Kotahitanga Church

44 Haven Street, Moeraki

  • Kotahitanga Church, Moeraki. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 6/12/2013.
  • Kotahitanga Church, Moeraki. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans . Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 6/12/2013.
  • Kotahitanga Church, Moeraki. Interior, stained glass windows.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Ellen Andersen. Date: 19/09/2007.
  • Kotahitanga Church, Moeraki. Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 4/06/2016.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9437 Date Entered 19th February 2010 Date of Effect 19th February 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 11 Blk II Town of Moeraki (NZ Gazette 1979, p. 570), Otago Land District, and the building known as Kotahitanga Church thereon, and its fittings and fixtures.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Sec 11 Blk II Town of Moeraki (NZ Gazette 1979 p 570), Otago Land District


Built in 1862, Kotahitanga Church in Moeraki, Otago, is the oldest surviving Maori mission church building in the South Island. The church contains one of the earliest examples of stained glass that depicts a New Zealand born individual - the notable nineteenth century Maori leader Matiaha Tiramorehu (1795-1881) - a feature that is of both national significance and special significance to Ngai Tahu and the people of Moeraki.

The mission to Maori in Otago was established by the Wesleyan missionary Rev. James Watkin in 1840, who was based at Waikouaiti and the church that now stands, was subsequently built with support from the Anglican mission, in collaboration with the Maori community living at the Kaik - the primary Maori settlement at Moeraki in the nineteenth century.

The church is a small single-storey, gabled roof, one room building constructed of matai. The exterior is clad in horizontal wooden weatherboards, which are now covered with roughcast cladding. There are pointed arch windows along the north, west and south walls of the church, and the eastern wall has three pointed arch windows which are filled with stained glass that were installed in the church in 1893. The three stained glass windows, known as 'The Sermon on the Mount' were made by John Hardman & Co. in Birmingham. The left window depicts the influential Ngai Tahu rangatira Matiaha Tiramorehu, and is based on a photograph of him from the collection of Rev. T. A. Pybus. Tiramorehu was a significant figure in Moeraki, and the wider Ngai Tahu community of the nineteenth century, and the church was the site of his tangi in 1881, which was an important and extensively documented event for the area.

The church has been used by the Maori community at Moeraki through the nineteenth, twentieth, and into the twenty first centuries, however by the turn of the twentieth century the Maori community at Moeraki mostly lived in the township, rather than the original Kaik, and the church has been relocated twice in order to preserve the building, as well as the community connection to the place. The church has benefitted from the activities of a restoration committee from as early as 1887, and the continued care and preservation of this small church building shows that it is an integral part of its community.

The church is an important symbol and remnant of the early missionary history of the Otago region, and a physical reminder of the participation of Maori in religious activities in the area. The church has stories associated with it connected to the Wesleyan, Anglican, and Catholic faiths. The church contains architectural elements of outstanding significance, and events have taken place in the church that are of special significance to tangata whenua.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Kotahitanga Church has a strong association with the nineteenth century Maori history of the Moeraki, and is also a significant place in the history of missionary activity in the Otago region. The church was built to provide a place of worship for Maori in Moeraki, and has been used by missionaries to region to spread the Christian faith of a variety of denominations. This church also possesses strong historical links with significant people in New Zealand history such as Matiaha Tiramorehu. Tiramorehu was an important figure in Ngai Tahu history who was an active member of the church community. Tiramorehu has been depicted in one of the stained glass windows that were commissioned after his death.

Architectural Significance or Value

Kotahitanga Church is of architectural significance as the oldest surviving Maori mission church in the South Island. The stained glass window depicting the Ngai Tahu leader Matiaha Tiramorehu is thought to be the earliest example of stained glass with the image of a Maori person, and the earliest depiction of a New Zealand born individual.

Cultural Significance or Value

Kotahitanga Church has remained one of the key buildings of the Maori community in Moeraki, even as the geographic location of the building has relocated. The church is a physical reminder of the strong cultural identity of Moeraki Maori. The presence of the image of Matiaha Tiramorehu is also a significant taonga for the wider Ngai Tahu whanui.

Spiritual Significance or Value

Kotahitanga Church continues to play an important role in the spiritual and religious communities of Moeraki and the wider North Otago region. The church has remained a part of religious activity in Moeraki for over 147 years. The church is still in use today, and an important memorial plaque acknowledging significant religious events of the past is located beside the church.

