Pre-contact Maori settlement
The Historic Area incorporates many places of significance to both Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand, and was the location of important early contact between the two groups. Surviving archaeological features demonstrate that Maori had occupied the Rangihoua and Wairoa Bays for a considerable length of time before such contact began in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The landscape contains many features pre-dating European arrival, including pa sites, terraces, cultivation lines, shell middens and hangi. These elements reflect a variety of activities, such as settlement, food production and processing, and consumption, probably representing periods of occupation over many centuries. An indication of the chronological range of these features is provided by calibrated radiocarbon dates of 1330-1470 A.D (95.4% probability), 1390-1480 (85.8% probability), 1520-1680 A.D. (95% probability) and 1710-1860 A.D. (95.4% probability) for shell midden at the eastern end of Wairoa Bay. Moa bone from these deposits, itself indicative of early activity, has also been retrieved, making Wairoa Bay just one of three 'archaic' period sites known in the Bay of Islands.
Iwi and hapu that are traditionally linked to this land include Ngati Torehina, Ngati Rehia, Te Hikutu and Ngati Rua. While Ngati Rehia are recognised as tangata whenua of Rangihoua and Te Puna today, they consider that Ngati Torehina, a small iwi based at Wharengaere Bay close to Te Puna, have more significant status as tangata whenua and a closer relationship with the historic area. Although Ngati Torehina are not specifically mentioned in early missionary journals and archives, ancestors such as Wharemokaikai, Taotahi and Te Tatari are named in early legal documents such as Old Land Claims. By the early nineteenth century, Ngapuhi hapu such as Te Hikutu and Ngati Rua, who formed part of the northern alliance, are considered to have been the principal hapu at Rangihoua Pa, perhaps reflecting changing control of strategic trading locations by that time.
Ngati Torehina consider that their ancestors arrived before the migration of the seven canoes and have lived in the area since that time. Mataka is a Ngati Torehina name for the maunga that overlooks Rangihoua and its adjacent bays. In the very early years of the nineteenth century, the land at Rangihoua and Wairoa Bays was under the control of the Hikutu chief Te Pahi (?-1810), who resided on one of the islands that today bear his name. It is likely that occupation at this time stretched along the foreshore of both bays, with the fertile Te Puna valley containing fields and gardens linked with Rangihoua Pa.
Early contact and trade
Te Pahi's settlement became the most important location in the Bay of Islands and the north for trade between Maori and Pakeha, as a favoured anchorage of English vessels employed in the southern whale fishery. In 1793 two men from Northland, Tuki Tahua and Ngahuruhuru, were kidnapped by the crew of HMS Daedalus, acting on the Governor of New South Wales' suggestion that a native New Zealander might be able to teach the convicts at Norfolk Island the art of flax dressing. The two men returned later in the same year, bearing gifts from the Governor, Philip King, of pigs, potatoes, wheat and maize, as well as carpentry tools, hoes and spades, forming one of the first introductions of European goods into New Zealand. Governor King's deliberate intention was to introduce items for which a demand might grow. Te Pahi saw that the barter of such goods could potentially be beneficial, and was the most prominent chief of the time to pursue such trade. When the first whaling ships arrived in the Bay of Islands in search of supplies, he made conscious efforts to furnish provisions such as wood and water in return for European items of value.
By 1805, Rangihoua was described as 'the capital' of the area, with about one hundred houses, surrounded with gardens, on both the mainland and Te Pahi's island. Potatoes of an excellent quality were grown, which were stored on high platforms or whata, standing on a single post. They were traded with incoming ships for any articles made of metal, especially axes, adzes and hatchets. Some of the earliest Europeans to reside in New Zealand were based at Rangihoua, including the ex-convict George Bruce, who married Te Pahi's daughter Atahoe. Bruce played a pivotal role in Te Pahi's enterprise, acting as interpreter and an agent in trade.
