Fraser Cameron Limited

97A Church Street, Opotiki

  • Fraser Cameron Limited.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Gail Henry. Date: 1/09/2008.
  • The recessed doorway showing the terrazzo panels on floor and around the windows..
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Gail Henry. Date: 1/09/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9313 Date Entered 8th May 2009


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 3283, Gisborne Land District and the building known as Fraser Cameron Limited thereon, and its fittings and fixtures. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Opotiki District


Bay of Plenty Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 3283 (CTGS2B/29), Gisborne Land District

Location description

On the west side of Church Street in the block between King Street and Richard Street.


Fraser Cameron Limited is a small retail building in the main shopping and commercial street of Opotiki. It was built in 1935 at a time when Opotiki was consolidating its established position as the major service centre for the wider region which had a strong agricultural economy.

Fraser Cameron Limited is a single-storey concrete building built in sympathy with the more elaborate and larger Rostgard's Building adjacent to the north and with which it has several design elements in common. Together with its immediate neighbours to the south the line of shops present a unified and cohesive streetscape of small shops with recessed doorways, tile or terrazzo finishes, leadlight and stained glass above the main display windows, and parapets above the suspended or post-supported verandahs.

Fraser Cameron Limited is a significant part of the streetscape and helps define the heritage character of the main street. The building is also significant through its associations with people and businesses in Opotiki. The building was first owned by J. Tom Merry, a well-known identity in Opotiki and district through his positions as Town Clerk (1913-1923) and County Clerk (1923-1947). Merry was also secretary of the Opotiki Hospital Board and was involved with a retail business, an insurance agency and investment property. He was one of those investors who assisted with the development of Opotiki through the provision of rental property. After an initial short-term occupant, Bob Black's cycle shop, the shop has been occupied by two long-term businesses, D. and A. Croll milk bar and hardware business (c.1941-1964), and Fraser Cameron Limited's electrical and refrigeration goods and repairs service (1964- present). Consequently the premises are well-known to Opotiki and district's residents.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The building represents an important phase in the development of Opotiki, having been constructed at a time when the central business area was expanding to the south along Church Street into the area surveyed as one-acre allotments for the militiamen-settlers. It was built by a local body administrator who understood and foresaw the need for retail premises to help support the development of Opotiki. It was built at a time when Opotiki was consolidating its established position as the major service centre for the wider region which had a strong agricultural economy.

One of the long-term businesses that occupied the building supported the growing dairying industry as sole local agents for milking machine parts.

The building is associated with J.T. Merry, a long-serving local body administrator, first as Town Clerk from 1913 to 1923, then as County Clerk from 1923 until 1947. Merry was a well-known identity in the district.

Aesthetic Significance or Value:

The essentially intact original, decorative façade with its leadlight and stained glass windows and pink terrazzo attracts the attention. The building is a significant part of the streetscape and helps define the heritage character of the main street.

Architectural Significance or Value:

The building has strong elements sympathetic to the design of the single-storey part of the Rostgard's Building on its northern side. Together with its immediate neighbours to the south the line of shops present a unified and cohesive heritage streetscape of small shops with recessed doorways, tile or terrazzo finishes, leadlight and stained glass above the main display windows, and parapets above the suspended or post-supported verandahs. Together they lend a distinctive heritage character to this section of the main street.

The building contains strategies for flood protection of the building and of its contents as a strategy to cope with the extreme environmental situations prevailing in the central-eastern Bay of Plenty.

Social Significance or Value:

The shop has had a long tradition of association with the long-established businesses of D. and A. Croll's hardware store for over 20 years and with Fraser Cameron Limited for 44 years. It is a familiar part of the commercial area and is well-known in the community for the particular businesses which have occupied the building.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history:

Fraser Cameron Limited reflects the role of small coastal towns in the development of districts away from the main centres of population, and the importance of the port to such areas. The building reflects the development of Opotiki post-confiscation from Whakatohea, from its first survey as a settlement for militiamen to its consolidation as a service centre for the wider district and the continual establishment of shops and businesses providing an expanding range of goods. Opotiki served a strong agricultural district with an intensive dairying industry.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place:

The local community has had a strong association with the building through the businesses that have occupied it since its construction, residents still remembering the first cycle shop, and being customers of the later milk bar-tearooms, hardware store and electrical goods and repair shop.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape:

The place contributes strongly to the overall heritage impact and landscape of the main streets of Opotiki, being one of a large number of intact original buildings that together reflect the continuing development of Opotiki from the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. The development is seen in the wide range of architectural styles and materials from simple weatherboard structures, ornate plastered facades and single-storey concrete shops with parapets and suspended verandahs.

