Historic Place Category 2
At the end of Tanoa road on the bank of the Otamatea River
Pt Oneroa Blk (CT NA2D/985), (Maori Reservation NZ Gazette 2001 p.678), North Auckland Land District
Extent of Registration
Extent includes the land described as Pt Oneroa Blk (CT NA2D/985), (Maori Reservation NZ Gazette 2001 p.678), North Auckland Land District and the building and structures known as Kakaraea Church thereon, and its fittings and fixtures and the following chattels: Pews, communion table, Bible stand. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).
Kakaraea Church was opened on Sunday March 29th 1874. It was built under the direction of the Methodist missionary Rev. William Gittos, to serve as the central church for his mission to Maori of the Kaipara. It was a very large, very high kauri building, and became known as the Cathedral Church of Gittos. Gittos’ mission station was situated at Rangiora, immediately across the Otamatea River from the church.
During the 1920s the local Maori community converted to the Ratana faith following a visit by T.W.Ratana. The Church was damaged in a storm in 1936, and for safety was relocated at ninety degrees to its original position. It continued to be used by the local community for religious services but by the 1950s and early 60s the church was in poor condition. It was substantially reduced in scale as part of its renovation. The Church remains as it was altered in 1965. It is surrounded by a cemetery in which many of the local community are buried. The church is today administered by the Trustees from the adjacent Otamatea marae.
Kakaraea Church (Methodist) has cultural significance as the land on which the church stands was deliberately selected as a church site because of its tapu status in connection with the death of Haututu and others following the battle of Te Ika a Ranganui. The church has had a long association with the adjacent Otamatea marae as a place of significance to Ratana. Kakaraea Church has historical significance as it has played a significant role in the history of the Kaipara, in the spread of Christianity and especially Methodism in Northland. The place has social value for the significant role it has played in the Otamatea community throughout its history. Kakaraea Church (Methodist) also has spiritual significance to Methodists and other denominations who worship there as well as the followers of the Ratana faith.
Kakaraea Church has historical significance as it has played a significant role in the history of the Kaipara, in the spread of Christianity and especially Methodism in Northland, in the transfer of land ownership from Te Uri o Hau to Pakeha settlers, and in the spread of Ratana as a religious and political movement. The site was selected as appropriate by William Gittos early in his mission, and because of its close proximity to his mission station it remained central to his work. He developed there the present church, albeit in a grander form than at present.
Cultural Significance or Value:
Kakaraea Church (Methodist) has cultural significance as the land on which the church stands was deliberately selected as a church site because of its tapu status in connection with the death of Haututu and others following the battle of Te Ika a Ranganui. Both William Gittos and Arama Karaka Haututu are said to have wanted the church built on this spot to remove its tapu, though Karaka’s reported reluctance to enter it may suggest he was less enthusiastic than the minister. The church has had a long association with the adjacent Otamatea marae as a place of worship and a place of burial, as well as a place for weddings and other lifestyle events. The strength of the marae as a place of significance to Ratana, especially though the links of the Paikea family to that movement, is also reflected in the significance of the church.
Social Significance or Value:
Kakaraea Church has played a significant role in the social life of the Otamatea community throughout its history. It was the focus for regular worship and for milestone events such as baptisms, weddings and funerals for the community of Tanoa and the wider Otamatea area. Although its use declined as religious observance patterns changed, its periodic revival and refurbishment have been specifically linked to community regard for the place, and to the desire to hold weddings especially and funerals in an appropriate setting. It continues to be used for worship, and for weddings and funerals.
Spiritual Significance or Value
As the principal Methodist mission church in the Kaipara, Kakaraea Church (Methodist) has spiritual significance to Methodists and to those of other denominations who worship there. Because of its significant connection to the development of the Ratana faith in the Kaipara, the church has spiritual significance to followers of the Ratana faith. It is also a place of reverence and respect for the descendants of those who worshipped there, those who are buried there, and those whose life milestones took place there.
Summary of Assessed Criteria
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history:
Paikea and Arama Karaka were significant leaders of Te Uri o Hau and northern Maori in the nineteenth century. Arama Karaka especially played a significant role in welcoming the settlement of Northland by the Albertland settlers, and facilitating the sale of land to the incomers. They were pivotal in the building of the church and the selection of its site to whakanoa a particularly tapu place.