In early 1805, Te Pahi's son Maa-Tara visited the British settlement at Port Jackson (Sydney) to explore the world where such goods originated. Later in the same year, Te Pahi himself travelled to Norfolk Island and Port Jackson to visit Governor King, the earliest prominent chief to do so. On this visit, Te Pahi stayed with King, returning to Rangihoua in February 1806 with tools and other implements from the government store, gifts of goats, pigs and fowl from private individuals, and a pre-fabricated European-style house which the ship's carpenter erected on the island. During this trip, Te Pahi made a strong impression on Samuel Marsden (1765-1838), senior chaplain in New South Wales, who reported that he was 'the first New Zealand chief that I had seen in Port Jackson, and with whom I had formed a particular intimacy'.
In 1808, Te Pahi made a second visit to Port Jackson to learn more about European methods of agriculture and the weaving of linen. While there, he warned the acting governor of the colony, Joseph Foveaux, that the common practice of ill-treating Maori sailors should stop. His advice was not heeded, and in late 1809 the crew of the Boyd was massacred in northern New Zealand as an act of utu by the Whangaroa chief Te Puhi after his brother had been mistreated on board. Early in the following year, a group of whalers and sealers took a bloody revenge on Te Pahi, who appears to have been present at the Boyd incident but not directly involved in the killings. The seamen attacked and looted Te Pahi's island, massacring many of its inhabitants, and although Te Pahi himself managed to swim to the mainland he died soon after of his wounds. After this attack and the ensuing deaths, the island remained tapu. On his first visit to the Bay of Islands in 1814, Samuel Marsden noted his implicit belief in Te Pahi's innocence in the Boyd affair, and lamented his murder:
'I never passed Tippahee's Island without a sigh. It is now desolate, without an inhabitant, and has been ever so since his death. The ruins of his little cottage, built by the kindness of the late Governor King, still remains.'
Samuel Marsden played an important role in the subsequent history of contact between Maori and Pakeha, having taken up a post as the Pacific representative of the London Missionary Society, a Protestant Christian organisation, in 1804, and persuading the newer Church Missionary Society (CMS) of the virtue of establishing a mission in New Zealand a few years later. His plans to create the first missionary settlement in New Zealand at Rangihoua Bay may have been encouraged by his encounters with Te Pahi, but it was Ruatara (?-1815), Te Pahi's successor at Rangihoua, who enabled him to turn this into reality in 1814. Ruatara lived with Marsden's family at Parramatta in New South Wales prior to 1812, where he learned about European methods of agriculture and planned to export wheat to Port Jackson in return for tools and tradable commodities such as tea and sugar. He is likely to have believed that a mission at Rangihoua would facilitate this process, attracting visiting ships as well as providing a resident supply of skills and materials. In his turn, Marsden sought to create a dependency on missionary skills, hoping to gradually persuade local Maori to listen to his evangelical message.
The missionary settlement was founded during a visit by Marsden himself in December 1814 under the protection of Ruatara and Hongi Hika (1772-1828), another renowned Ngapuhi chief. This was established at the eastern end of Rangihoua Bay at Oihi, a narrow valley dominated by Rangihoua Pa. The pa was evidently the most significant settlement in the Bay at the time, separating the mission from more fertile farmland in the Te Puna valley, where crops for trading were grown. The earliest recorded church service in New Zealand took place at Oihi on Christmas Day 1814. Ruatara planned to build a town on European lines, possibly on a low hill overlooking the Papuke headland at the western end of Rangihoua Bay, but died in early 1815. He and his wife Rahu, who committed suicide after his death, lay in state on the spot of the proposed town before being moved to their final burial place. The role of protector for the mission fell primarily on Hongi Hika, with other chiefs including Waikato, Wharepoaka and Te Uri o Kanae continuing to be closely involved.
