Te Nakahi Parahi and Urupa

3 Marae Street, Tapairu, Waipawa

  • Te Nakahi Parahi and Urupa, Waipawa.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.
  • Te Nakahi Parahi and Urupa, Waipawa.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7622 Date Entered 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

The registration includes the land comprised in Native Land Court, Ikaroa District, Native Land Court Vesting Order, Tapairu 19A Block (Church site & Reserve), 9 May 1917 (as shown on the map in Appendix 3 of the registration proposal), the church and its fittings, fixtures and chattels) as listed in Appendix 4 of registration proposal), and the cemetery thereon.

City/District Council

Central Hawke's Bay District


Hawke's Bay Region

Legal description

Pt Tapairu 19, Maori Land Plan 293. Native Land Court, Ikaroa District, Native Land Court Vesting Order, Tapairu 19A Block (Church site & Reserve), 9 May 1917, Hawkes Bay Land District

Location description

Located on the corner of Marae and Pa Streets, approximately 3-4 kilometres from Waipawa.


Te Nakahi Parahi, also known as the 'Church of the Brazen Serpent', was built in Tapairu, near Waipawa, in 1900 in commemoration of Hori Ropiha (circa1820-1898). Hori Ropiha rose to prominence in 1884 when he was chosen to travel to England with the Maori King, Tawhiao, who presented Queen Victoria with a petition requesting a separate Maori parliament, and an independent commission of inquiry into confiscations of Maori land.

Although Ropiha's initial aim was to dissuade Tawhiao from his adherence to the controversial Pai Marire religion, Hori Ropiha proved himself a vocal supporter of Maori land rights. On his return from England, he provided leadership for Maori in his work to prevent the loss of land through the Native Land Court system at a time when the rapidly increasing settler population in New Zealand and the alienation of Maori land had brought relations between Maori and Pakeha to crisis point. His stance won him respect and admiration among Maori. On his death in 1898 a tangi was held at Te Tapairu Marae, near Waipawa. At the tangi, the Marae elders offered to construct a chapel if they were afforded the honour of having his remains laid to rest on their land.

The request was granted and a timber chapel was erected next to Hori Ropiha's grave. It featured an imposing tower at one end and provided seating for up to 100 people. The Church was dedicated to St Philip in 1900 but the name was later changed to 'Te Nakahi Parahi' after the brass serpent of the Old Testament that gave hope to the people of Israel during their journey through the wilderness. The Church and Cemetery have remained a spiritual centre of the Anglican faith for over a century and continues to serve as a symbol of the leadership and faith Hori Ropiha offered to his people.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The construction of Te Nakahi Parahi was offered as a term of an agreement that enabled the people of Te Tapairu to bury the remains of Hori Ropiha on their land, indicating the esteem in which he was held. Te Nakahi Parahi has historical value as symbol of the importance of a leader in the nineteenth century who voiced the concerns of Maori, and acted to prevent the large-scale alienation of Maori land through legal processes.

Te Nakahi Parahi has considerable aesthetic appeal and its tower is a landmark in the local landscape. Te Nakahi Parahi is located in Tapairu, an isolated community located on the outskirts of Waipawa. It is sited on a slight rise amid serene, rural surroundings and is a short distance away from the collection of houses, and marae. Te Nakahi Parahi is the dominant edifice in the landscape and its church tower is visible from the main state highway some distance away. The small, timber church is built along simple lines and features simple and effective decorative elements that add to its appeal. The building also has significant technological value as its features examples of the laminated construction technique and structural engineering skills of its builders.

Te Nakahi Parahi has strong spiritual significance as a long-standing place of worship, as a centre and symbol of the strength of the Anglican faith in the Tapairu community. It has remained in service for over a century, and was constructed to serve as a sanctuary and refuge for the Anglican faith.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The Church was constructed in 1900 to complete a pact made by the people of Te Tapairu that afforded them the honour of having the remains of Hori Ropiha laid to rest on their land. Hori Ropiha was an important representative of Hawkes Bay Maori in the late nineteenth century, typifying the popular views of the people and providing leadership on key issues faced by Maori during this period.

