Historical Significance or Value
Ripeka Tapu Church (Anglican) has historical significance as it has played a significant role in the history of the Hokianga and in the spread of Christianity and especially Anglicanism in the Hokianga. A number of the clergy associated with it played prominent roles in the wider Anglican church, and were involved in church mission activities in several parts of New Zealand and in Melanesia.
Aesthetic Significance or Value
Ripeka Tapu Church (Anglican) was not built primarily for its aesthetic values, but its plain simplicity and its isolated location have given it considerable aesthetic appeal. Two images of the church by Laurence Aberhart, one of New Zealand’s leading photographers of the twentieth century are held in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki. The stained glass window commissioned in 1995 from Michel Androu is a significant work by this New Zealand glass artist.
Cultural Significance or Value
Ripeka Tapu Church (Anglican) has considerable cultural significance to the people of Te Rarawa in the Hokianga, and more widely. It has strong whanau associations for the hapu and families of Waiparera, whose tipuna built and worshipped in the church over several generations, and many of whom are buried in its urupa.
Social Significance or Value
Ripeka Tapu Church (Anglican) has played a significant role in the social life of the Waiparera community throughout its history. Because of the prominence in the local community of those associated with it, it was the focus for regular worship and for milestone events such as baptisms, weddings and funerals for the community of Waiparera and the wider hinterland. It has been the focus for celebrations of its history and for community gatherings for unveilings and other commemorative events. It continues to be used regularly for worship, and for weddings and funerals.
Spiritual Significance or Value
As the principal Anglican church in this district, and the first Anglican church in the Hokianga, the church has spiritual significance to Anglicans and to those of other denominations who worship there. 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.
(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua
The church has significance to those tangata whenua who are members of its congregation, or whose tipuna and whanau have been members of its congregation and / or are buried in its cemetery. It also has significance because of its association with several leading Anglican Maori clerics, and with Te Rarawa tribal leaders.
(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place
The community of Waiparera and the wider North Hokianga have demonstrated their high regard for this place over the hundred and forty years of its existence. That is currently shown through the community’s voluntary work to maintain the church and cemetery, its ongoing use as a place of worship, the publication of its histories and the provision of disabled access.
(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place
The many monuments and memorials in the church cemetery have considerable commemorative value, both in relation to the individuals they commemorate and to the wider history of the Anglican church in Northland and the community of Waiparera.
Historical and associated iwi/hapu/whanau
The Polynesian explorer Kupe returned to Hawaiki on his canoe Matawhaorua from Hokianga, providing one possible explanation for the name of the harbour, from the full name Te Hokianga-nui-a-Kupe, the great returning place of Kupe. Nukutawhiti re-adzed Kupe’s canoe, which accordingly was renamed Ngatokimatawhaorua, and in company with Ruanui in the canoe Mamari sailed to New Zealand. The descendants of Nukutawhiti are Ngapuhi, while Ruanui’s descendants are Te Rarawa and Te Aupouri. Te Rarawa occupied the northern side of the lower Hokianga, and land further north to Kaitaia, while Ngapuhi occupied the southern side of the harbour, and expanded to the east.
Te Rarawa is now a predominantly Northland west coast iwi. Its tribal rohe stretches the entire northern side of the Hokianga Harbour to the western side of Mangamuka, north through Pamapuria, Kaitaia to Maimaru, west to Te Oneroa a Tohe and then south to Mitimiti, Whangape and back to the Hokianga.
Among the first Pakeha to visit Hokianga were the Anglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries Thomas Kendall and John King, who came overland from the Bay of Islands in June and July 1819. Lee comments that the only identifiable places they described are on the southern side of the harbour, which were more accessible than the settlements on the northern side of the harbour.
The first Christian missionaries to set up a mission in the Hokianga were the Wesleyan Missionary Society Methodists who set up their mission at Mangungu on the southern shore in 1827. The Methodists had had six very difficult years struggling at the first mission in Kaeo on the Whangaroa Harbour from 1821, where they made not a single convert. After a series of muru events, they fled from Kaeo in the dark of night in fear of their lives. The mission was sacked behind them. Seeking refuge first with the Anglican missionaries at Paihia, they then sailed for Sydney. But they were not easily deterred. In Sydney they held discussions with Patuone, a leading Ngapuhi chief, who invited them to return with him from Sydney, to set up a mission under his protection on land he would provide at Mangungu. And so they sailed into Hokianga, and came to establish their mission here.
Bishop Jean Baptiste Francoise Pompallier led a group of Catholic Marist missionaries to the Hokianga in 1838. After considering several locations, on 11 September 1839 he purchased 150 acres at Purakau, on the northern shore of the Hokianga.