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

The church is important as a surviving representative example of the early churches built in association with Maori mission history in Otago. The Church is also important as many of the significant stories of the place are connected to important events in Ngai Tahu history such as the beginnings of the land purchase disputes.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The association of Kotahitanga Church with the early Ngai Tahu leader Matiaha Tiramorehu, and other important leaders such as Horomona Pohio, Natanahira Waruwarutu, Rawiri Te Maire and Merekihereka Hape has important historical values to the Maori community of Moeraki, and the wider Ngai Tahu Whanui. Tiramorehu had a direct association with the church, and his tangi was held at the church which drew attendance from around the country. The church is also significant in the history of the Wesleyan mission to New Zealand, and its association with the Rev. James Watkin, the first missionary in Otago.

(d) The importance of the place to the tangata whenua

Te Runanga o Moeraki acknowledge Kotahitanga Church as an important part of their history in the North Otago region, and this importance is reinforced by the act of moving the church to locations where it can be properly used as a part of their community. The importance of the place to tangata whenua is also relevant in the stained glass window image of Matiaha Tiramorehu and stories associated with him and the church. The association of the church with Tiramorehu is also of significance to Kai Tuahuriri and the descendants of Turakautahi

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

The church has been used by the Maori community at Moeraki through the nineteenth , twentieth, and into the twenty first centuries, and the church has been relocated twice in order to preserve the building, as well as the community connection to the place. The continued fundraising projects and restoration programmes that have been implemented by the North Otago community for the church reflect the public esteem for the place.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

The church and its stained glass window of Matiaha Tiramorehu are important memorials to significant events and people in the North Otago region. The plaque acknowledging the visit of Pompallier located in the grounds of the church also acknowledges the Catholic memorial values of the place.

(i) The importance of identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement

Built in 1862, Kotahitanga Church in Moeraki, Otago, is the oldest surviving Maori mission church building in the South Island. The stained glass window depicting the Ngai Tahu leader Matiaha Tiramorehu is thought to be the earliest example of stained glass with the image of a Maori person which is of outstanding national importance in regards to missionary history, the history of tangata whenua, and in the history of religious architecture in New Zealand.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place, as the church is the oldest surviving Maori mission church in the South Island. The church contains the earliest known example of stained glass that depicts a New Zealand born individual, the notable nineteenth century Maori leader Matiaha Tiramorehu, which is of both national significance and special significance to Ngai Tahu who has a direct association with the church and the people of Moeraki. Tiramorehu's tangi was held at the church, and the subsequent production of a stained glass window depicting him acknowledgeacknowledges his close association with the place. The church and its stained glass representation is a special reminder of the participation of Maori in religious activities in the area.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Traditional History

Moeraki is located on part of the South Island coastline known as Te Tai o Te Arai Te Uru. The Arai Te Uru was an early voyaging canoe that came to New Zealand from Hawaiki under the guidance of Rongo-i-tua. Rongo-i-tua had introduced kumara to the Kahui-tipua people of the South Island, who in return assisted Rongo-i-tua in the construction of a canoe for him to return to Hawaiki and secure additional kumara for cultivation in the south. On his return to the South Island, the Arai Te Uru encountered a fierce storm, and according to J. Herries Beattie's retelling of collected accounts, a crew member was lost overboard at the mouth of the Waitaki River, then the canoe was blown further down the east coast of the South Island, and after losing much of its cargo of kumara at the beach known as Kai-hinaki (the site of the famous boulders near Moeraki), the waka was wrecked at Matakaea (Shag Point) where it lies petrified in the landscape. Moeraki is positioned on an outcrop in the coastline between these two significant locations, and the coastline within the immediate vicinity of the township includes Moeraki Point, Tawhiroko Point, Okahau Point, and Katiki Point to the south.

Early Settlement

Moeraki is regarded as one of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in New Zealand. The region is traditionally associated with early inhabitants, such as the Kahui-tipua, Te Rapuwai, Waitaha and Kati Mamoe peoples. Archaeological excavations on the south side of the Moeraki peninsula at Waimataitai Lagoon in the 1950s show the area was home to human occupation while moa were still available as a food source. The analysis of the finds at Waimataitai indicates this part of North Otago has been frequented by humans since at least the thirteenth century. McLean describes Moeraki as being one of the early cradles of knowledge for Waitaha and Kati Mamoe histories. When Ngai Tahu migrated to the South Island, Katiki Point was settled by Taoka. Moeraki itself became one of the many seasonal occupation sites of Ngai Tahu.

