St Mary’s Church (Anglican)

1993 State Highway 12, Mamaranui

  • St Mary's Church (Anglican), Mamaranui, Dargaville.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alexandra Foster. Date: 15/12/2020.
  • St Mary's Church (Anglican), Mamaranui, Dargaville.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alexandra Foster. Date: 15/12/2020.
  • St Mary's Church (Anglican), Mamaranui, Dargaville. Interior looking east towards chancel.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alexandra Foster. Date: 15/12/2020.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9663 Date Entered 20th May 2021 Date of Effect 10th June 2021


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Kaihu 1A2G (RT 405516; New Zealand Gazette 1963, p. 96), North Auckland Land District and the building and structures known as St Mary’s Church (Anglican) thereon, and the following chattels pews, baptismal font, and tukutuku panels. (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the List entry report for further information).

City/District Council

Kaipara District


Northland Region

Legal description

Pt Kaihu 1A2G (RT 405516; New Zealand Gazette 1963, p. 96), North Auckland Land District.

Location description

Opposite 1993 State Highway 12, MAMARANUI

Additional Location Information

E 1668415 +/- 7m

N 6033251 +/- 7m


Situated on a plateau in the plains of the Kaihū Valley, St Mary’s Church (Anglican) is a timber Gothic Revival church created by its Māori Anglican community at the turn of the century. The largely well-preserved place has architectural significance as an example of adoption of this design style by Māori Anglican communities. The place has been a focal point for the Kaihū Valley community for over 120 years through its use for religious and social milestones as well as regular services. Through its creation and ongoing use the place has historical and spiritual significance in demonstrating the ongoing strength of the local Māori Anglican community since the late nineteenth century. The place is prominent in its setting with a close connection with Te Taita marae and with wider and older Māori footprint in the landscape.

Forming part of a contested landscape, the Kaihū Valley was settled by interconnected iwi and hapu including those with links to Ngāpuhi and Te Roroa. By the 1870s a number of papakāinga were established in the area and were led by influential rangatira such as Te Rore Taoho (Te Roroa) at Ōpanake and Parore Te Awha (Ngāpuhi and Te Roroa) at Kaihū. Netana Patuawa (Ngāpuhi), who has been identified as being the first to bring Christianity to the area while he travelled with Henry Williams of the Christian Missionary Society, lived with his family at Taita in the valley. The first Anglican church in the valley opened on Māori land in 1875 south of Taita marae. Increasing Crown and Pākehā pressure on land acquisition and settlement saw a road an railway constructed near the church in the later part of the century and on 20 December 1897 a spark from a passing train set the 1875 church alight burning it to the ground.

The loss of their church was a source of mamae for the community who quickly came together to rebuild their church, which was an important focal point for the wider community, further away from the railway line. In April 1898, with no assistance was forthcoming from the government, the construction of St Mary’s Church (Anglican) began on the new site north of the marae. The church had an L-shaped plan with a nave and chancel orientated east-west and a porch with a vestry at the western end extending south. The church was of Gothic Revival design and made extensive use of point arch detailing for the doors and windows and a carved pulpit in the nave. Two large windows were located in the east and west walls each with gothic tracery imitating lancet windows and the chancel window was completed with a roundel. The opening of the church was delayed after the death of Netana Patuawa in late 1898 and in March 1900 the church was dedicated as St Mary’s church at a well attended celebration. In 1928 a memorial was erected to Rev. Penewhare Wī Netana, one of the first of a dozen ordained ministers from the valley who embodied the Christian values of the community.

The church has remained an important place of gathering for the community and has been used for the baptisms, weddings and tangi for over 120 years. The church has been cared for by its community who have undertaken regular maintenance over the years. In the early twenty-first century a set of tukutuku panels were created which represented the strong connection of the community with their Anglican faith. The panels were placed on the walls of the church reflecting the importance of the place in supporting that connection.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

St Mary’s Church (Anglican) has historical significance as a place that demonstrates the ongoing strength of the Māori Anglican community in the Northern Wairoa in the late nineteenth century. The place, which was created shortly after the loss of the community’s previous church, reflects the commitment of the community to their church and their ability to marshal the resources needed to quickly rebuild following a period where Māori had been under pressure by Pākehā expansion.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

St Mary’s Church (Anglican) has aesthetic significance as a prominent feature of its largely flat rural landscape which has been widely appreciated by passing tourists and was included in the published works of noted New Zealand photographer Robin Morrison and conveys its ecclesiastical purpose through its design and ornamentation. The incorporation of tukutuku panels asserts the identity of the place and use of the place as a Māori church.

