Historical Significance or Value
Kia Ora is locally important as the home of one of Pahiatua’s most prominent citizens from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, George Harold Smith. Smith became Pahiatua’s second mayor soon after moving to the area and subsequently flourished in his career as a lawyer. Completed only shortly before his death, Kia Ora represents the fruits of Smith’s success.
Architectural Significance or Value:
Kia Ora has architectural significance as a representative example of the neo-Georgian style of architecture which was particularly popular in New Zealand during the 1920s and 1930s. This large semi-rural homestead designed by C. Tilleard Natusch and Sons, an important New Zealand family of architects, demonstrates a neo-Georgian influence through the balancing of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, and the focus on highlighting its centrally placed main entrance. The fidelity to the initial form and the interior integrity of many original features and fittings also contributes to the architectural importance of Kia Ora.
(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history
The design for this building was undertaken by C. Tilleard Natusch and Sons. Charles Tilleard Natusch was one of New Zealand’s premier late nineteenth and early twentieth century architects. While Charles became semi-retired in the late 1920s, through the family’s architecture practice three of his sons and their descendants continued this legacy until the late twentieth century.
(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place
The form, materials, and features of Kia Ora demonstrate design fidelity to the precepts of the neo-Georgian in New Zealand. This building is a confident expression of this architectural style and therefore Kia Ora is of value as an accomplishment in this form of design.
Summary of Significance or Values
This place was assessed against, and found to qualify under the following criteria: b and g.
It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.
This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1993. The following text is the original citation considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration. Information in square brackets indicates modifications made after the paper was considered by the NZHPT Board.
The discovery and settlement of the Wairarapa region is connected with several prominent figures of New Zealand’s history. Ancestral figures such as Hau-nui-a-nanaia, Kupe, Whatonga, Tara Ika and Toi have all been said to have connections with the region and are responsible for the naming of many of the Wairarapa’s important features and places. It has been estimated that Rangitane settled in the region by about the sixteenth century. Marriage links with Rangitane saw a group of Ngati Kahungunu retreat to the Wairarapa in the subsequent century as the result of internal hapu conflicts. The groups cohabitated mostly in the south Wairarapa for a period, but then the Ngati Kahungunu newcomers negotiated several sections of land for themselves. This process was not seamless and instances of conflict continued between the two iwi over the centuries. The next significant period of change in the area was in the early nineteenth century with the progression of Te Rauparaha and others. This ushered in an era when many different iwi, including Ngati Whatua, Ngati Awa, Ngati Toa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tama, and Ngati Mutunga, made advances into the region and some Ngati Kahungunu hapu withdrew.
Several decades later European incursion into the Wairarapa began after the New Zealand Company’s Port Nicholson settlement was established. Based on the reports of the company’s exploring and surveying parties the southern Wairarapa became one of the first extensive tracts of land to be occupied by Europeans, although the Crown titles, negotiated by Donald McLean, were not obtained until 1853. However, it took substantially longer for settlement to progress beyond Masterton, which was linked to Wellington by road in 1859. Further incursion was slow because the northern Wairarapa was heavily forested. In particular, the forest north of Mount Bruce was dense with rimu, tawa, matai, maire, kahikatea, and rata, and was known as Forty Mile Bush, which was within the larger Seventy Mile Bush that also encompassed the area as far north as Dannevirke and Norsewood. Maori referred to this forest as Te Tapere Nui o Whatonga (The great forest of Whatonga) and an abundance of birdlife resided there amongst giant ancient trees, some of which were large enough for groups of local Maori to shelter within their trunks.
The forest acted as a significant barrier and therefore, while there was some European settlement in the northern Wairarapa before the late nineteenth century, it was not until roads were extended further and the railway link to Wellington established that the area was opened up for substantive settlement. In preparation for the construction of the railway the government had an active role in the foundation of several places in the Wairarapa and Tararua regions. Towns such as Mauriceville, Eketahuna, Norsewood, and Dannevirke were all initially formed as bases for railway labourers. Part of the preparation for the railway construction included building a road through the district which had progressed by the mid to late 1870s.