William Gittos played a significant role in the spread of Methodism in Northland and elsewhere, in which Kakaraea held a special place, being immediately adjacent to his mission station. He also played a significant role in the alienation of large areas of Maori land, something that continues to have social, economic and political significance.
The substantial move by many Maori, particularly those of Methodist background, to adopt the Ratana faith created a very significant religious and political movement. The wholesale transference of allegiance from Methodism to Ratana that took place at Kakaraea provides an example of a series of events that occurred nationwide. The healing of the blind kuia Rahui at Kakaraea is one of the more renowned of Ratana’s healings, one which gave impetus to the movement. P.K.Paikea was a significant Maori political and religious leader; he and his son who followed him in his footsteps in both politics and religion are both buried in the graveyard.
(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua:
Although erected under the aegis of the missionary William Gittos, the church was a central part of the Methodist mission to Maori in Kaipara. The land was given by Maori; Maori were many of the church’s ministers and most of its congregation. Many prominent Kaipara Maori, both Methodist and Ratana, have had close links to this church, and most of those buried in its graveyard are Maori. The church has an ongoing close association with the adjacent Otamatea marae, and the church trustees are prominent members of the local hapu.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:
The local Tanoa community continues to demonstrate its esteem for this place through its ongoing care, its fundraising for the conservation of the church and its ongoing use in worship. The wider Kaipara community values this place, as evidenced in the local history publications and weblogs that refer to the church, and has concern for its maintenance and upkeep.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: b, d, e,
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
Kaipara in the early nineteenth century was a place of conflict between two tribal confederations, Ngapuhi and Ngati Whatua. Hostilities began around 1807 with a clash between Ngapuhi and Te Roroa, who were supported by their Ngati Whatua allies, including Te Uri o Hau. A battle, known as Te Kai a Te Karoro (the seagull’s feast), was fought at Moremonui, on the coast north-west of Dargaville. The outcome was a serious defeat for Ngapuhi, who lost several of their leaders there. Hongi Hika of Ngapuhi was a young man at Moremonui, and he determined to obtain utu for the loss of his kin. The Ngapuhi confederation he led acquired guns after 1814, and developed a monopoly in dealings with Pakeha traders and missionaries in the Bay of Islands. In contrast, Kaipara Maori had little contact with Pakeha before the 1830s.
By the 1820s, Hongi Hika had acquired sufficient guns to begin a series of expeditions southward to settle past grievances, including the defeat at Moremonui, where two of his brothers had died. Among Hongi Hika’s early targets was Te Parawhau of the upper Wairoa Valley, but their leader, Te Tirarau Kukupa, subsequently allied with Hongi Hika. In 1825, Hongi Hika’s war party, which included Te Parawhau, attacked a large force (estimated at about 1000) of Ngati Whatua near Kaiwaka. The Ngati Whatua confederation included Te Uri o Hau as well as several other hapa. In a series of fights around Kaiwaka, called Te Ika a Ranganui, Ngati Whatua were comprehensively defeated with heavy losses. The survivors scattered. Some went north up the Kaihu Valley to their relatives from Te Roroa, some sought protection with Te Parawhau kin in northern Wairoa, while others went south to Tamaki and on into Waikato. For the next decade, much of Kaipara was almost unoccupied, but by the 1830s Ngati Whatua began moving back.
Ngapuhi did not follow the fighting at Te Ika a Ranganui with the permanent occupation of Kaipara. In Maori terms, conquest must be followed by settlement if rights to the land are to be recognised.
The Methodist Church in Northland
The Methodist Church was founded in England during the 1730s by John Wesley, an Anglican priest who sought to reform the Christian religion by instituting greater discipline in spiritual devotion and social work. The first Wesleyan mission in New Zealand was established at Wesleydale, Kaeo, on the Whangaroa Harbour in June 1823. The missionaries lived in an uneasy relationship with their hosts, Ngati Uru. After four years of difficult and largely unsuccessful evangelism, the mission was abandoned in a period of intense Maori political activity in January 1827. The missionaries fled to safety in Sydney. The mission was pillaged according to the law of muru; nothing remains today but a commemorative cairn.
