearoa/New Zealand. In the 14th and 15th centuries, people of the moa-hunter period frequented this coast. Evidence of occupation of the Waipati Beach area is sparse compared to the rich archaeological sites at Papatowai and Pounawea to the north. Possibly this is because the Waipati area was wetter and less attractive for settlement.

The early people did at least pass through the Waipati area and left evidence at campsites. One site, not far from the Cathedral Caves car park, was investigated in the 1950s. It revealed a moa bone and a stone awl or borer. The presence of moa bone suggests occupation of the site before about 1500 AD. At this time food resources would have included seals, penguins, forest birds, eels, bush moa and seafood/kaimoana such as blue cod/rāwaru, paua and cockles/tuaki. When the moa and seals became scarce through hunting, the people moved elsewhere.



1069 Chaslands Highway
New Zealand
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