Like many of those from Porangahau, Hori Ropiha was a staunch Anglican who rejected the Pai Marire religion expounded by Te Ua Haumene. His people had actively resisted Pai Marire followers from the 1860s onwards and Hori Ropiha's journey to England with King Tawhiao to dissuade him from the faith reflects the strength of his people's position on the matter. Like the majority of Hawkes Bay Maori, many of whom joined the Hawkes Bay Repudiation movement in the 1870s, Hori Ropiha felt strongly about Maori land rights at a time when large tracts of land were lost through the Native Land Courts and other means. Here, Hori Ropiha provided leadership. During the meeting with Lord Drury in London, at which King Tawhaio presented a petition to have the Treaty of Waitangi honoured, he spoke out against 'the wrongs done to us by the New Zealand Government' and on his return he became a strong and respected leader against the machinations of the Native Land Courts. He also won respect for his leadership on the issue of temperance among Maori, and for his writings, which recorded cultural traditions of Hawkes Bay Maori for posterity.

(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua

Te Nakahi Parahi and its cemetery are of importance to the Tapairu community. Although the local community is relatively small in number today, the respect for the Church and the symbol of faith that it gave to the people when it was built, remains strong. This commitment to the church is reflected in efforts made to conserve and maintain the church and cemetery in sound condition. There is a strong, if small group that have undertaken the task of caring for the church and demonstrating respect for Hori Ropiha and other community leaders who are interred in the urupa.The community's respect for the Church is based on its status as a commemoration of the works of Hori Ropiha, and as testament to the importance of the rangatira of Te Tapairu who negotiated to have Hori Ropiha's remains laid to rest on their land and brought about the construction of the Church. Many of these rangatira, including Nepe Apatu, have been laid to rest in the cemetery grounds, providing an ongoing, physical connection between them and the place. The Church is also important in its own right as a sanctuary and refuge for the faith of the people of Te Tapairu.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The Church features laminated trusses, which are of technological importance. Traditionally trusses are constructed from solid timber. The Church trusses are rare examples of the lamination technique, and have been created by curving thin strips of wood into shape, and then gluing and nailing them together.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The death of Hori Ropiha, who did much to help his people with their concerns, brought a great outcry of grief amongst his people. The Church was constructed to commemorate him, and is an historic symbol of his contribution to Maoridom. The Church was also designed to serve as a sanctuary and refuge for the Anglican faith, and has remained in use for this purpose for over a century.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Te Nakahi Parahi, also known as the 'Church of the Brazen Serpent', was built in Tapairu, near Waipawa, in 1900 in commemoration of Hori Ropiha. On Thursday, 6 January 1898, Hori Ropiha died at Wanstead (Pakaroa). Two days later, the Waipawa Mail reported that 'His remains were brought to Waipawa Pa last night and placed in a lead lined coffin covered in black velvet'. The newspaper further noted that 'A tangi is being held and on Tuesday the remains will be taken to Porangahau where another tangi will take place.' The following Saturday, the same newspaper recorded that Hori Ropiha had been buried on 13 January at Waipawa Pa. The tangi at Te Tapairu Marae in Waipawa was attended by a large gathering of people, including those from the Heretaunga Plains, Wairoa to Te Mahia, Ngai Tahu of Takapau, Ngati Pakapaka, and Ngati Mutuahi of Tamakanui-a-Rua.

At the tangi, Ihaia Hutana records that there had been considerable debate over where Hori Ropiha should be buried. Hori Ropiha's older brother, Paora Ropiha expressed his wish to take the body back to Porangahau for burial. In his favour was the fact that Hori Ropiha's main connection to Waipawa was through his sister, Amiria Te Takou (Ropiha), who had lived at Te Tapairu after her marriage to rangatira Nepe Apatu. Following a meeting of the elders of the Marae, Nepe Apatu responded that 'The owners of Tapairu Block are of one mind that the remains of Hori be interred here. If you grant this, our request, we shall build a Chapel here to be a sanctuary, a refuge for our faith'. After further debate, the request was granted, and Hori Ropiha was buried at Waipawa on land that was then set aside for a cemetery and chapel. The debate over where Hori Ropiha should be buried, and the subsequent pledge to construct a church in his honour, reflects his importance and the esteem in which he was held.