The arrival of Europeans at Moeraki (also known by the name of Onekakara), is well documented. On Boxing Day 1836 John Hughes and his station crew came ashore from their ship Magnet to set up a whaling station close to where the present day settlement of Moeraki remains. The ship had come from Peraki, near Banks Peninsula, and the party included six Europeans and six Maori. One of the crew - William Haberfield - provided an account of the early settlement to the Evening Star of Dunedin in the 1890s in which he noted nine Ngai Tahu people living at Katiki Point. Their leader was Takatahara, who was known to have fought at Kaiapoi against Te Rauparaha in 1831 and in the defence of Onawe Pa at Akaroa Harbour in 1832. Haberfield notes that Takatahara and his men went to Akaroa a few months after the whalers established their station at Moeraki.

During the first whaling season two boats and twelve men caught 23 whales from the Moeraki base, producing 28 tons of oil. In the whalers' second season in 1838, four boats and 18 men were based at Moeraki, and it was during this season that a heke (migration) of Kai Tuahuriri led by Matiaha Tiramorehu came to Moeraki. The heke came from Kaiapoi 'in canoes and an old whaling boat'. They settled about a mile and a half away from what is now Moeraki Township at Tawhiroko Point, subsequently known as the Kaik.

Matiaha Tiramorehu (c1795-1881)

The leader of this party, Matiaha Tiramorehu was born at Kaiapoi Pa, son of Karaki, and grandson of Turakautahi. Turakautahi was the founder of Kaiapoi Pa, which had earned renown as the largest fortified village in the South Island . Tiramorehu had affiliations to Kai Tuahuriri, Kati Hateatea, Kai Tuteahuka, Kai Tuhaitara, and Ngati Mamoe.

Tiramorehu was educated at the whare wananga (school of higher learning) at Maungamaunu, and his expertise in traditional knowledge was commented upon by many, including Edward Shortland in is journal of 1844. The Wesleyan missionary Reverend James Watkin also noted that Tiramorehu was 'perhaps better acquainted with genealogical antiquities than any other person', and the missionary James W Stack considered him to be 'the best authority on Maori traditions in the South Island'.

When Kaiapoi Pa was attacked by Ngati Toa led by Te Rauparaha in 1831, Tiramorehu is said to have taken part in the battle alongside his father Karaki. He was also subsequently involved in the battle at Oraumoaiti. It was towards the end of this conflict with Ngati Toa that Tiramorehu led a group of his people to take up residence at Moeraki in 1838. Garven notes that Tiramorehu and his flotilla were given permission by Paitu - the existing rangatira of the Moeraki area - to settle at Tawhiroko Point. When Paitu passed away it was Tiramorehu who became chief of the settlement.

Tiramorehu was baptised by the Rev. James Watkin in 1843 and encouraged his Moeraki community to take up the Wesleyan faith. He also encouraged the use of European agricultural practices, and was a signatory to the Canterbury purchase negotiated by Henry Tacy Kemp at Akaroa in 1848. This land sale was to be the only Tiramorehu would ever sign, and by 1849 Tiramorehu had taken an active role in alleging breaches of the purchase conditions. His letter to E. J. Eyre on 22 October 1849 is significant in Ngai Tahu history as the first formal statement of Ngai Tahu grievances in regards to land purchases in the South Island.

In 1860 Tiramorehu was appointed as one of the two native assessors for Otago, which included the duties of a local magistrate. Tiramorehu was a dedicated member of the Moeraki community, advocating for the establishment of hospitals and schools, and he also established a whare wananga at Moeraki known as Omanawharetapu in 1868-1870 along with Rawiri Te Maire. It was also during this decade that Tiramorehu successfully advocated for the establishment of a church at Moeraki.

During the 1870s Tiramorehu took a leading role in campaigning for the investigation by the Crown of Ngai Tahu grievances. In February 1879 the Commission on Middle Island Native Land Purchases (also known as the Smith-Nairn commission) was established, and Tiramorehu gave evidence to the commission in 1879 and 1880.