This increased, albeit rudimentary, access meant that land sales in the Pahiatua area earnestly began in the early 1880s. An initially slow sales market was boosted greatly by purchases made on behalf of Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930), who later went onto become British Prime Minister and Earl Balfour. In this way, when Pahiatua township was eventually established in 1881 it differed from most of the other settlements in the area because it was not created by the Crown, instead it resulted from private subdivisions of land. The site of Pahiatua had previously been a Maori village called Te Pohatu. It is thought that Pahiatua’s founder, Masterton nurseryman William Wilson McCardle (1844-1921), named the township after his friend and local Maori Chief, Koneke Pahiatua. Pahiatua, which means resting place, or camp, of the atua refers to a seventeenth century event when an atua rescued a Rangitane chief from invading forces to the south.
Once the private subdivisions were made, Pahiatua quickly emerged as a frontrunner to become the main service centre of the area, which attracted further settlement and businesses to the town. By the mid 1880s local tenacity meant that the burgeoning town of about 500 people had shops, a hotel, and a Road Board, but had been by-passed by the railway despite Main Street having been specifically made unusually wide to compensate for the potential railway line down its centre. Because it was a privately created town Pahiatua was slow to accrue many of the public facilities that were established comparatively early in other towns. However, the rapid growth of the town and wider area lead to the creation of the Pahiatua County Council in 1888 and the Pahiatua Borough in 1892.
It was during this period that George Harold Smith (1867-1936) relocated to Pahiatua. Smith was born in the southern Wairarapa just prior to the period when settlement was being pushed into the northern region. He was the second son of Major John Valentine Smith, who [had extensive land holdings including] Lansdowne Station near Masterton, and had briefly represented Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa in parliament in the late 1850s. The family seems to have been reasonably affluent and Smith was [educated in Nelson and] Wellington. [At school he] excelled in rugby and was [eventually] selected for the Wellington Province team. Smith then trained as a lawyer and started a legal practice in Patea in 1888.
Soon after, Smith moved to Pahiatua and made a name for himself locally as a lawyer and in 1893-94 became the town’s second mayor. [In the 1916 by-election Smith was elected Pahiatua's Member of Parliament, a position he held until 1919.] Although he was only mayor [and the local Member of parliament] for short terms, Smith continued to be involved in civic affairs in his role as legal advisor to the County Council, a position he maintained until his death in 1936. Smith resided in Pahiatua for over 40 years during which time he became a long-standing member of the Tararua Lodge of Freemasons, was president of the local golf club, and was also involved in community projects like the establishment of the local War Relief Association during World War One, for which he was secretary.
In 1902 Smith purchased adjoining properties on Riccarton and Tiraumea Roads. Then in 1909 and the 1920s a further three connecting sections were added to this complement. This meant that the combined property where the Smiths lived, just on the outskirts of Pahiatua, amounted to approximately 15 acres. The circumstances surrounding the construction of Kia Ora in 1934-35 were unfortunate for Smith. Kia Ora was necessary because Smith’s previous house burnt down apparently as the result of labourers using heat to prepare surfaces in the house which they were employed to paint. Although the house was not entirely destroyed by the fire the damage was sufficient enough to justify building a new residence in its place.
It may have been Smith’s close connection with the County Council who had recently employed C. Tilleard Natusch and Sons for their building which led him to approach the firm to design his replacement house. While the Natusch family’s architectural firm was based in Wellington and Napier, they were by no means unfamiliar with Pahiatua having lived there in the late nineteenth century before relocating to Napier. Charles Tilleard Natusch (1859-1951), who had made his reputation mostly through designing impressive domestic buildings, was semi-retired by the late 1920s and as such the work on the homestead would most likely have been undertaken by three of his sons, Stanley, Aleck, and René.
The designs for the large residence were completed in late 1934 and the contracts signed. However, Smith was only able to enjoy his new house for a short period because he died in 1936. After Smith’s estate was settled the property had several owners and the current house section was subdivided in 1957. The current owners took possession of the resulting five acre property in 1988. Because the new owners were not aware of the traditional name of the property, Kia Ora now has an alternative name, Nikatea, in reference to the farm they had previously owned before moving into Pahiatua.