In October 1827 they returned, this time to the Hokianga, at the invitation of the Ngapuhi chief Patuone. A mission station was established at Mangungu. Many local Maori were supportive of the mission, lead by the chiefs Patuone and Nene who both became Christians. The missionaries instituted the Methodist practice of preaching in a 'circuit' of chapels and meeting places in Maori villages and Pakeha settlements such as the nearby Horeke shipyard.
In 1836 a Wesleyan mission station was established at Tangiteroria, on the upper reaches of the Wairoa River, in the rohe of Tirarau. The mission station was close to Tirarau’s principal pa Aotahi. The mission circuit developed from there by James Wallis and subsequently James Buller included several places around the Kaipara, including Otamatea (Kakaraea) at Tanoa. However, the mission station at Tangiteroria was not successful and both Wallis and Buller frequently complained that Tirarau’s people living nearby were ‘very heartless in everything of a religious character’. The mission was well supported by other Kaipara chiefs including Arama Karaka Haututu (Adam Clark) of Otamatea.
As early as 1840 Buller had recommended relocating the Kaipara mission station to a more central place. While in the 1830s the greatest concentration of Maori was in the immediate vicinity of Tangiteroria, by the 1850s the bulk of the Maori population had moved to the Kaipara heads area. In early 1854 Buller established his new mission station at Mt Wesley, just south of Dargaville, to enable him to have greater contact with the bulk of the Kaipara population located nearby. A decline in Buller’s health led to his removal to Auckland in late 1854. He had achieved a great deal in his fifteen years in the Kaipara. Some 400 of the 880 Maori population of the Kaipara were nominally Christian and there were good attendances at the mission preaching places and schools. Buller’s replacement in 1856 was William Gittos.
Initially, Gittos settled at Waingohi, near Oruawharo but in 1862 he relocated the mission station north to Rangiora on the southern side of the Otamatea river and opposite the mission outpost at Tanoa where a chapel seating around 150 people had been built in 1850-1. This move brought the mission much closer to the main Maori population base at Otamatea. Tanoa was at that time a significant settlement in southern Kaipara, as the residence of the prominent Te Uri o Hau chiefs Paikea Te Hekeua and Arama Karaka. In 1864, the visit of the Colonial Secretary William Fox to Tanoa was recounted in the newspapers of the day:
Tanoa, Paikea's village, is very prettily situated on the banks of the Otamatea, about twelve miles from its mouth. The natives are numerous, healthy, and respectable. Their settlement is a picture of happy industry, with its clean neat whares and fruitful cultivations. [After visiting Port Albert they] returned that evening to Tanoa, where they were most comfortably lodged by Paikea. The following day was that appointed for the grand korero. It was held at eleven o'clock in the morning, in Paikea's new house, a handsome weather-boarded building thirty-five feet by thirty feet in width.
In February 1868 a sitting of the Native Land Court was held at Tanoa, and the newspaper provides a description of the village and the original church:
On the 20th, the Native Lands Court sat at Te Tanoa, a native village laid out into allotments, having been surveyed by Mr. Rintoul at the request of the Maoris and at their expense. The lots have been fenced with split palings, and several substantial wooden tenements erected thereon. One commodious four-roomed cottage, in which the Court was held, it the residence of Paikea, the principal chief of the Uriohau; another, containing the same number of rooms, neatly papered, is the property of his son, Heta Paikea. Arama Karaka has erected a four roomed wooden house, and others of like material are to be built on the allotments owned by other chiefs. The whole plan is most creditable, and speaks well for the social improvement of the Maoris in the Kaipara district.
On the Sabbath, in the forenoon, a sermon was preached in Maori by Mr. Gittos, at Te Tanoa, in a wooden structure 54 feet by 21, to an attentive congregation numbering 150, on the words, "I came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil". The discourse was excellent, and delivered with much energy and feeling; and the psalms for the day and responses were repeated with great regularity and pathos by the Maori audience. The singing was also good.
In the afternoon Mr. Gittos officiated at an English service held in his own house; and in the evening pieces and hymns were sung, Mrs. Gittos playing on the harmonium.