While Ruatara was ill in late February 1815, a deed of sale for at least 80 hectares (200 acres) was signed between Te Uri o Kanae and the CMS. Costing twelve axes, the transaction accounted for a block of land bounded by Rangihoua Pa and Bay to the south, Waitohara creek to the north, and a track into the interior to the west. It was the first deed of purchase to be signed in New Zealand, and the missionaries hoped that it would allow them a degree of self-sufficiency. The land obtained, however, proved to be largely unproductive although attempts to grow crops and raise animals nevertheless represent a pioneering attempt to create a European-style farm. The settlers initially shared a single large building at Oihi until individual timber houses for each family, numbering four in 1824, were erected on hillside terraces. A schoolhouse was opened in 1816, with 33 pupils from the pa and the mission station, expanding to 70 by the following year. A cemetery was also established, eventually bearing at least nineteen burials, including those of the missionaries John and Hannah King, several of their children, and a number of seamen from whaling ships.
Skills Maori were taught included reading and writing, as well as practical tasks such as spinning, shoemaking and sewing. The missionaries came from relevant backgrounds and apart from John King, a shoemaker and ropemaker, included William Hall, a carpenter, and Thomas Kendall (?1778-1831), school teacher. The settlement also incorporated King's in-laws, the Hansen family, as well as two sawyers, a blacksmith and Kendall's servant, Richard Stockwell. The latter were convicts who had been given leave to join the mission.
Missionary attempts at farming appear to have been largely unsuccessful, and frustrations within the enterprise grew as Maori traded independently of the CMS with commercial ships anchored in the Bay. In 1819, the CMS established a new mission station at Kerikeri, where Hongi Hika's main pa at Kororipo was located. Rangihoua Pa however continued to be a major source of food for provisioning ships, and in 1830 its population was estimated to still number at least 200. At this time, the tihi of the pa formed the site of prominent Maori burials, including that of Karuhi, Wharepoaka's sister and wife of the early colonial trader, Phillip Tapsell. The Oihi mission nevertheless made some headway in the conversion of local inhabitants to Christianity and carried on in reduced circumstances until 1832, when the missionaries, by now comprising just John King and James Shepherd, and their families, relocated to the more fertile Te Puna valley on the western side of Rangihoua Bay. The land on which this was located had been purchased in 1828 from the chiefs Wharepoaka, Manuwiri, Waikato, Marupainga and Pani in exchange for twelve axes.
Missionary work, including teaching and conducting church services, continued with visits to Maori villages in the area such as Wiriwiri at the eastern end of Wairoa Bay. It also appears that Papuke Pa and its environs were still inhabited by Maori at his time. The Te Puna mission site comprised two mission houses close to Rangihoua Bay. Pakeha settlement elsewhere in the vicinity expanded noticeably through the 1830s, including land purchases of 287 hectares (710 acres) by John King on his own behalf. Thomas Hansen, Hannah King's brother, and his family, also owned a homestead and farm known as 'Kouto', running from the site of Ruatara's proposed town down to the Papuke headland, which had initially been purchased from the chiefs Wharemokaikai and Morenga in 1834. Thomas and Elizabeth Hansen have been referred to as New Zealand's earliest European settlers and were amongst the first Pakeha farmers in the country.
By the 1850s, most of the land at Rangihoua was in Pakeha hands, with the number of Maori living in the area having significantly declined. Relationships were also generally more tense in the colony as a result of increasing competition for land. The Te Puna mission continued to function until the death of John King in 1854, although his son-in-law Richard Davis was still conducting services in the area in 1859. By this time, just 2.4 hectares (6 acres) of land was retained as a Maori reserve at Rangihoua Pa.
Following the closure of the Te Puna mission, some of the land purchased by the CMS and all of that purchased by King was transferred to King's children in small lots. Their size reflected the scale of much Pakeha tenure in the North Island, where the small farm became the characteristic unit of settler agriculture. Some of his adult offspring continued to live on the mission station site, which was initially retained by Trustees of the CMS but eventually sold to the Hansen family in 1874 for incorporation in their adjacent farm at Kouto. A later nineteenth-century house near the mission site was occupied by Hannah Letheridge, a daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Hansen, shortly before her death in 1907. Hannah Letheridge was widely considered to have been the first European woman born in New Zealand, although William Hall's daughter had preceded her. The land continued to be remote from the main centres of settler occupation, which lay elsewhere in the Bay of Islands and further afield, and was mostly given over to pasture. During the early 1900s, much of the property owned by King's descendants was purchased by Walter Clapham Mountain (1864-1930), who consolidated it as part of his much larger holdings on the Purerua Peninsula. His lands included the mission station sites at Te Puna, purchased in 1917, and Oihi.