Hori Ropiha rose to prominence in the 1880s and is known primarily an advocate for Maori land rights. He was born circa 1820 at Paparataitoko Te Reinga O Mahuru, in the Waikopiro Block, to parents Ropiha Te Tekau and Poti Ropiha. In 1824 the family moved to Nukutaurua, and later settled at Porangahau, where they had land interests. Hori Ropiha remained at Porangahau and married Arapera Waiparu, with whom he had four children, Arapeta Meha, Tuahi Meha, Parakiore Meha, and Morris Meha.

In the late nineteenth century, the rapidly increasing settler population in New Zealand brought relations between Maori and Pakeha to crisis point and highlighted divisions between Maori groups. In Porangahau, where Hori Ropiha had settled, Maori were perceived as loyal to the Crown. One of the perceived expressions of this loyalty was in their repudiation of the Pai Marire faith. The faith, founded by Te Ua Haumene (?-1894), was the first independent Maori expression of Christianity. It became notorious amongst Pakeha after the ritual killing of Anglican missionary Carl Sylvius Volkner (1819-1865), and was supported by the Maori King Tawhiao (? - 1894). In Porangahau, Maori, including Hori Ropiha, favoured the Anglican faith. Consequently, Pai Marire followers were warned that they would get no support from Maori in the Porangahau district, and in 1866 they were prevented from travelling through Porangahau. Despite this apparent loyalty to the Crown's aims, from the 1870s, Hori Ropiha and other Maori of Porangahau joined with other groups in voicing their exasperation with the Government's policies on Maori land.

The Hawkes Bay Repudiation movement, which attracted most Hawkes Bay Maori, was formed in 1871 to advocate for legal action to repudiate Crown and private land deals in New Zealand. Hori Ropiha rose to prominence in this field in 1884, when he was chosen to travel with the Maori King Tawhiao to England, to present a petition to Queen Victoria 'to have the Treaty of Waitangi honoured'. The petition proposed a separate Maori parliament, the appointment of a special commissioner as intermediary between Pakeha and Maori parliaments, and an independent commission of inquiry into land confiscations. It appears that the Government originally induced Hori Ropiha to travel to England to dissuade the King from his adherence to the Pai Marire religion, noting that they considered that 'his influence and example will have a good effect on the uncivilised Waikato chief'. Hori Ropiha, a staunch Anglican , appears to have agreed to attempt this, but later reported to the Government that: Tawhiao is King of this Island. His religion is Hauhau. We could not upset him. Both European and Natives have tried and failed. The multitudes of English could not do so, though he is a Hauhau. Do not let us interfere if anyone wishes to return to the religion of his father.

Despite their differences over religion, Ropiha and Tawhiao were in accord over their response to the alienation of Maori land. In England, at the meeting with the secretary of state for the colonies, Lord Derby, Hori Ropiha stated the following: I represent the great Ngati Kahungunu tribe, stretching from Wellington to Hawkes Bay. My tribe has ever been loyal and obedient, and yet we find that, together with other tribes, we are suffering more from the wrongs done to us by the New Zealand Government, and on behalf of my tribe I support the petition now presented. At the conclusion of the meeting, Lord Derby noted that the petition had first to be referred to the New Zealand government. The New Zealand government responded to the Colonial Office by declining to discuss events preceding 1865, and ignored Tawhiao's specific proposals.

On his return to New Zealand, Hori Ropiha became a recognised speaker on Maori land rights. In collaboration with like-minded colleagues, he petitioned the government on the matter, and advocated for the closure of Native Land Courts. For instance, Ropiha informed the Government in 1885 that: I have been four or five times to Hastings to try and upset the Native Land Court there but the people would not agree. If any of the people here try to put their land through I will oppose their doing so. I agree with Tawhiao in not leasing or putting land through the Court. Let us all join in not doing so. I have had a great deal of experience in these matters. I would not try to upset Tawhiao but anyone who is obstinate in putting his land through the Court I would go and throw him out.