Tiramorehu died at Moeraki on 7 April 1881, and his tangi is one of the most significant recorded events associated with the church at Moeraki in the nineteenth century. The North Otago Times reported on the tangi and noted that approximately 500 people attended; 400 Maori and 100 Europeans. The tangi was reported in many newspapers of the time, and the Otago Witness ran an extensive article on the tangi, which noted that telegrams were sent to Southland, Christchurch, Nelson, and Napier advising of his death. The service was conducted by the Rev. F. Dodd of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin, and the Maori minister Erewa Takara.

Tiramorehu was married three times throughout his long life. He married his first wife Pirihira Pi of Kai Turakautahi in 1849. They had one child, a boy, who died in infancy. In his second marriage, he had two girls, both of whom also died young, and in his third marriage, they had one girl, who survived to adulthood and was married, but died shortly afterwards.

Early Missionary Activity

Kotahitanga church has a history that reflects the variety of relationships established between the Maori community of Moeraki and nineteenth century missionaries of various denominations. The earliest contact between Moeraki Maori and missionaries was with the first Christian mission to be established in Otago. The Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society had established a mission to New Zealand, Australia and Tonga in the 1820s. The New Zealand mission commenced in 1822 at Kaeo, however following an attack by Ngati Uru in 1827 the Wesleyans relocated their mission to Mangungu on the Hokianga. The society gradually expanded its work to the South Island, and the first minister to visit was the Rev. W. White, in April, 1836.

The Waikouaiti settler Johnny Jones made a formal request to the Wesleyan Board in Sydney for a mission station to be established and in 1840 the Rev. James Watkin and his wife Hannah established the first Otago mission at Waikouaiti near Moeraki . Watkin visited Moeraki that year, by which time the whale catches were in decline. As the whaling activity declined in the 1840s, the period saw a drastic increase in missionary activity in the

Otago region.

Later in 1840 the Catholic Bishop J. B. F. Pompallier also made a visit to Moeraki and spent five days there. In 1843 the settlement was visited by the Anglican mission, represented by Matene Te Whiwhi, and Tamihana Te Rauparaha, son of Tiramorehu's former enemy in battle. There were converts to all of the faiths that visited, but on the 30th July 1843 Tiramorehu accepted the Wesleyan faith and was baptised by Rev. Watkin, along with the chiefs Horomona Pohio, Natanahira Waruwarutu, Rawiri Te Maire and Merekihereka Hape. Tiramorehu took the first name Matiaha (Matthias) and become a dedicated supporter of the Wesleyan Mission at Waikouaiti.

Further to the inter-denominational nature of the religious community at Moeraki, T.A. Pybus, in his Maori and Missionary : Early Christian Missions in the South Island of New Zealand noted that Rev. Watkin 'had a deep veneration for the Anglican Church and its devoted pioneer missionaries, and this spirit continued to mark his later relationships with the Anglican Church and with Bishop Selwyn.'

A small church that no longer stands is described by Pybus, and mentioned in Rev. Watkin's journals of 1842. In 1862 the church that is now known as Kotahitanga Church was constructed at the Kaik. Reference is made to the church in the records of the Anglican Rural Deanery Board for that year ‘At Oamaru, vigorous efforts are being made to raise funds for a stone parsonage; and at Moeraki, to build a small church'. It is not known who oversaw the construction of the church, but the Rev. J. C. Andrew served Moeraki in 1861, the Rev S. D. Green followed between January and May 1862, and was succeeded by the Rev A. Gifford from June of that year. The earliest known photographs of the church are referred to in The Otago Witness, when reporting on the New Zealand Exhibition of 1865. The article notes the introduction of a series of photos from Otago taken by Mr Joseph Perry, two of which depict Moeraki, and ‘The second view includes the Maori Kaik'. The Kaik looks like an important village; and the new church stands out prominently and pleasantly in the middle distance'.