Architectural Significance or Value

St Mary’s Church (Anglican) has architectural significance as a largely well-preserved example of a rural Māori church built in the Gothic Revival style reflecting the widespread adoption of this style by Māori communities in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Retaining its overall architectural design including its original form and plan with extensive use of Gothic pointed arches, the place demonstrates how Māori communities used this style for their own religious needs. The significance is enhanced by the retention of original furniture and the later tukutuku panels.

Social Significance or Value

St Mary’s Church (Anglican) has been an important place for the social and religious life of the Taita and wider Kaihū Valley community, Māori and Pākehā, for over 120 years. The place has brought together the community for life events such baptisms, weddings, and tangi as well as regular services. The community has cared for and maintained the place for many years with frequent maintenance including in the early twenty-first century when the community successfully fundraised $5,000.

Spiritual Significance or Value

St Mary’s Church (Anglican) has spiritual significance to the Anglican community of Northern Wairoa, particularly the Māori Anglican community, and represents the ongoing strength of Anglican worship in the community for nearly 150 years. The place also commemorates one of the first ordained ministers from the valley who is one of around a dozen ministers to have come from this community. The significance is further reflected in the designs of the tukutuku panels in the church which portray the connection of the community with their faith.

This place was assessed against the Section 66(3) criteria and found to qualify under the following criteria a, d, e and k. The assessment concludes that this place should be listed as a Category 2 historic place.

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

The place reflects the ongoing strength of Māori Anglican communities through the late nineteenth century into the twenty-first century. The place reflects the importance placed by these communities on physical expressions of their faith and their use of these places over generations.

(d) The importance of the place to tangata whenua

The place is of significance to the hapu of the Kaihū Valley who created the place and have maintained their ongoing connection for over a century. The place has been used by this community for important life events such as baptisms, weddings and tangi. The creation and placement of tukutuku panels depicting the connection between the community and their faith demonstrates the ongoing importance of the place to the community. The place also includes a memorial to a member of the Netana family who was one of the first ordained ministers from the Valley.

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

There is a strong community association with St Mary’s Church (Anglican) which has formed part of the traditions of the community for over 120 years. The community has maintained the place including through fundraising in the 1990s when they were able to raise $5,000 towards the costs.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural area

St Mary’s Church (Anglican) forms part of a Māori footprint of occupation in the Kaihū Valley that includes the church, the marae and the urupā and former church site at Taita. The places are connected by their proximity to waterways, particularly Taita stream, as well as the realigned nineteenth century road. The landscape also includes earlier features of the landscape including a pā site overlooking the plateau.

Summary of Significance or Values

Prominently sited in its rural landscape, St Mary’s Church (Anglican) has aesthetic and architectural significance as an example of a Māori Gothic Revival church which retains its original plan and design. The place has been a centre for the Kaihū Valley community to celebrate major lifetime events for over 120 years and commemorates one of the first ordained ministers from the valley. The place has historical significance for the extent to which it demonstrates the ongoing strength of the local Māori Anglican community from the late nineteenth century. St Mary’s Church (Anglican) also forms part of a historical and cultural landscape of Māori occupation around Taita stream for many generations.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Early History