Summary of Significance or Values:

This place was assessed against, and found it to qualify under the following criteria: a, e, k.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category II historic place.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Fraser Cameron Limited is a small single-storey building in central Opotiki built at a time when Opotiki had consolidated its development after a period of expansion in the 1880s-1910s and a second period of development in the 1920s and 30s. Opotiki's location close to rivers, sea and productive alluvial plains was significant in Maori and later European settlement, with abundant resources, fertile soils and easy access. By the early 19th century the iwi Te Whakatohea had established a large village called Pakowhai [Pa Kowhai] at the north end of what is now Opotiki township.

Pakowhai was the key reason for the establishment of Church Missionary Society (CMS) and Roman Catholic missions in the early 1840s. The CMS mission church, Hiona St Stephen's, became pivotal in the development of Opotiki. The killing of its minister, Reverend Carl Volkner, by Hauhau in March 1865 led to the occupation of the area by colonial and imperial troops in September 1865 and the subsequent alienation of the Whakatohea people through the confiscation of their land and property by the colonial government in January 1866. Opotiki was surveyed and laid out to enable allocation of land to militiamen (mostly of the 1st Regiment of Waikato Militia) in return for their service. Each militiaman received a one-acre town section as well as a rural plot of a size relative to his rank. The whole western side of the Church Street block from King Street to Richard Street, where Fraser Cameron Limited is now situated, was encompassed in only two one-acre allotments, this block not being intended for commercial use but as residential farmlets for the militiamen.

The military settlement provided the impetus for the establishment of a resident non-military European population, as land previously unavailable to colonial settlers was opened up. A commercial town centre developed to service the growing agricultural industry. Opotiki's remote location with access primarily by sea also created the need for self-sufficiency and good port facilities. The Opotiki Town District was gazetted in 1882, and by the late 1890s the central shopping and commercial precinct was well established. At the beginning of the 20th century Opotiki was larger and more populous than Whakatane, Rotorua and Tauranga. Increases in the local economy led to the steady consolidation of the town centre with progressive subdivision of allotments, replacement of simple wooden buildings with more substantial ones in permanent materials, and the growth of cultural and social institutions to provide for the local community. A major fire in 1913 prompted the borough council to establish an area in town where all buildings had to be constructed of brick or concrete. Church Street developed as the main commercial thoroughfare.

The parcel of land on which Fraser Cameron Limited is situated was surveyed as Allotment 49 of Section 2 Military Part of Opotiki, being one acre (0.405 hectares) in area with a frontage to Church Street of 500 links (100.6 metres) and a frontage to King Street of 200 links (40 metres). Allotment 49 was granted to Captain James Skene, a member of the 1st Waikato Regiment which came to Opotiki with the East Coast Expeditionary Force in 1865. The property was on-sold four times by 1913 and the Church Street-King Street corner portion of Allotment 49 was subdivided off. In 1915 Hans Rostgard built a substantial reinforced concrete building on this corner section, with the two-storey corner portion forming an impressive ornate façade facing the intersection. Other buildings facing the intersection were the Mechanics Institute, Shalfoon Building 1914 (Record number 807) and the Royal Hotel (Record number 3503). The adjacent section that was to belong to Fraser Cameron Limited was apparently vacant in 1915.

By November 1924 two houses and another building existed on the southern half of Allotment 49. At this time Allotments 49 and 50 were re-surveyed, being combined as one unit then sub-divided to create long narrow plots with smaller frontages to Church Street, indicative of the projected development of the block as commercial sections. The lot that included what was to become the Fraser Cameron Limited section was apparently vacant but with a post and wire fence on its eastern boundary. At that time it was owned by William Fife [Fyfe] Moody and Joseph Moody.

Further subdivision in 1933 created a narrow parcel 30.3 links (6.10 metres) wide by 80 metres long; this still had only a post and wire fence along Church Street on 11 November 1933. On 22 November 1933 Lot 1 was sold to John Tom Merry.

Tom Merry (1878-1968) was the Town Clerk for Opotiki Borough Council from 1913 to 1923, and then County Clerk for Opotiki County Council for 24 years from 1923 to 1947. He also served as secretary-treasurer on the Opotiki Hospital Board from 1925 until 1940. Merry contested the Bay of Plenty seat for the National Party in 1935, unsuccessfully. According to his son Ewan Merry, Tom Merry bought the site and erected the shop as a financial investment as he had no form of superannuation. He also owned a house in Opotiki and another in Rotorua for the rental income and had additional income as the State Fire and Accident Insurance Company's agent for Opotiki. Tom Merry was one of those who foresaw the need for providing retail premises to help consolidate the development of the town as a service centre.