Located just south of the main suburban area of Pahiatua, Kia Ora is a semi-rural timber homestead set within a large residential section. Set back some distance from the road at the terminus of a long snaking tar-sealed driveway, the house is shrouded from casual view by trees and plantings around the property’s boundary. This is the result of a gradual project of landscaping that occurred in the late 1980s when the current owners acquired the property. Prior to this, aside from a few old trees to the rear of the property, it was said to have been relatively free of plantings.
The building is of the ‘long-lasting and widespread’ neo-Georgian style used in New Zealand domestic architecture which developed around the World War One period and was particularly popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Characteristics of these types of houses include hipped roofs and multi-paned sash windows. The shutters on Kia Ora’s windows and use of timber weatherboard cladding appear to derive from the American version of neo-Georgian rather than its English equivalent. The main entrance to neo-Georgian houses are typically announced by a portico or some such classically inspired feature which projects from the centre of the main façade. Although not directly referencing Classical architecture, the design for Kia Ora conforms to the general principles of the neo-Georgian style because its main access point is highlighted through the semi-octagonal highly glazed entrance room.
While symmetry was a key aspect of the main portion of neo-Georgian buildings, it was not always applied dictatorially to the overall form of the building. Therefore, at places such as Kia Ora, Weston House, Christchurch (1923) and the aptly named Grand Chateau, Tongariro (1929), as the building recedes back from the staunchly symmetrical main façade it also steps outwards asymmetrically. Although it is only stepped back approximately half a metre, this distinctly asymmetrical wing at Kia Ora, containing part of the ground floor formal lounge and the master bedroom above, is located on the front west side of the building.
The ground level footprint of Kia Ora is loosely triangular; the north and east elevations form a right angle, while the view of the building from the southwest is characterised by single and double height sections of building that step between the outer edges and adjoin the main two-storey rectangular part of the house.
The ground floor of the main part of the building is accessed through the entrance room which leads into the passageway. The passageway contains the half-turn staircase to the upper level, which has a substantial, yet simple, original polished timber banister consisting of solid cylinder shaped newel posts and matching panelled railing.
Branching off of the passage to the east are the dining room and kitchen. The adjoining wall of these two rooms features a servery window. Although the kitchen fittings have been replaced an interesting original feature is the servants’ indicator board above the entrance to the kitchen. To the rear of the kitchen is an external access point and laundry area, which are located within a single storey hipped roof room attached to the south side of the main section of the house, as is the lean-to toilet area at the end of the passage.
On the west side of the passageway is the formal lounge, which also extends into the asymmetrical west wing of Kia Ora, and the adjoining den/small lounge accessed from beneath the stairs. Both of these rooms have original fireplace surrounds. The fireplaces are not back-to-back, however due to their side-to-side position they use the same chimney, as does the fireplace with matching surround which is upstairs in the master bedroom. Both ground level living rooms also feature built-in original shelving, and the small lounge has an externally accessible wood-box.
The upper level of Kia Ora contains four bedrooms of varying size and bathroom facilities. A key feature of the stairwell is the large multi-paned arch-topped window of the mid-stair landing. The upper passage way is of the same dimensions as its ground floor counterpart with a small bedroom fitted into this space at the northern end. At the top of the stairs on the east side of the upper passageway is a smaller sub-passage that leads past a small ironing room into the first bedroom. On the northeast corner of the building is another double bedroom. The master bedroom extends into the western wing of the building and accordingly its ceiling slopes inwards echoing the roofline. All of the bedrooms feature original inbuilt wardrobes which were designed with brass clothes railings and shoe racks.
The building has had few changes to its form aside from the addition of a large carport connecting to the south end of the east façade, probably in the early 1980s. In the late twentieth century the current owners also replaced some interior linings, renovated the upstairs bathroom, and attended to general maintenance issues.
Upper level bathroom renovated
Concrete, corrugated iron, glass, timber
13th October 2010
Report Written By
A. G. Bagnall, Wairarapa; An Historical Excursion, Trentham, 1976
Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897
Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol.1, Wellington, 1897
An Encyclopedia of New Zealand, Government Printer, Wellington, 1966
Shaw, 1997 (2003)
Peter Shaw, A History of New Zealand Architecture, Auckland, 1997
Grant, I.F., North of the Waingawa: The Masterton Borough and County Councils, 1877-1989, Masterton, 1995
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Central Region office
Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.