While there have been many exceptions, for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Maori religious observance in the Hokianga followed the pattern established by these two mission stations, with the northern Hokianga becoming predominantly Catholic, while the southern side had many Methodist settlements. The Catholic faith is still a large part of the culture and traditions of Maori in the northern Hokianga. The first church for Pakeha Anglicans was established in Kohukohu, but that was not until 1890, with the development of the timber milling town at Kohukohu (St Mary’s, NZHPT Category II Register no. 443).
While the CMS missionaries were content to leave the Hokianga to be proselytised by their Wesleyan colleagues, Anglican missions were spreading elsewhere in Northland. In November 1832 CMS missionaries travelled north from the Bay of Islands to meet Panakareao, an influential Te Rarawa leader at his residence at Rangaunu on the north east coast. He accompanied them to his father’s settlement at Kaitaia, and pointed out suitable land for the missionaries to occupy. It was agreed that they would establish a new mission at Kaitaia. In so doing, Panakareao out-manoeuvred other Te Rarawa leaders.
Panakareao soon became a zealous convert to Christianity. He was baptised with his wife, Ereanora (Eleanor), on 20 November 1836 at Kaitaia. In 1837 he sent a messenger to the Bay of Islands with a gold piece to procure for him a copy of the recently printed Maori New Testament. With this he travelled from village to village in the north, often staying away from home a week at a time. Puckey gave him credit for converting many northern groups to Christianity. Thus while many Te Rarawa of Hokianga became Catholic through the influence of the Marist and subsequently Mill Hill priests based at Purakau, some of Te Rarawa became Anglican through the influence of Panakareao and the Kaitaia CMS mission.
The first Anglican church in the wider area is believed to have been Holy Trinity at Whangape, first built in 1847, though the church there now was a replacement built in 1922 (NZHPT Deficient Registration, no. 79). Ripeka Tapu was the first Anglican church to be built in the Hokianga.
The Waiparera Block of 15 acres was granted in Crown Grant on 27 June 1868 following a hearing before Judge Maning in Rawene on 13 November 1867. This land was set aside for a church by Herewini Te Toko and Wiremu Tana Papahia in 1867. Te Toko, who lived at Pupuwai south of Waiparera was a leading chief of Te Rarawa, who had signed the Treaty of Waitangi. He was Te Rarawa of Te Patutoka hapu. In 1903 he claimed the whole Whakarapa block based on his descent from ancestors Te Reinga and Te Pekatahi. Wiremu Tana Papahia and his father Papahia had also signed the Treaty of Waitangi as leaders of Te Rarawa with Herewini Te Toko. W T Papahia’s son would later be a priest at Ripeka Tapu. W T Papahia gave 7 or 8 acres to Bishop Pompallier in 1839 for his Roman Catholic converts at Tairutu, south-west of Orongotea.
The land for the church was vested in Piripi Patiki. Patiki was stationed at Hokianga Heads as the Anglican priest from 1871 until his death in 1881. Piripi (Philip) King Karawai Patiki was Ngapuhi from Mangakahia, Kaikohe, born about 1811 . His education included a period at the Kerikeri Mission in 1834, and at St Stephens College in Auckland in 1859. He was also taught by Rev. Joseph Matthews at the CMS Mission in Kaitaia. After serving in roles as evangelist at North Cape and catechist at Whangape, where he was a distinguished evangelist amongst Te Aupouri, he was made a deacon by Bishop Selwyn in 1861 and appointed to Kaikohe with Richard Davis. He was priested by Bishop Cowie in 1871 and appointed to Hokianga Heads. He was the first minister of the Waiparera parish, and lived at Orongotea at the Hokianga Heads south of Waiparera where he conducted services until Ripeka Tapu Church and the vicarage were completed. In later life his ministry was hindered by blindness. He died at Waiparera on 4 October 1881 and is buried at Ripeka Tapu, immediately outside the sanctuary at the eastern end of the church. Rev Patiki’s parish extended from Herekino to Kaipara, yet services at Ripeka Tapu were held regularly, with elders and heads of families officiating in a lay capacity when Rev. Patiki was away.
The exact details of the building of Ripeka Tapu Church are not well documented. The present church is believed to be the third church in the Rangi Point area, though the first two were at Rangi Point itself. The first was a raupo hut, while the second was more substantial. Both were destroyed by fire. Construction of the current church was probably begun as early as 1873, and completed in 1878. In his address to the Auckland Diocesan Synod in 1879, the Bishop listed Waiparera as one of the new churches to have been opened in the past year. However, that reference may have been to the completion rather than the opening of the church, since it is recorded that on Saturday 24 January 1880, ‘a new church was opened here by Archdeacon [Edward Bloomfield] Clarke for the Maories [sic] of the District. The Rev. Piripi Patiki is the minister in charge, but is nearly blind from cataract in both eyes. The new building has cost 250l. [pounds], of which nearly the whole has been contributed by the congregation.’