The property apparently remained vacant during 1934. However on 21 February 1935 party wall rights pertaining to Rostgard's building to the north were entered on the Certificate of Title, indicating that Fraser Cameron Limited was built in 1935. The architect and builder of Fraser Cameron Limited have not been established. It is adjacent to the single-storey part of the Rostgard's Building (Record number 3504) and built in sympathy with its street frontage, as are the adjacent shops to the south. There are several design elements in common, such as the recessed doorways and leadlight upper lights above the display windows and doors. It is possible that it was designed by H.L.D. West, the architect who designed Rostgard's, as he also designed the Merry's residence on Hospital Hill in 1924. A few older Opotiki residents believe that Fraser Cameron Limited and the adjacent building to the south, which originally contained two shops, were built at the same time by Robert Carruthers. However this has not been substantiated and Ewan Merry recalls an empty section being to the south of his father's building. The Carruthers building must have been built very soon after Tom Merry's building as this and the next building to the south make up a strong visually-similar unit. Further south again but set back from the footpath is a garage and petrol station also dating from the 1930s. The gap between the garage and the shops was filled-in with another small shop, making a continuous street frontage from Rostgard's at the corner of King Street to (but not including) the garage. More shops were built on the east side of Church Street at a similar time as the town continued to grow.

The first occupant of Fraser Cameron Limited was Bob Black's cycle shop. Black enlisted for military service in World War Two and the shop was empty for a while before being taken over by Annie Croll as a milk bar-tea room in approximately 1941. Her son Don worked there after school until he too enlisted, in 1943. At that time the counter was on the north side of the doorway, with just enough space for the door to swing past the counter. The south side of the room was fitted with booths, each with a table and bench seats. Annie Croll baked scones in the oven in the rear part of the building; these were served with tea. Annie's husband Doug Croll had a grocery business in the two shops owned by Carruthers adjacent to the south, but this business was shifted into the Fraser Cameron building. The business changed emphasis, selling hardware and later, plants and garden supplies. D. and A. Croll were the agents for McCormack Deering machinery whose products included milking machinery parts. The shelf fittings for these parts still exist but have been shifted into the new addition at the rear.

On 11-12 March 1964 Opotiki was inundated by a major flood, with up to 1.5 metres of water in the central business district, and 1.4 metres in Fraser Cameron Limited. During the flood Doug Croll and son Don were in the shop putting stock onto higher shelves when the windows fell in and trapped the men. They climbed onto fittings and shelves to get above the water and when they heard someone walking across the roof, they caught his attention by knocking on the ceiling. Their rescuer, Gib Little who had the cycle shop on corner of King and Church Streets, took off some roofing iron and hauled them out. They were taken across the roofs and Doug Croll, who was unwell, spent the night in a flat in the upstairs part of Rostgard's. The floodwater receded the next day, but a lot of their stock was swept away or damaged. The window glass was replaced and no other damage was sustained.

Soon after, the Crolls quit their business. The lease on the shop was taken over in mid-1964 by Fraser Logan Cameron, who ran an electrical appliances and repair business. Cameron started his business in December 1959 in Opotiki, in the Shalfoon building on the corner of King Street and Church Street. Fraser Cameron Limited was incorporated in 1962 and is owned by Fraser Cameron, his wife Elaine and their son Stuart. The business subsequently moved into the south end of the Rostgard Building, adjacent to the current premises, and then into the shop known as Fraser Cameron Limited. For a while Cameron held leases on both shops. On 5 April 1965 Fraser Cameron Limited purchased the property from Tom Merry for c. £2000.

One of the first improvements to the building was the erection at the rear of the shop of a mezzanine floor just above the level of the 1964 flood, i.e. 1.4 metres high. Partition walls around this new floor and a new skylight created an office and storage area for business papers and a useful temporary storage area in the event of another flood. The space beneath the mezzanine provides further storage. Other partition walls separate off the showroom from another office. The counter, which runs north-south towards the mid-rear of the shop, has a staff work space behind it. In 1968 a £1600 mortgage assisted with the building of a large extension at the rear; this was a single-storey open space with walls partly of corrugated iron and partly concrete block, a concrete floor and a corrugated iron roof. The extension was built by local builder R.J. Booth Limited. In 1970 Kelly and Browne, Civil and Structural Engineers, drew plans for an additional storey to the 1968 extension, but this was not built due to lack of funds.

On 12 July 1990 the property ownership was transferred to Cammily Enterprises Limited. The company is composed of Fraser Cameron, his wife Elaine Cameron, and their children Stuart, Shona, Mary-Anne & Vivienne and was incorporated in 1983.

From November 1999 to November 2002 Cameron leased out the front of the shop to a haberdashery business, Curtaincraft. As it was also the agency for Bernina sewing machines, the shop was also called Bernina Sewing Centre. In 1999 the lessee put particle board lining on wooden studs set against the two side walls. This has changed the temperature of the building, now cold in winter because concrete walls used to store the heat and slowly release it. The alteration meant the original shelf unit with cubby-holes for machine parts was removed from the wall; it was installed in the extension.