Comparison with Other Early Churches

The oldest surviving church in the South Island is St Bartholomew's Anglican Church in Kaiapoi (Category I historic place, record number 285) which was opened in 1855, and the oldest church that remains today in Otago is St John's Anglican Church in Waikouaiti (Category I historic place, record number 334) dating to 1858. Both of these churches were built to provide a place of worship for the settler communities of these two settlements, whereas Kotahitanga Church is the oldest surviving Maori mission church in the South Island. Of a similar age is the Maori mission church of St Stephen's at Tuahiwi (Category I historic place, record number 7380) which dates to 1867. There are earlier Maori mission churches in the North Island; the most famous of these was Rangiatea at Otaki which dated to 1851, although the original structure was destroyed by fire in 1995. The oldest surviving Maori mission church in New Zealand is considered to be St John's Anglican Church at Te Awamutu which was constructed in 1853 (Category I historic place, record number 28).

The Church Falls into Disrepair

Throughout the 1880s the church suffered from disuse and lack of proximity to the population centre of Moeraki. In 1884 a reporter for the Otago Witness wrote of the church at Moeraki;

‘A walk of about a quarter of an hour brings us to a small gabled church, with broken windows and in a general state of decay. It evidently had done good service in the old days of the missionaries, and occasionally Episcopalian services are still held in it. On the western side of the church is the graveyard, where several railed-in plots mark the last resting-place of many of the old natives of Maoriland, and also remain in memoriam of the ravages civilization has wrought upon a once flourishing tribe. This church, this churchyard, and a few dwellings form the Moeraki Maori Kaik - were at one time one of the most important in Otago.'

A writer for the Otago Witness made a visit to the Kaik in 1887 with the Rev. Wynter Blathwaite (who began as a lay reader at Puketeraki and Moeraki in 1885), where he described the church as follows:

‘we make our way over to the church - a small building with lancet-shaped windows and a turret and bell, which is sadly in need of painting and re-seating. This the pastor informs us this could be done for the small sum of ₤19 in addition to what has already been collected, but unfortunately the Maoris are unable at present to assist in raising this amount, owing to their poverty and their losses sustained last year.'

The correspondent also notes that very few houses are located in the immediate vicinity of the church by this time, and that many of the dwellings are on the hillside around the Kaik. The Rev. Blathwaite's visit led to the first building restoration programme for this church, which was already regarded as being of historic significance by 1887. The Otago Witness reported on the Anglican Synod's meeting, where a report by Wynter Blathwaite was read on the missions at Puketeraki and Moeraki. Of the Moeraki church it noted that services are very well attended every Sunday, conducted by the native lay-reader Mr Henry Rehu. A choir was formed by Jospeh Tipa and Mr Rakatipu. The church was provided with new seating through a contribution by Archdeacon Fenton, and a reading desk was provided by the teachers and students of the North Valley Sunday school at St. Martin's. A donation was also received for the church restoration from the St. John's Roslyn Sunday School. Rev. Blathwaite continued to raise awareness of the conservation needs of the church, and in 1888 gave a description of the Moeraki church as a ‘little weather beaten church, containing reading desk and lectern, but still no sanctuary.' The Rev. Blathwaite's son, G.C. Blathwaite's report of the Maori Mission for 1887-1888 mentions the substantial fence around the church, and that the roof was repaired, and a new iron ridge added, at the expense of the local Maori.

The following year the Otago Witness reported on the Anglican Synod's meeting, which saw the formation of a church restoration committee at Moeraki, and an appeal for donations was announced, with ₤12 of the ₤40 needed having been raised so far. The fundraising would include the provision of a sanctuary, and stained glass windows for the church.

The Otago Witness of 12/1/1891 noted ‘at Moeraki the Rev Wynter Blathwaite still retains the general superintendence, and his son, now a licensed lay-reader takes the fortnightly service, with others conducted by Mr Joseph Tipa.' The article also notes that due to the death of a chief at Kaiapoi, the proposed additions to the church will be delayed, but that a stained glass window has arrived from England ‘and there is a sum of ₤25 in hand'.

The Stained Glass Windows

The three stained glass windows are collectively known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount' and were made by John Hardman & Co. in Birmingham in 1891. John Hardman & Co. was established in 1838, and began producing stained glass from 1844 onwards. The company had a close affiliation with A.W.N. Pugin, who commissioned the stained glass for the Houses of Parliament from the company, which opened in 1852. Hardman & Co also manufactured the stained glass for St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney in 1868, and for St Stephen's in Tuahiwi in 1888.