Throughout the later nineteenth century Rangihoua Bay, and Oihi in particular, gained symbolic currency as the birthplace of Christianity in New Zealand. The Reverend John Kinder made a visit in 1864, taking what is probably the earliest photograph of Oihi. In the 1890s, Henry Williams, the son of the missionary leader of the same name, went to the site and removed timber from one of the houses that was still standing, while Archdeacon P. Walsh also visited the Bay on at least two occasions. In 1907, the Marsden Cross was erected overlooking the foreshore, and was unveiled by the Governor-General of New Zealand, Lord Plunket. In December 1914, a service conducted by the Bishop of Auckland, was held next to the monument to commemorate the centenary of the mission's foundation. Following storm damage, a contract was let for a more stable Cross in 1918. State recognition of the mission site was formalised by 1930 with the taking by Crown proclamation of the cemetery at Oihi as a scenic and historic purposes reserve. This coincided with growing national awareness about the value of New Zealand's unique landscape and history. A monument to the King family has also since been erected at Oihi.
Most of the land in the Rangihoua Bay area passed to Walter Clapham Mountain II on his father's death in 1930, and has since mostly been used for cattle grazing. In the 1970s, further land around the Oihi site was transferred to the Crown, creating a significantly larger reserve. Road access to the area was created in the same decade, when a single farm track from the main Purerua Peninsula road was cut through. The privately owned elements of the area, including those currently held by MLP LLC (Mountain Landing Properties) and other bodies are subject to development pressures. In 2003, a large clubhouse was constructed on the Wairoa Flats, at the eastern end of Wairoa Bay, removing the upper parts of the middens on this site. More recently, a house has been built on the ridge forming the eastern boundary of the area.
The area can be divided into five parts. From west to east these consist of:
i) the Te Pahi Islands;
ii) the eastern end of Wairoa Bay, including the Papuke headland;
iii) the western end of Rangihoua Bay and the Te Puna valley;
v) the eastern part of Rangihoua Bay, including the Oihi Valley.
Te Pahi Islands
The Te Pahi Islands consist of a cluster of rocky outcrops of variable size, located some 50m to 1000m south of the Papuke headland, which separates the Wairoa and Rangihoua Bays. The group includes four reasonably substantial islands (including Motuapo and Te Pahi or Turtle Island) that retain vegetation and one smaller outlier (Motuterahiki). A number of rocks of varying size lie interspersed between these.
The two closest islands to the Papuke headland are Motuapo Island and Te Pahi Island. Both measure some 150-200m across. The latter contains extensive archaeological deposits (P05/2), including the remains of a substantial fortified pa. It may form the remnants of Te Pahi's early nineteenth-century trading post and stronghold, which became tapu after his death. However, there is some doubt about this attribution as the 1834 deeds of Old Land Claim 126 note that Motuapo was also known as Te Pahi's island, an identification repeated by Te Paea Waiwa Riwhi - Te Pahi's great-great grandson - in 1977, who considered Motuapo to be the site of Te Pahi's kainga. Riwhi also noted that Te Pahi lived at several places, including Moturoa, a large island close to the Te Pahi group, so it may be that both were inhabited at this time. This perspective is supported by early accounts of the raid on Te Pahi's island in 1810, which refer to some of its occupants swimming to a larger island, on which houses were also burnt.
Motuapo is privately owned, containing a small modern house on a terrace near the summit of the island, and has been recently afforested making the identification of archaeological remnants difficult. The uninhabited Te Pahi Island is Maori freehold land that was gazetted as part of a Maori Reserve in 1981 'for the purpose of a place of scenic interest for the common use and benefit of the people of New Zealand'. It is mostly grassed.