His stance won him respect and admiration among Maori. Hori Ropiha also became a highly respected advocate for temperance among Maori, and objected to the presence of public houses in Maori land districts. Near the end of his life, Hori Ropiha's prestige was increased by his extensive recordings, many of which have since been acquired by the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington. His recordings included whakapapa, waiata, karakia, narratives about cosmological events, the settlement of Aotearoa from Hawaiki, and the activities of more recent ancestors, notes regarding whakatoki, and the origins of various Maori customs and practices. Consequently, it lent prestige to the people of Te Tapairu Pa at Waipawa have Hori Ropiha laid to rest on their land.

The land selected for the Hori Ropiha's burial ground and proposed church was part of the Tapairu Block near Waipawa that had been allocated to Heta Tiki, Harieta te Maero (Ngaero) Hararuta, Hataraka Porutu, Meihana te Apatu, and Eraita Nohopapa by Crown Grant on 17 June 1867. In 1872, the growth of the nearby Pakeha township of Waipawa prompted Heta Tiki to settle within the Te Tapairu Block, on a site near the Waipawa River. In the 1880s, Heta Tiki's brother, Apiata Kuikainga, declared that his people should relocate from their main settlement at Wanstead (Pakaroa) to Te Tapairu, to take advantage of the proximity to Waipawa. In the late 1880s, or early 1890s, the new settlement was transferred to its current location within the Te Tapairu Block, to avoid flooding. The section selected for the burial ground and church was Tapairu No.19 Block, and then consisted of 1 acre, 0 roods and 35 perches (0.4 hectares).

Under the guidance of Nepe Apatu, Renata Rewa, Huru Pine and others of Te Tapairu, a plan for the proposed church was created. In 1900, the building was completed at the cost of £488-0-8 ½. The timber building could seat up to 100 people, and featured a large tower at one end and a tri-partite window at the other. The doorstep of the church was located next to the grave of Hori Ropiha. In addition to the Church, a timber residence was constructed across the road to accommodate the curate. The church was officially consecrated in the name of St Philip on Sunday, 27 May 1900. The Anglican Bishop of Waiapu held the service, which was conducted entirely in Maori, and he was assisted by Archdeacon Williams, Reverend Arthur Williams, Reverend Katene and others. Over 400 people from the Hawkes Bay region attended the service.

Following its consecration, the Reverend Katene held regular services in the new Church. However, it became apparent that the saint to whom it was dedicated, St Philip, was not considered an appropriate namesake for the building by the parishioners. The building became known as 'Te Nakahi Parahi' or the 'Church of the Brazen Serpent'. The origin of this name is unclear. There is a suggestion that a Maori orator travelling through Tapairu drew on the Old Testament and likened the church building to the serpent that was the means of salvation to those who looked on it, and that this reference supplanted the name given at the dedication. The phrase is inspired by Chapter 2, verses 8-9 of the Old Testament: Na ka mea a Ihowa ki a Mohi, Hanga tetahi nakahi tu a ahi mau, ka whakanoho ki te pou: na, mehemea kua ngaua tetahi, a ka titiro atu ia ki reira, ka ora. Na hanga ana e Mohi te nakahi ki te parahi, a whakanohoia ana ki te pou; na, mehemea kua ngaua tetahi e te nakahi, ka titiro ia ki te nakahi parahi, kua ora.

In 1917, the Tapairu No.19 Block on which the Church and cemetery was surveyed by C. Rochfort. Part of the block, 3 roods and 36 perches (3945 m2), was passed through the Native Land Court. The Court vested the land in the Waiapu Board of Trustees, a body corporate authorised by statute to hold and administer land for religious purposes. A committee of Maori nominated by the former Native owners of the land were established to administer the cemetery.