Cameron Electrical Limited is owned by Fraser Cameron's son Stuart and his wife Irene and was incorporated in 1993. To support keeping the front shop open, Cameron Electrical Limited moved their office into Fraser Cameron when Fraser's wife Elaine retired. The shop is used for retail of hardware, electrical and haberdashery goods, plus it is a repair service for electrical and refrigeration equipment. Fraser Cameron services the local theatre audiovisual equipment as well, with a long history of personal contribution of both time and goods to support the local theatre .

Physical Description

Construction Professionals:

Not known

Fraser Cameron Limited is a single-storey rectangular floor plan building with the front facing east. It is 6.07 metres wide (north-south) by approximately 15.4 metres long (east-west). It has a suspended verandah supported from a raised parapet. The entrance is set back in a recess between the two display windows which are of different sizes, the wider (2.88 metres) being to the south of the recess. The recess tapers from 1.99 metres at the front to 1.02 meters at the doorway; the shop windows therefore are narrower on the street frontage than the interior.

It is built of reinforced concrete with pale pink terrazzo panel cladding below the display windows and forming a dado on each side of the front with the remainder of the front walls being painted concrete. The floor of the recessed entryway is also terrazzo, in one piece. A pair of doors provides the entrance to the shop; each door is wooden framed with 12 lights. Fixed onto the frame just in front of each door is a C-section strip of steel intended to hold a temporary barrier against floodwater. Above the entrance and above each display window are leadlight windows with a geometric design. The leadlight window panels contain four types of patterned glass, most pieces colourless but with light yellow stained glass strips at the sides.

The flat roof is made of corrugated iron and slopes down towards the rear. A high parapet conceals the roof from the street.

The building occupies the whole width of the property and is contiguous with other single-storey concrete buildings to the north and south, built separately but with aligned frontages. It shares design elements with the buildings either side, particularly noticeable when seen from the footpath, with recessed doorways and leadlight above the display windows and doors. It may have been designed by the same architect as Rostgard's, H.L.D. West.

The interior is lit by natural light through four light wells (c.2x2 metres square) in a single row, plus a skylight in the raised-floor office. The three front light wells have Clearlite sheeting and the other has Novalite sheeting. The sides of the light wells are hardboard panels supported by wooden battens. The ceiling is made up of fibrous plaster panels approximately 3 feet (0.9 metres) square, forming 10 rows across and 16 rows from front to rear, held up with varnished wooden battens. The plaster has a pressed design resembling a double fan shell.

The building has been subdivided with wooden-framed partition walls. At the rear northwest corner an additional mezzanine floor has been added at c.1.5 metres above the main floor. A short flight of wooden stairs leads up to this room. The space below serves as storage.

A wooden tongue and groove door in the rear wall leads into a more recent concrete block building, added to the original building. The door was originally the exterior door. Plumbing fittings adjacent to the door provide fresh water and waste water services. The 18.3 metres long single-storey addition is not part of the proposed registration. The original building has had no structural modifications and is in good condition.

The Opotiki Town Centre Heritage Study identified several buildings in this block on both east and west sides of Church Street as being 'Heritage Character Defining' or 'Heritage Character Supporting', considering them to contribute to the collective value of the heritage of Opotiki's central business district. Only one house remains in the commercial area of Church Street, a late 19th century cottage, and this is almost opposite Fraser Cameron Limited. An early picture theatre is also opposite and a few doors to the south is a 1930s garage. Apart from these the streetscape comprises retail buildings either stand-alone or in a continuous line as with Fraser Cameron Limited and its neighbours. In the vicinity of Fraser Cameron Limited are four registered buildings, of which two are two-storey retail premises. A further eight buildings along Church Street are registered also, indicative of the recognised heritage landscape of the Opotiki town centre.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1935 -
Building construction (date inferred only)

1964 -
March 11-12 flood damage to front windows, glass replaced

1965 - 1966
Mezzanine floor erected in rear corner

1968 -
Extension added to rear of building; original rear door now internal

1999 -
Interior of side walls lined with timber frame

Construction Details

Reinforced concrete, terrazzo, glass, timber, corrugated iron

Completion Date

17th April 2009

Report Written By

Lynette Williams

Information Sources

Bradbury, 1915

E. Bradbury (ed.), The Settlement and Development of the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, 1st edition, Auckland, 1915

Cresswell, 2003

John C M Cresswell, Opotiki: the Birth of a Small Town, J. Gover, Whangarei, 2003

Matthews & Matthews Architects Ltd, 2006

Matthews & Matthews Architects Ltd., Lyn Williams, R. A. Skidmore and Associates and Archaeology B.O.P., 'Opotiki Town Centre Historic Heritage Study, Part Two: Inventory and Record Forms', [Auckland], 2006

Other Information

A fully referenced Registration report is available from the NZHPT Lower Northern 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.