The other islands in the Te Pahi Islands group are located further to the south and east, and include two further islands of a similar size as well as a smaller outlier, known as Motuterahiki Island. These also lie within Maori freehold land that was gazetted as a Maori Reserve in 1981 and are similarly considered to have been utilised for mahinga kaimoana (the main gathering place of seafood for Rangihoua), maara whenua (cultivations) and tauranga ika (fishing grounds). For several years after the arrival of the CMS mission in 1814, the missionaries were reliant on food traded with tangata whenua for their survival. The main food source at Rangihoua is likely to have been kaimoana from the Te Pahi Islands group, although food was also produced from cultivations on the mainland. The outer islands are also believed to have been used by tangata whenua as lookout posts.
In the early nineteenth century, one of the islands within the Te Pahi group was referred to as 'Sepulchre Island' and was evidently used for rites associated with burial. In 1806, John Savage noted that: 'The graves on this island are marked by pieces of wood at the head and foot and preserved from any disturbance'. One of Te Pahi's wives is said to have spent her last days there, and Ruatara's family is also believed to have suggested that he be moved to the island during his final illness, a suggestion that he declined.
Eastern end of Wairoa Bay and Papuke headland
The eastern end of Wairoa Bay is comparatively low-lying, and slopes down from the Papuke headland to the Wairoa Stream, which forms the western boundary of the registration. Areas of shell midden lie on the flats beside the foreshore (P05/853, P05/854), indicating land that appears to have been occupied before and at the same time as Te Pahi Island. They may also mark the location of the settlement at Wiriwiri, still in use during the 1830s. Archaeological material was unearthed here in 2002-2003 during construction work. A terrace (P05/906) lies on the slope immediately to the north of the foreshore, while cultivation lines (P05/851) have been recognised on land to the east of the Wairoa Stream.
The knoll overlooking this end of Wairoa Bay (and which looks out towards the entrance of the Bay of Islands) has been identified as the location of Ruatara's proposed town, and the wahi tapu associated with his lying-in-state in 1815. It is also considered to be the site of a nineteenth-century farmstead (P05/915) occupied by Hannah King Letheridge (nee Hansen) before she moved to the Te Puna mission site. No surface elements are visible apart from an old pohutukawa tree, although sub-surface remains of the farmstead may survive. Modern buildings exist at this site. A grave marking the burial place of John Tollis Hansen and Maria Ann Lang (P05/906) lies on the seaward slope below the knoll, overlooking the site of their home at Wiriwiri.
The headland pa at Papuke (P05/25) separates the eastern end of Wairoa Bay from Rangihoua Bay, incorporating a number of terraces. It is cut off from the ridge running up to the aforementioned knoll by a deep defensive ditch and high bank. Another pa lies further up the ridge (P05/26), and although this has largely eroded away, a terrace is still evident with midden in situ. The ridge also contains the site of the Hansen House, shown in an 1839 drawing of Te Puna mission. This is indicated by a large Norfolk Pine planted by Thomas Hansen to mark the birth of one of his children (P05/892). Most of the area consists of open grassland.
Te Puna Valley and western end of Rangihoua Bay
The Te Puna valley consists of a broad and fertile piece of low-lying ground occupying the western end of Rangihoua Bay. It incorporates the Te Puna stream and an area of swampy land along its western side. Significant archaeological sites include areas of midden close to the foreshore at the western end of the bay (P05/897). They also include the remains of the 1830s Te Puna mission station (P05/24). The site of the mission village is situated about 100m from the beach frontage, marked by large, old fig trees. Archaeological investigation of the King family mission house site in 2002 revealed important evidence of missionary life. Other features associated with the station includes two sawpits and a pathway. The sawpits (P05/299) - where timber for the buildings was cut - are located on the shoreline, while the pathway (P05/896) runs from the station site to Rangihoua and Oihi, having been used in early mission days to travel between the sites. Ploughing associated with the mission, and possibly earlier cultivation, is located to the north of the station site (P05/893). Coring of the swampy land in the valley has revealed evidence of flora associated with early human activity, including taro, kumara and paper mulberry.