In 1970, the 70th anniversary of the Church (which had changed little since its construction) was celebrated. By this time, services were held monthly, and the Church was described as being 'interdenominational'. The anniversary service was attended by over 200 people and was held by the Bishop of Aotearoa, Manu Bennett. During the service, the Bishop reflected on the namesake of the Church, the serpent of brass, as a symbol of healing and life to the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. The Bishop also dedicated a new altar to the memory of all those who had served in the parish and Church since 1900, including the Ropihas, Apatus, Nepe, Ruki Rukis (Logans), Hutanas, Bibbys and Williams. In 2000 the Church celebrated its 100th anniversary. Both the Church and the Cemetery remain in use by the religious community of Tapairu, and continue to serve as a symbol of the leadership and faith Hori Ropiha offered to his people.

Physical Description

Located in Tapairu on 3 roods, 36 perches (0.3954 m2) of land, Te Nakahi Parahi is a simple, timber church, set amidst a cemetery.

Clad in horizontal, rusticated weatherboards, the church is constructed around the rectangular nave, which features a gabled roof that runs east-west. Dominating the west end of the nave is a square tower which is surmounted, above the level of the ridge of the nave, by an eight sided octagonal turret, which is capped with a foliated cross.

The church has four key interior spaces: the nave, a chancel, a vestry, and the entrance porch. Adjacent to the tower, on the north side of the church is the entrance porch, which has a gabled roof that runs north-south and rises to the height of the church wall. At the opposite end to the tower, on the east side of the church, is the chancel. The chancel extends out from the nave and features a gabled roof that also runs east-west. On the south side, on the end nearest the chancel, is the vestry. Like the entrance porch, the vestry features a gabled roof that runs north-south and rises to the height of the church wall.

The rectangular nave of the church measures 3.9 metres by 5.3 metres, and has walls 3.9 metres high. The nave is divided into four bays by three arched timber trusses that span its width. The construction technique used to create these trusses is unusual. Instead of adopting the common practice of using solid timber, the builders created the trusses from laminated timber, or timber that had been created from thin layers of wood shaped to the curve and then glued and nailed together. The walls and ceiling are fully lined with painted tongue and groove boards, fixed horizontally on the walls and running down the slope of the ceiling. The floor is tongue and groove boarding. The nave is lit by three windows to the north and south, a single window to the west, and four pendant fittings hung centrally from the trusses. It is furnished with seventeen kauri pews and, in the west end, an octagonal stone font with four marble columns. A fourth, and smaller laminated truss separates the nave from the chancel, which is located at the east end of the church.

The walls, ceiling, and floors of the chancel are also constructed from tongue and groove boarding. The chancel features a large, three-part window at the east end. Gothic in design, the window is beautifully shaped, and features large sheets of plain coloured glass in green, orange, purple and blue. The chancel is furnished with a new altar that was blessed in 1970, altar rails, a pulpit, a lecturn, an organ, and two bishop's chairs.

Jutting out from the nave, on the south side of the church at the end closest to the chancel is a vestry and, on the north side at the end closest to the tower, the entrance porch. The roofline of each runs on a north south axis, and the ridgelines reach to the height of the church walls, under the guttering of the roof of the nave. Both the vestry and the entrance porch feature a lancet window. The joinery consists of two entrance doors, one to the vestry and one to the porch, with internal doors from the porch to the nave, and from the nave into the vestry.

Construction Dates

1898 -

Original Construction
1899 - 1900

1970 -
Removal of trefoil in tower; installation of new altar

Construction Details

The walls of the church are timber-framed, and they rest on timber block foundations and timber sub floor framing. The roof is sheathed in corrugated iron, with galvanized iron-barge cappings. Gutters and downpipes are PVC. The walls are sheathed in rusticated totara weatherboards and there are hood mouldings over the tall lancet windows that light the nave.

Completion Date

15th January 2005

Report Written By


Information Sources

Gray, 1989

M. Gray, 'Abbott's-Ford: a history of Waipawa', Waipawa, 1989 [Waipawa Village Committee]

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

C. Cochran, 'Church of the Brazen Serpent, Te Nakahi Parahi', Tapairu Marae, Waipawa, Conservation Report', December 1999

Other Information

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.