The three windows that make up the ‘Sermon on the Mount' show Jesus holding a bible, flanked by one individual to the left, and a woman and child to the right. The left window depicts Matiaha Tiramorehu , and is based on a photograph of him, which is now in the collection of the late Rev. T. A. Pybus. This depiction of a Maori person in a nineteenth century stained glass window is regarded as extremely rare and this is possibly the earliest example of such a depiction, and also the earliest depiction of a New Zealand born individual in stained glass. In 1893 the stained glass windows were installed at the church, and Wynter Blathwaite suggested at the time that the depiction of Tiramorehu in the window is possibly one of the earliest examples of Maori to be honoured in this way in a New Zealand Church. In Fiona Ciaran's Stained glass windows of Canterbury, New Zealand: a catalogue raisonne, although primarily discussing Canterbury stained glass, Ciaran states that there are no obvious references to New Zealand in stained glass until after 1910, and that Maori are only depicted in three pieces of stained glass art in the Canterbury region, the earliest of these being an unidentified stereotypical Maori figure in the ‘The Service of Humanity' by Mark Travers in the Great Hall of the Christchurch Arts Centre, which dates to 1936.

The Church in the Twentieth Century

Wynter Blathwaite left Moeraki in 1898, and was replaced by H. J. Davis. By 1901 The Kaik - along with the church - is described as being abandoned and the memorial stained glass windows were placed in storage in Oamaru.

There is very little recorded on the church at Moeraki for the first part of the twentieth century, but at the Moeraki Centenary Celebrations held on Boxing Day 1936 a service was held in the church and a collection taken to begin restoration of the church for a second time. This was to be the final service held in the church until it was moved to its new location. The outbreak of the second world war halted restoration planning, but in 1945 members of the Moeraki Runanga presented the church to the Rev J. N. Thompson, vicar of Hampton-Maheno, for removal to a site at the port in Moeraki, where the church would be in closer proximity to the community. Rev. Thompson managed to fundraise about ₤220 for this, but issues arose with the land for the relocation from the Dept. Lands and Surveys, and the project went on hold.

On 4 May 1961 a meeting was held in Oamaru to plan the relocation of the church, and on August 26 of that year the church was moved from the Kaawa Cemetery Maori Reserve to a site at the west end of Centenary Park, Moeraki. The translucent glass with sailing ship motifs that is present in the 12 pointed arch windows of the church was installed at this time.

The rededication of the church was conducted on Boxing Day 1961 by the Rt. Rev. A. H. Johnston, Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, as part of Moeraki's 125th anniversary celebrations. The celebrations included a hangi and concert performance by the Arai Te Uru Maori Concert Party from Dunedin, and Items from the Oamaru Garrison Band. The event was attended by local Moeraki Maori, of which the ODT noted there were seven families in Moeraki, plus relations from Temuka, Morven, Karitane, and some North Island Maori who were working on the Benmore Hydro-Electric project. It was at this time that the church was named ‘Kotahitanga' to mark the blending of cultures and the residents' involvement. More than 3000 people were reported to attend the event, and a dance was held at the Coronation Hall to conclude events.

In 1968 it was discovered that the ground at Centennial Park was too unstable for the building and the church was moved again to the site of a former quarry on Haven Street that was made available by the Waitaki County Council. Stucco cladding was added over the weatherboards at this time.

In 1977 the Department of Lands and Surveys requested payment for the land at the quarry site, as although the land had been gifted by the council, it was in fact Crown land. Eventually the land was declared an historic reserve, to be administered by the Dunedin Diocesan Trust Board. In April 1978 a plaque was presented by the Otago Regional Committee of the NZ Historic Places Trust to Kotahitanga Church at the conclusion of a North Otago weekend field trip by the committee. The plaque was unveiled by the Rev Russell Joyce at a ceremony attended by 75 people.

Kotahitanga Church still stands in its Haven Street location, and is regarded as one of the most significant historic landmarks of the Moeraki community, and symbolic of both the Maori and Pakeha histories of the township.

Physical Description

Kotahitanga Church is located on Haven Street, Moeraki, one of the main roads into the township. The site the church is now located on was previously a quarry, and has relatively steep south side, while to the north the site slopes to the road. The site is less than 150 metres from the coastline.