One young member of Rev. Patiki’s congregation was later also to become a priest at Ripeka Tapu Church. Hone Tana Papahia was born in 1856 at Whangape, son of Wiremu Tana Papahia. He was of Te Horokuhare and Ngati Haua hapu of Te Rarawa, with Ngapuhi descent also.
Hone Tana Papahia attended the Native Teachers' Institute at the Kaitaia CMS mission station, then from 1885 – 1887 was enrolled at the CMS Te Rau College, at Gisborne. In 1887 he was made deacon by Bishop Cowie, and priested by him in 1892. He was appointed to be based at Ripeka Tapu at Waiparera from 1885 to 1905. At various times he undertook church duties elsewhere, conducting a mission in the Waikato in 1888 to counter the effects of the Hauhau movement. In 1906 he undertook a mission to Taranaki and in 1907 he visited Melanesia to report as to whether Maori evangelists might be invited to serve there. In 1911 he undertook a mission to Maori in Christchurch. On his return to Waiparera, Papahia became ill; he died on 9 February 1912 and was buried on 14 February. His imposing monument stands at the southwest corner of the church, near the entrance. Many tributes extolling his life's work in the church began to appear. His obituary in the Church Gazette describes him as one of the best educated Maori clergy and highly respected. St Barnabas' Church at Peria (NZHPT Category II Register no. 453) was dedicated to his memory, as were memorial stones at Te Kao and Gisborne. In 1914 a stained glass window dedicated to his memory was placed in St Mary's Church, Auckland (NZHPT Category I Register no. 21).
The centennial history of the church recounts the call that came to another significant Maori priest at Ripeka Tapu. Te Rata Pakihau Tipene was the first Maori Archdeacon in New Zealand. He was born at Rangi Point in 1907. In 1924 during the tangi for his 12 year old cousin Parehuia Te Toko, it is reported that she awoke and called for someone to give his life to the service of God and to draw her people closer to Him. It is said that the future Archdeacon Tipene stepped forward and made a commitment to her to do his best to fill that role. He went on to a distinguished life of service to the Anglican church in Northland, though he was never appointed to Ripeka Tapu.
As noted above, in periods when no priest was available at Waiparera, services were conducted by elders and heads of families in the local community. That practice continued into the twentieth century. For many years Ripeka Tapu formed part of the South Hokianga Anglican parish, with a priest coming north by boat when weather and tides permitted. From the 1940s onwards, Ripeka Tapu was served as part of the North Hokianga Anglican parish, with the priest still coming by boat, until the formation of the road in 1971.
In November 1978 the community at Rangi Point and others from throughout the country joined to celebrate the centenary of the church. As well as commemorative services, a centennial booklet was published containing an account of the history of the church. In 2003, the 125th anniversary was celebrated in a similar manner.
In 1982, Laurence Aberhart, one of New Zealand’s leading twentieth century photographers, included Ripeka Tapu in his ‘Northland Church’ project to record and interpret the churches of Northland. Two of his photographs of the church are held in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki.
In April 1995, to coincide with the opening of the adjacent Waiparera marae, a stained glass window was fitted into the window frame behind the altar in the church, replacing the original 1878 window. The window was designed and made by Michel Androu of Auckland. The central section in blue and green depicts in an abstract form the feel of the Hokianga – the land and sea, our roots, our earthly origins. The purple colour on the border represents the Divine connection, our spiritual origins. The red also represents our spiritual nature, but especially the intense and powerful love God has for us his children. The etching is fine and delicate, reflecting all the beautiful things of nature we have at our disposal to treasure and enjoy. It is through the nature kingdom we find peace, joy and our spiritual selves.
Ripeka Tapu Church continues to be used for worship, and for funerals and unveilings in the cemetery. As an example, a gathering of descendants of Imoeroai Ihapera (Isabella) Pape Hardiman and her great grand daughter Harriet Emma Diamond-Ogilvy took place at Ripeka Tapu, on Easter Sunday 16 April 2006.
Ripeka Tapu Church is situated at Waiparera, just north of Rangi Point, on the western shore of the Hokianga Harbour, about 9 kilometres from the harbour mouth. It is now on the southern side of Rangi Point Road, but the road was only put through in 1971. Previously access was by boat, on foot or by horse.
Ripeka Tapu Church is a rectangular gabled building, aligned east - west, with a rectangular gabled apse at the eastern end to house the sanctuary and altar. There is a rectangular gabled vestry on the northern side of the church near the western end. A square open wooden belfry sits atop the ridge of the roof at the western end, with a square pyramid sheet iron roof. A white wooden finial is at the eastern end of the main gable ridge, and another is at the northern end of the vestry gable ridge. The roof of the church including the vestry is clad in corrugated iron, painted red. It is likely to have been formerly clad in timber shingles.
