Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (Catholic)

193 Motukaraka Point Road, Motukaraka

  • Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (Catholic).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Stuart Park.
  • Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (Catholic).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Stuart Park.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 72 Date Entered 15th February 1990 Date of Effect 15th February 1990


City/District Council

Far North District


Northland Region

Legal description

Wharau A (RT 432235), North Auckland Land District


The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption was built near to the mission established in the Hokianga by the Mill Hill missionaries who were responsible for the revival of Catholic missions in the Auckland Diocese in the late 19th century. These missioner priests identified completely with their Maori congregations and made themselves masters of the Maori language. The patriarchal role of the resident priest became one of the realities of daily life, and a new wave of building provided churches and other buildings, including schools and convents. Most of the churches built at the turn of the century were modest structures, but the church at Motukaraka was larger and more costly than the normal Mill Hill buildings. The church was sited deliberately to give Catholic witness to the surrounding district. The church which was opened in 1910 by Dean Lightfoot, is also associated with Father John Baptist Becker, one of the Mill Hill missionaries who is buried alongside the church. Father Becker translated the New Testament into the Maori language. Today the church is part of the adjacent marae.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, together with St Peter's at Panguru, is one of the spiritual centres of the North Hokianga Catholic community. The church is intimately associated with the work of the Mill Hill missionaries, who in the latter part of the 19th century were responsible for the rejuvenation of the Catholic faith among the Maori people of the north.


The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption is a fine essay in siting and an excellent example of the timber tradition of building essentially simple country churches in the neo-Gothic manner.


The church is magnificently sited on elevated land above the Hokianga Harbour. With its dominant spire it is a splendid landmark.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mahoney, Thomas

Thomas Mahoney (1854/5?-1923) was the eldest son of Edward Mahoney, a leading Auckland architect. Thomas joined his father's firm, Edward Mahoney and Sons, in 1878 and was followed soon after by his younger brother Robert.

The firm was responsible for a wide range of designs including domestic buildings, commercial and public buildings, churches and hotels. They won a competition for the design of the Auckland Customhouse in 1888, and were also responsible for the design of The Pah (now Monte Cecilia Convent), Hillsborough (1887), the Elliot Street facade of Smith and Caughey's Building (1910) and Wrights Building, Auckland (1911).

Thomas was secretary of the Auckland Institute of Architects in 1885, president in 1883, and treasurer in 1902. In 1907 he was president of the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


Not certain; may have been: Thomas MAHONEY (1855-1923)


The builder of the church was H.A. Williams of Kohukohu and the plans are said to have been "drawn up in Auckland". The design is such that a trained architect was clearly responsible. This could have well been Thomas Mahoney, who was the architect for many Catholic buildings in the Auckland Diocese, although there is no documentation to prove this.


Neo-Gothic in style, the church consists of a nave with gabled roof and a sacristy, also gabled, behind the altar wall. This unfenestrated wall is decorated with a large painting - a copy of Murillo's "The Immaculate Conception" which hangs in the Louvre, Paris. Lancet windows, widely spaced, have plain glass. The interior with its simple scissor trusses and unpainted kauri matchlining is unpretentious but dignified. A rear gallery which is possibly an addition abuts against windows at the sides. The entrance is through a tower surmounted by a tall broach spire. Above door level are paired lancet windows with coloured glass, with circular windows above. The next level has lancet windows which are louvered. Doors likewise have pointed arch forms.


A gallery at the rear is possibly an addition. The church is being renovated at present, wooden piles are being replaced by concrete piles.

Notable Features

The spectacular siting.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1910 -

Construction Details

Timber piles; truss system for the main roof; building is of kauri timber.

Information Sources

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

'Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Motukaraka Point Road, Motukaraka, Hokianga', NZHPT Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1989 (held by NZHPT, Auckland)

Salmond, 1986

Jeremy Salmond, Old New Zealand Houses 1800-1940, Auckland, 1986, Reed Methuen

Porter, 1983 (2)

Frances Porter (ed.), Historic Buildings of New Zealand: North Island (2nd edn.), Auckland, 1983

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.