Subsequently it was decided taken to replace this chapel with a substantial wooden church, which was opened on Sunday March 29th 1874.
The opening of this new Church took place on Sunday, March the 29th. The building is of wood, built in the gothic style. It is fifty feet in length, by thirty feet in breadth, and provides sitting accommodation for about three hundred worshippers. It is proportionately of a very lofty character, the matter of ventilation having received due consideration, a very requisite quality in any church where natives worship. We were glad to notice that there was no pulpit, but a plain reading-desk inside the communion rail... Mr. Symon[d]s was the architect and builder, and has done his work well.
The church is situated in the native village of Otamaha [Otamatea], on the opposite side of the Wesleyan Mission Station, where the Rev. Mr. Gittos resides. An interesting fact, in connection with the site of the church, is, that here the last cannibal feast of the district was held - those slain by Hongihika at Te Ikaranganui being here finally disposed of. The tree still stands to which the bodies were suspended until the last was devoured. In consequence of this the spot was tapued, according to native ideas. Some little difficulty was encountered in removing these superstitious scruples from the minds of some of the Maoris. They thought it impolitic to erect a church on such a spot; but, through the tact of Mr. Gittos, these scruples were soon disposed of.
The Sunday opening services were four in number, two being in Maori and two in English. The first service was conducted by the Rev. Mr. Gittos, at 9.30 a.m., in Maori. The natives occupied the front seats and body of the church, and a number of Europeans, who attended, the pews in the rear of the building. We were struck with the earnest attention paid to the preaching by the majority of the natives. That portion of the service which consisted in the singing of the psalms for the day was lead by Adam Clarke, a native chief, who is also a lay preacher. The harmony of expression in this portion of their worship was very pleasing indeed.
At 11 a.m. the Rev. W. C Oliver, of Auckland, preached in English, and at the close a number of children of both races wore presented for baptism, and then the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was administered to the European communicants. The Rev. J. White (native) preached to his countrymen in the afternoon, and the Rev. Mr Jagger in English in the evening. At each service the church was crowded.
The Rev. White referred to here was Rev. Hone Waiti Hikitanga, a chief of Te Uri o Hau who assisted Gittos in the Kaipara for nineteen years. He had given the land across the river at Rangiora to the Wesleyans for Gittos’s mission house.
It seems clear that Gittos and Karaka deliberately selected this tapu site associated with the death of Arama Karaka’s father. It was surveyed in 1873, claimed by Arama Karaka before the Native Land Court and put into the name of William Gittos, Tapihana Paikea, Matena Waiti and Te Wiapo Karaka as trustees.
The church was used in worship by both Maori and Pakeha:
The native members of the Wesleyan connection, with the assistance of their European friends, have built a beautiful church, near the Tanoa point, and close to the settlement of the chief, Adam Clark. The church is built in the Gothic style of architecture. The services are conducted by the Rev. Mr. Gittos, who has been resident some eighteen years amongst the natives, and has acquired the native tongue with that degree of proficiency so necessary to one in his position. It is astonishing with what deference, nay, affection, he natives address him. His power over them appears almost unlimited.
Mr. Gittos holds English services at stated intervals, when settlers from the adjacent districts, viz., Paparoa, Maungaturoto, Kaiwaka, Hakaru, &c, are present in considerable numbers.
In 1886 William Gittos left the Kaipara district to become Superintendent of the Methodist Maori Mission. By this stage financial support for the mission from both Maori and Pakeha had waned. Gittos was not replaced and the Rangiora mission station was closed and sold.
In 1912 Florence Harsant (nèe Woodhead) came to live at Tanoa where her father taught at the school. She describes Tanoa as quite a large settlement with wooden houses, a large hall and ‘a very lovely old church that stood close to the beach’. She became the organist for church services there, as well as teaching in the Sunday School for the Maori children - which ‘seemed to be attended by as many adults as youngsters.’ At this time there were regular services in Maori held at the church along with a monthly service in English with the Pakeha worshippers arriving by launch and punt. Harsant and her sister were confirmed in the church by the Anglican Bishop Averill.
