Ruatuna

Ruatuna, the Coates family home at the northern end of the Kaipara Habour, is a lasting tribute to “Jazz Premier” Gordon Coates.


Ruatuna house with trees in the background.
Ruatuna, home of Gordon Coates.expand/collapse

Visiting Ruatuna

Ruatuna is near Tinopai in the Kaipara District, approximately two hours drive from Auckland. Find out about visiting Ruatuna here.

Ruatuna: Home of the Jazz Premier

Ruatuna, the Coates family home at the northern end of the Kaipara Habour, is a lasting tribute to former New Zealand Prime Minister Gordon Coates. Built for Coates’ parents Edward and Eleanor in 1877, the birthplace of the future prime minister is a humble single-storey affair, with a long veranda at the front and lean-to rooms either side, roofed in sheets of red corrugated iron.

Step inside and you’ll find a mix of homely everyday items and those that pay lasting tribute to Coates, with framed photos of Gordon in almost every room. There’s a pair of boots that may or may not have belonged to him, and a small bedroom that most likely did – it was reportedly added in the early 1890s when he reached adolescence. There’s a tangible link to the former prime minister, too, in the farm’s other historic buildings, from the so-called ‘Rattery’ where the saddles were kept, to a unique double-barrelled outhouse nicknamed ‘The Prudential’, to the old woolshed.

Architecturally, Ruatuna is a rural treasure-box, fusing Gothic and Georgian features.
Historic barns at Ruatuna with wide blue sky above.
Ruatuna barns.expand/collapse

While it’s Gordon’s story that looms largest, his is not the only tale at Ruatuna, and a visit is not just for political history buffs. The place also tells an important story about Aotearoa New Zealand’s early farming history. Prior to 1900, Gordon’s father Edward ran the country’s biggest flock of pedigree Shropshire sheep – 3000-odd – and he also imported Hereford cattle.

After Edward’s death in 1905, Gordon was increasingly drawn away while brother Rodney married and moved out, leaving Ruatuna as an all-female household. And so, it remained until 2000, with Gordon’s sisters Dolly and Ada in residence, followed by Ada’s niece Joy Aickin. Walking through Ruatuna, you get a strong sense of a family’s journey through time, including the continuities between generations.

  • Ruatuna homestead with its lights on at twilight.
    Walking through Ruatuna, you get a strong sense of a family’s journey through time. Photo: Grant Sheehan
  • Ruatuna homestead with clouds streaking the sky.
    Ruatuna is open by appointment for small groups. Photo: Grant Sheehan
  • A faded black and white sign that says
    Ruatuna homestead is named after the surrounding area. Photo: Grant Sheehan
  • Red outhouse surrounded by grass and trees.
    The farmstead's double-barrelled outhouse is called ‘The Prudential’. Photo: Grant Sheehan
  • A small bedroom in Ruatuna with blue walls and a single bed.
    A small bedroom was added to Ruatuna in the early 1890s. Photo: Grant Sheehan