The church is a small single-storey, gabled roof one room building, and is orientated along an east-west axis. The exterior was originally wooden, but now has a roughcast cladding over the original horizontal wooden weatherboards. The roof is clad in corrugated metal sheets and a bell tower is located at the gable apex at the eastern entrance end of the church. The church is on concrete piles (visible) and two concrete steps lead to the solid wooden double doors that open into the church. Pointed arch windows are located symmetrically on either side of the door which also has a pointed arch form. A small porthole window is located above the door, which is also repeated on the east wall above the stained glass windows.

There are four windows on each of the north and south sides of the church, arranged in pairs. These are pointed arch windows of the same form and dimension as the two on the entrance façade on either side of the door. These windows are fixed windows, divided into four panes and glazed with a patterned glass which is translucent with small nautical patterns. The rear (eastern) wall has three pointed arch windows which are filled with stained glass. The central window of the three is slightly larger than the two on either side, and the stained glass is only visible from the interior due to a wire mesh protection covering on the exterior.

The triptych is known as 'The Sermon on the Mount', and the left light contains the portrait of Matiaha Tiramorehu. The central light depicts Christ holding a bible, and the right light shows a woman and child.

The interior of the church is lined with horizontal tongue and groove boards, painted a pale yellow on the walls, and white in the ceiling space. At the eastern end of the interior, in front of the stained glass windows is a small raised altar area with wooden altar and lectern. Wooden pews are arranged to allow for a central aisle and an early twentieth century organ is located near the entrance door.

Outside the church in the grounds are two plaques. One is a round plaque set in concrete from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Otago Regional Committee which reads:

'Kotahitanga Church ('one united people') was built at Moeraki Kaik by the Anglican Community in 1862, and moved and restored in 1961'.

The other plaque is from Te Runanga o Moeraki, and the Oamaru and Palmerston Catholic Parish, which is engraved with the following:

'This plaque was erected by Te Runanga o Moeraki and the Catholic Parishes of Oamaru and Palmerston to commemorate the first visit of Bishop Pompallier to Moeraki on the 1st of December 1840 and the return of his remains on a visit to Moeraki on the 28th January 2002. Bishop Pompallier was the first Catholic Bishop of New Zealand and Oceania which covered one sixth of the world.

I whakaturia tenei tohu maumahara e te Runaka o Moeraki me te huika hahi Katorika ki Araiteuru he tohu maumaharataka tenei mo te taeka tuatahitaka mai o Pihopa Pomparia ki Moeraki I te ra tuatahi o waru rau wha tekau me te kaweka mai ona koiwi ki konei I te ra rua tekau ma waru o iwa I te tau rua mano ma rua ko Pihopa Pomparia te pihopa Katorika tuatahi o Nui Tireni nei me te Ao o Kiwa.'

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1862 -
Original construction of the church at the Kaik, Moeraki

1961 -
Church relocated and restored (Mr O. Kedzlie, builder and Mr A. Nuttall, Waitaki County Council Assistant Engineer) to Centennial Park. Church re-painted, windows re-glazed, and stained glass windows re-installed.

1968 -
Relocation to 44 Haven Street, Moeraki. Rough-cast stucco applied to the exterior.

Construction Details

The church is constructed of matai (also known as black pine), which is said to have been sourced from the Kuri Maori Timber Reserve near Hampden (ODT, 18 April 1978). A roughcast cladding has been added to the exterior. The roofing is corrugated steel or iron, and the windows and door joinery is wooden.

Completion Date

8th February 2010

Report Written By

Ellen Andersen

Information Sources

Ciaran, 1991

F. Ciaran, Stained Glass Windows of Canterbury, New Zealand University of Otago Press, 1991.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Evison, Harry C. 'Tiramorehu, Matiaha ? - 1881', updated 22 June 2007, URL: http://www.dnzb.govt.nz/

Knight, 1993

Hardwicke Knight, Church Building in Otago, Dunedin, 1993.

Thomson, 1998

Jane Thomson, (ed)., Southern People: A Dictionary of Otago Southland Biography, Dunedin: Longacre Press/Dunedin City Council, 1998.

Garven, P.D., 'Tiramorehu, Matiaha'

McLean, 1986

G McLean, Moeraki: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Net and Plough Share, Otago Heritage Books, 1986.

Other Information

A fully referenced registration report is available from the National Office of the NZ Historic Places Trust.

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.