The 1920s brought significant changes for the church. Many Maori at Otamatea were questioning their situation. The land sales of the previous century that Rev. Gittos had facilitated were now seen in a less positive light. Much of their land had gone and there was now little to show for it. The failure of Gittos and the Methodist Church to appoint a new missionary for Kaipara after his departure in the mid 1880s had left a gap, and the influenza epidemic of 1918 had hit the area hard. In 1921 Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, the Maori religious leader, came to Otamatea during a national tour. Here he performed one of the most famous healings attributed to him. In front of several hundred Maori he restored the eyesight of Rahui, a well-known blind woman in her 80s.
The Methodist Church was the major Christian church that was the most accepting of the Ratana movement. The Reverend A.J. Seamer, general superintendent of the Methodist Maori Mission saw the Ratana movement as both an opportunity and a threat. Ratana could galvanise support for Christianity and become an ally of the Methodist Church but he could also form his own church and compete with the Methodists for followers. The theological differences that alienated Ratana from the Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic churches were quietly tolerated by the Methodist Church and numerous Maori Methodist ministers became involved with the Ratana movement as it developed. Reverend Seamer became a trusted adviser to Ratana.
Many of the people of Otamatea became followers of Ratana encouraged not only by Ratana’s visit but also by the close relationship established between the Ratana movement and the Methodist Church. The Ratana Church was formally established in May 1925 and by 1926 virtually all of the people of Otamatea were followers of Ratana. Paikea Te Hekeua had been one of the principal leaders of Te Uri o Hau when Gittos moved to Otamatea, and as noted above, Tanoa was his village. His great grandson Paraire Karaka Paikea was ordained as a Methodist minister in 1920 but was on leave from the ministry, farming at Otamatea. In 1924 he took a prominent role in the new Ratana movement having responsibility for health matters as well as co-ordinating the Ratana district and local committees in Northland. In 1925, with the official formation of the Ratana Church, Paikea severed his ties with the Methodist Church and was soon propelled into the new political wing of the Ratana movement as well as taking on new leadership roles within the organisation. By the end of 1926, Paikea had become Ratana’s personal secretary and most of his family and tribal members had given their allegiance to the movement. In 1938 Paikea was elected Member of Parliament for Northern Maori, a position that he held until his death in 1943. His years in parliament were extremely busy. He helped set up informal Maori organisations to help the war effort and in 1941 Prime Minister Peter Fraser appointed him to the Executive Council representing Maori. The following year he was given total responsibility for the Maori war effort overseeing over 300 tribal committees in charge of harnessing manpower and resources as well as recruiting for the armed forces.
Like many Methodist churches in the Kaipara, the church at Kakaraea was used for Ratana services. The church and its site however remained the property of the Methodist Church. In 1881 the site was vested in William Gittos, Tapihana Paikea, Matena Waiti and Te Wiapo Karaka as trustees. In 1910 the list of trustees was amended to comprise William Gittos, Tapihana Paikea, Pene Keropa, Peraniho Karaka, Rewi Painganui and Piripi Perana as trustees under the provisions of the Wesleyan Methodist Model Deed of New Zealand, 1887. However, there was tension over the use of the church by its Ratana adherents. ‘[It] remained a monument of contention from the time the local people began defecting to Ratana. Despite it being built on marae grounds, the locals often had difficulty gaining permission to bury their dead’.
In February 1936 the church suffered severe storm damage, being blown over four feet off its foundations at one end. Reverend Seamer organised for the church to be repaired. Mr Roke of Warkworth and Reverend D. Hickman, who was formerly employed as a carpenter, were assisted in this work by voluntary labour. The cost of the work was at least partly funded by donations.
The church had originally faced the river and was side on to the prevailing winds. This orientation made the church especially vulnerable to storm damage so it was decided to turn the church around to face side-on to the river, and move it further away from the riverbank. The belfry and interior were fully restored at this time.
