Melanesian Mission Building and Stone Garden Walls

40-44 Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay, Auckland

  • Melanesian Mission Building and Stone Garden Walls, Mission Bay, Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Marcel Tromp. Date: 23/12/2018.
  • Melanesian Mission Building and Stone Garden Walls, Mission Bay, Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Marcel Tromp. Date: 26/10/2017.
  • Melanesian Mission Building and Stone Garden Walls, Mission Bay, Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Marcel Tromp. Date: 26/10/2017.
  • Melanesian Mission Building and Stone Garden Walls, Mission Bay, Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Marcel Tromp. Date: 26/10/2017.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 111 Date Entered 23rd June 1983 Date of Effect 23rd June 1983


City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Lots 2, 4 and 6 DP 22640 (RT NA78D/720), North Auckland Land District


The stone Melanesian Mission Building is an early colonial structure that has a long association with education in the Auckland region. Built in 1859, it was originally part of St Andrew's College, which was an Anglican institution for the Christian education of Melanesian boys. Melanesia, an island group in the Western Pacific, was initially part of the Anglican Diocese of New Zealand. Constructed of basalt from nearby Rangitoto Island, the L-shaped building provided a dining hall, kitchen and storehouse for the college. It was part of a larger complex of structures, including a church and schoolhouse, which were arranged in a quadrangle. The steep-pitched roofs and square-headed windows of the Tudor Revival-styled Melanesian Mission Building recalled the architecture of late medieval and early modern educational institutions, as did the layout of the college. Tudor Revival design was frequently used for mid nineteenth-century schools in Britain, harking back to a major expansion of the educational system in sixteenth-century England, which was in turn linked to the creation of the Anglican Church.

Following the transfer of the Anglican mission to Norfolk Island in 1867, the educational functions of the complex remained. The building initially formed part of a naval training school, then an industrial school, teaching work practices to 'neglected and destitute boys'. It was subsequently used for Anglican services and Sunday school teaching, before being occupied from 1915 until the early 1920s by the Walsh Brothers' flying school, whose staff trained at least a third of the airborne New Zealand personnel in the First World War. With the incorporation of Mission Bay as a suburb of Auckland, public awareness of the building's history increased. This led to its restoration as the Melanesian Mission Museum in 1928, when substantial repairs and alterations were made. After being found unsuitable for the display of artifacts, it was taken over by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust/Pouhere Taonga in 1974, which has since leased it out as a restaurant.

The building has national and international significance for its role in the religious education of Melanesian peoples, and as a tangible example of colonial links between New Zealand and other Pacific Islands. It is of considerable value for its connection with changing forms of education during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including those of the Anglican Church. Its use reflects prevailing attitudes to race, class and gender within education, including an emphasis on boys' schooling. The building is also connected with developments in transport, as well as New Zealand's role in the First World War. Architecturally, the structure is significant for its connections with the British collegiate tradition, and is linked with prominent members of colonial society, including Bishop George Selwyn (1809-1878), the architect and Colonial Treasurer Reader Wood (1821-1895) and stonemason Benjamin Strange. Important as a remnant of a much larger site, the Melanesian Mission Building also has spiritual significance for its religious associations, aesthetic value for its setting in Mission Bay, and contributes greatly to the historic character of the area.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Wood, Reader Gilson

Reader Gilson Wood (1821-1895) was born in England and his education in England included study under William Flint, architect and surveyor. Wood arrived in New Zealand in 1844 and from May 1846 shared accommodation with Frederick Thatcher assisting in his work for St John's College including the supervision of the Chapel (1847). Wood remained at St John's for a short time and then took a government appointment. The Selwynian influence can be seen in his later works such as the Melanesian Mission at Mission Bay, Auckland (1859). Wood carried out a large number of commissions, but displayed little originality.

He had a notable career, however, which included service as a prominent local government official (1848-61) and as a member of the House of Representatives for Parnell (1861-65 and 1870-78) and for Waitemata, (1879-81). He retired from politics in 1881, and became Chairman of the Auckland Gas Company and a trustee of the Auckland Savings Bank.

Additional informationopen/close

Notable Features

Registration covers the building, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes recent modifications, and structures such as associated garden walls. It is part of a larger, colonial archaeological site.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1859 -

1861 -
Dining hall chimney added

1928 -
Major refurbishment, and construction of outbuilding

1990 - 1991
Internal modifications during conversion to a restaurant, with construction of outbuilding

Completion Date

21st August 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Ross, 1983 (2)

R. M. Ross, Melanesians at Mission Bay: A History of the Melanesian Mission in Auckland, Auckland, 1983

Seaborne, 1971

Malcolm Seaborne, The English School: Its Architecture and Organization 1370-1870, London, 1971

pp. 17 &152-155

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Salmond Architects, 'Melanesian Mission House: A Draft Conservation Plan for the former Melanesian Mission Building, Auckland', Auckland, nd [1990?]

Other Information

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.