Rangihoua is the highest point on the Rangihoua Bay foreshore, and is the location of the pre-eminent pa site in the area (Q05/3). Fortified sites such as this are associated with warfare and the intensification of agriculture from about the sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries. Connected with Ruatara's ambitious trading plans, Rangihoua was occupied well into the 1800s. The pa is defended by a single ditch on its western side and a series of three ditches on the east, with further fortification in the past having been provided by palisading. Numerous terraces, both within and outside the defences would have supported houses, storage structures and activity areas. Kumara and potatoes were stored on platforms, or whata, within the pa, with the result that only one kumara pit has been recorded. The tihi at Rangihoua is an important burial site and wahi tapu.
Several terraces have been noted outside the defences, including four overlooking the western defensive ditch of Rangihoua (Q05/34). Others are located on the ridge further west (P05/890, P05/891, P05/889). A further recorded terrace site (P05/872) is believed to be part of P05/889.
Oihi Valley and eastern end of Rangihoua Bay
Rising within the northern part of the area and running eastwards to the eastern part of Rangihoua Bay, the Oihi valley contains a forked stream and its tributaries. The valley is steeper than that at Te Puna, and generally less fertile. The 1814 mission station site (Q05/5) lies at the foot of the valley, on sloping ground next to the coast. It is also recorded as a horticultural site due to the large number of cultivation drains or channels that run down the incline. Superimposed on these elements are features associated with the mission. These consist of a number of terraces where the mission houses were once located, along with pathways, a stone-lined hearth, and a sawpit dating to the arrival of the mission. The site also contains a burial ground, where members of the King family and numerous whalers are interred. The Marsden Cross, commemorating Marsden's first church service, and a monument to the King family members who are buried here, are located on two of the terraces.
Other sites within the valley include terraces, platforms and gardens inland from the mission station site (Q05/6, Q05/10, Q05/11, Q05/31, Q05/32, Q05/33, Q05/1317), some of which may have been used into the period of contact between Maori and Pakeha. Traditional crops continued to be grown into the historic era, along with potatoes, which had become an important trade crop by the first years of the nineteenth century. The valley and its tributaries were included in the 1815 grant purchased by the missionaries, which extended beyond the proposed historic area to the Waitohara Stream in the next valley.
There are no recorded sites on the very steep slope leading down to the coast to the east of Oihi, although there are several on the headland at the eastern end of Rangihoua Bay. These include a pa site overlooking the bay (Q05/35), and numerous terraces and pits (Q05/7, Q05/8, Q05/9, Q05/24, Q05/25, Q05/30) nearby. The sides of the headland are made up largely of cliffs.
Public NZAA Number
19th November 2007
Report Written By
Martin Jones and Angela Middleton
Patricia Bawden, The Years before Waitangi: A Story of Early Maori/European Contact in New Zealand, [Auckland], 1987
Best, 2003 (2)
Simon Best, 'An Archaeological Excavation at Wairoa Bay, Purerua Peninsula, Bay of Islands', [Auckland], 2003
J. Elder, The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden 1765-1838, Dunedin, 1932
Anne Salmond, Between Worlds: Early Exchanges between Maori and Europeans 1773-1815, Auckland, 1997
John Savage, Some Account of New Zealand, Christchurch, 1973
Keith Sinclair (ed.), Tasman Relations: New Zealand and Australia, 1788-1988, Auckland, 1987
H.H. Turton, An Epitome of Official Documents Relative to Native Affairs and Land Purchases in the North Island of New Zealand, Wellington, 1877-1883
Archaeology in Oceania
Archaeology in Oceania
Angela Middleton, 'Maori and European Landscapes at Te Puna, Bay of Islands, New Zealand', 2003, Vol.38, No.2, pp.110-124.
S. Bulmer, G. Law and D. Sutton, A Lot of Spadework to be Done: Essays in Honour of Lady Eileen Fox, Auckland, 1983
A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Northland Area 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.
Historic Area Place Name
Cultivation lines (possibly Maori/possibly European)
Garden Drains (Maori)
House Site (European)
House site/Pine (European)
Midden & Hangi
Te Puna Mission Village (Maori & European site)