On Labour Day 1937 the church was reopened at a special ceremony attended by visitors from Paparoa, Warkworth and Maungaturoto. After a Maori welcome the church was declared open by Reverend R.T. Haddon, Superintendent of the Methodist Maori Mission. The opening service featured prayers in both Maori and English with the speakers including Reverend Haddon; Reverend G.J. Laurenson, Assistant Superintendent of the Methodist Home Mission; Mr Paikea of the Ratana Church; Reverend H. Thornley of the Maungaturoto Congregational Church; and Reverend G. Parker of Paparoa. Hymns were led by the visiting Onehunga Choir.
In 1943 Paraire Karaka Paikea, M.P. for Northern Maori and Ratana leader, died unexpectedly. His tangi at Otamatea was attended by over 2000 people including Prime Minister Peter Fraser and almost every member of the cabinet. A Ratana service was held at the marae near the church after which the pall bearers conveyed the casket to the church where another brief service was held. Paikea was then laid to rest alongside his parents in the churchyard.
Paraire Paikea’s son, Tapihana Paraire, who was also a Ratana minister, followed his father in being elected to the Northern Maori seat immediately following his father’s death. Tapihana Paikea died in 1963 at the age of just 42. After a service at Otamatea marae he was buried alongside his father at the Kakaraea churchyard.
While Paraire Paikea’s tangi had featured a short service at the Kakaraea Church, there was no possibility of using the church to farewell his son twenty years later. In the intervening time the church had become a neglected ruin.
However, the dilapidated building would soon be reborn as a much less imposing church. In 1960 the Kakaraea Church had gained the attention of Methodist minister Reverend G.I. Laurenson and Paparoa Circuit minister Reverend F.J. Climo, who were keen to see it restored. A meeting of interested parties was held in July 1960 and a committee subsequently formed comprising of Pakeha and Maori, and including both Methodists and Ratana followers. However progress was stalled by a lack of funding for the project. The committee reluctantly decided that ‘restoration (and Maintenance) in the original, striking shape would be too costly’, and thus the church should be made smaller and the roof lowered. The overall length was reduced by one bay, and the roofline substantially altered.
In January 1965 a work camp was established at the nearby marae under Mr W. Walters including men and women volunteers from various parts of the county. After twelve days hard labour the major part of the work was done. Groups of volunteers subsequently completed the project over the next year. On 11 and 12 March 1967 re-opening celebrations were held at the Kakaraea Church. The restoration work had been funded by local donations as well as the Home Mission Department of the Methodist Church, which Laurenson headed, and the Edith Winstone Blackwell Foundation.
In 1999, the trustees of the church appointed in 1910 were replaced by the current owners, and in 2001 an order of the Maori Land Court incorporated the church into the adjacent Maori reservation for the combined purpose of a meeting place, marae, church and burial ground.
In 2006, the Trustees became concerned at the deteriorated state of the church. Discussions with NZ Historic Places Trust led to a successful application to NZ Lottery Grants Board and Kaipara District Council Heritage Assistance Fund for funding for a Conservation Plan, the preparation of that Plan in 2008 by Matthews and Matthews Architects of Auckland, and in 2010 the implementation of the conservation work with financial support from ASB Trusts and NZ Lottery Grants Board.
- Original Construction: 1851 (circa) - 1852 (circa)
- Other: 1873 (circa)
- Other: 1874 (circa)
- Relocation: 1936 (circa)
- Other - Church falls into disrepair: 1950s
- Modification: 1965 (circa)
- Modification: 2010 (circa)
Kauri timber, iron roof
- Brian Byrne, The Unknown Kaipara: Five Aspects of its History, Auckland, 2002
- Murray B. Gittos, First there were Three: Biographies and Geneologies of the White/Gittos Families, Auckland, 1992,Vol. II 1870 – 1900 1993 pp. 171-2
- J.McLeod Henderson, Ratana, the Man, the Church, the Political Movement Reed, 1972
- Matthews and Matthews Architects Ltd, Kakaraea Church Tanoa Conservation Plan Issue 3 September 2008
- Rev. William Morley, The History of Methodism in New Zealand, Wellington, 1900
- Keith Newman, Ratana Revisited: An Unfinished Legacy, Auckland, 2006
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northland Area Office.
Report Written By
this page is correct to the best of the Trust's knowledge. If you have any additional
information you would like to share with the Trust, please
contact the Registrar.
You may wish to contact the Trust to view our paper records.