The exterior walls are vertical board and batten. Above the door at the western end are two rectangular horizontal boards with the words RIPEKA TAPU and 1878 on them in raised lettering. Above them, immediately below the gable is a plain unpainted cross. The door is a plain rectangular door of seven vertical boards on a frame. There are no windows in the western wall.
The southern wall of the church has three double lancet windows, each with two vertical lights of three panes surmounted by lancet panes and a diamond infill between them. The northern wall has two similar windows at its eastern end, with the space where the third would be occupied by the vestry. The vestry has a small single lancet window with two rectangular panes and a lancet pane above on its northern end.
The eastern end of the church has a large lancet window with three vertical lights of four panes, surmounted by lancet panes and diamond infills. This is now the location of the Michel Androu stained glass window installed in 1995.
The interior of the church is unlined, with the interior surface of the exterior boards being supported on square sectioned timber framing, with diagonal bracing in the corners. The ceiling is sarked with boards running vertically under the iron roof, supported by three purlins on each side. The three pairs of rafters are supported by diagonal braces set above each window. Above the door at the western end is a horizontal brace and vertical post to support the weight of the belfry.
The interior timbers are unpainted, and have been oiled or varnished at various times. The pews are arranged either side of a central aisle. The vestry is served by a plain rectangular door of six vertical boards. The floor boards have a gloss polyurethane finish, and run longitudinally.
The sanctuary has a raised floor, with a heavy altar rail with a central gate along its front edge. The altar is a rectangular wooden table, covered with a white cloth. In the corners of the sanctuary either side of the table are two wooden chairs. These have a solid wooden seat, with an open frame back in the form of a cross. At the lower part of the back is a riband formed by two curved pieces of wooden separated by the word TAPU. On one the riband is broken to the right of the U, on the other the U and the rest of the riband is missing.
At the front of the church, to the left of the sanctuary, is freestanding pulpit. It has a five sided plinth, with a small five sided platform on top, and then the five sided screen rising to waist height. A small lectern is affixed to the front of the screen, and a wooden cross stands on the base platform below the lectern.
To the right of the sanctuary is a small plain wooden reading desk.
The cemetery surrounding the church contains the graves of members of many local families. There are monuments to several significant people in the history of the church.
The grave of the first priest Rev. Piripi Patiki is outside the eastern end of the church.
The most prominent monument is the memorial to Rev. H. Wepiha Papahia, who died on 9 February 1912. The monument stands to the southeast of the church, close to the entrance path. It is an imposing four-metre-tall monument, comprising an obelisk of brown-flecked marble supporting a white Carrara marble angel. The east-facing side contains Papahia's epitaph, the north depicts his church career. Papahia's epitaph, in poetic Maori, eulogises his standing as spiritual leader and churchman in his own Maori community. The monument was provided by Auckland funerary masons Mason and McNab. This particular Carrara marble angel appears regularly on grave monuments supplied by McNab and Mason from about 1905 onwards; there are a number of them on graves in Waikaraka Cemetery at Onehunga, Auckland for example. A larger example of the same marble angel was chosen by Te Rarawa leader Riapo Puhipi for the First World War Memorial in Kaitaia, erected in 1916. Puhipi’s first wife came from Waiparera (his mother-in-law Ihapera Ruamamao Hardiman is buried at Ripeka Tapu) and it seems likely he was involved in selecting this memorial for Rev. Papahia, or else was influenced by it in his selection of the Kaitaia war memorial figure.
Parehuia Te Toko’s gravestone in the Ripeka Tapu cemetery records the details of her young life, and alludes to the circumstances by which she called Te Rata Tipene to be a priest. It records the fact that even though she had just died, she spoke again (‘Ahakoa kua mate ia e korero ano ana ia’). Interestingly, this same phrase also appears on the headstone of Piripi Patiki, who died in 1881, 43 years before she did. The source of the phrase has not been identified, but does not appear to be Biblical.
1873 - 1878
Installation of stained glass window
2000 - 2009
Installation of ramp to door
Kauri timber, iron roof
13th February 2012
Report Written By
House, J and House S, 2006
Churches of Northland: a record of churches and places of worship including histories and photographs Whangarei 2006 Published on CD
Anne Ruamano Brett, Te Rau Tau o Ripeka Tapu 1878-1978, Waiparera, 1978
Barry Leslie Smith, Ripeka Tapu 1878–2003: celebrating 125 years, 2003
A fully referenced registration report is available from the Northland Area Office of the NZHPT.
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.