St Mary’s Church (Anglican) is located in the alluvial plains of the Kaihū Valley, near Te Taita marae and south of Mamaranui. The valley was rich in resources including kauri and many tributary waterways fed the Kaihū River which connected the lake system of Taharoa, Waikere, and Kai Iwi to the upper Wairoa River. The Northern Wairoa was a contested landscape occupied by interconnected iwi and hapū, including Ngāpuhi and Te Roroa, who have been described as the northern-most hapū of Ngāti Whatua although they also had strong links with Ngāpuhi in the north. By the 1870s the principal papakāinga around the valley included Ōpanake, north of the valley near present day Kaihū, which was headed by leading Te Roroa rangatira Te Rore Taoho (c.1810-1906); and Kaihū, south of the valley including the land where the Pākehā settlement of Dargaville was later established, which was the primary settlement of another influential rangatira, Parore Te Āwhā (?-1887) of Ngāpuhi and Te Roroa. Te Taita, in the Kaihū valley was a recently established papakāinga occupied by Netana Patuawa (1833-1898, Ngāpuhi) and his wife Tarati Puru (Ngāti Torehina) with their children. Patuawa relocated to the valley from the Bay of Islands for business purposes including gum digging and later hotel proprietorship, and the family were some of the first residents of the area which became known as Mamaranui.

Christianity in Northern Wairoa

Netana Patuawa is said to have brought Christianity to the Kaihū Valley when he travelled to the area from the Bay of Islands with Henry Williams of the Church Missionary Society (CMS). Patuawa became a member of the clergy, reportedly learning from a Māori Christian teacher named Tiopira at Kaihū as well as earlier interactions with CMS missionaries further north. From the 1860s on Rev. F. Gould began making regular visits to the area and Te Rore Taoho converted to Anglicanism as well. In the southern part of the Northern Wairoa, the Wesleyan Missionary Society, initially based at Tangiterōria from 1836 before moving to Mt Wesley in 1854, held more influence and Parore Te Āwhā had converted to Wesleyan Methodism in 1839.

The passing of the Native Schools Act 1872 saw the Māori community around the Kaihū Valley petition for schools and during his 1872 tour of the area Bishop Cowie, the first Bishop of Auckland, arranged to meet with Te Rore Taoho to discuss the proposal. After flooding prevented Cowie from travelling as far north as Ōpanake, he met Te Rore Taoho at Te Taita marae where it was not only agreed that the government would build a school but Te Rore Taoho also pledged to build an Anglican church as well. He showed the bishop a large section on a plateau south of the marae, beside Taita stream and immediately below a rocky outcrop on top of which a pā had been formerly located, where the church and school would be built. Te Rore Taoho and Parore Te Āwhā pledged £80 and £57 respectively towards the church’s construction and the remainder of the £350 cost was paid in full from the collection at the opening service in 1875, conducted by Bishop Cowie. The timber church was built in the Gothic Revival style with a t-shaped plan and blue glazed windows. The opening was attended by many Māori from the surrounding area including Hokianga and Waimamaku, and Pākehā settlers from settlements around the Wairoa River. The church may have been the earliest Anglican Church in the Northern Wairoa and was built during a period when many Māori communities were building churches and raising funds for the Diocese. The church quickly became an important focal centre for the community even as population movement towards Mamaranui and further north saw the new school, which opened in 1876, close by 1896 from low attendance.

Pressure on Māori

In the later nineteenth century Māori came under increasing pressure from the growing Pākehā population and Crown led land-purchasing programme. By the end of the century the recorded Māori population nationwide reached its lowest point. In the Northern Wairoa the Crown efforts to acquire land as well as competing historical claims saw much of the land in and around the Kaihū Valley be considered by the Native Land Court after 1870 to determine ownership and land sales. The land sales brought a degree of prosperity to some local iwi and hapū who benefitted not only from the payments but also through associated increased employment in the timber industry and gumdigging. Throughout the land sales the Kaihu Block, particularly the land around Te Taita marae remained in collective Māori ownership. In 1888 a title for Kaihu 1A was issued to multiple Māori owners including Te Rore Taoho and Netana Patuawa and their children. Despite being Māori land, in 1883 the Crown had built a road through Kaihu No.1A immediately in front of the church. Also in the early 1880s a group of Pākehā businessmen from Dargaville formed a scheme to build a railway through the block to improve transport from the remaining kauri timber stands north of the valley and the timber mills to Dargaville for shipping. The Māori landowners had initially opposed its construction before permission was negotiated and the line opened at the end of the decade. The railway closely followed the road for much of its length including running immediately in front of the church although it diverted before reaching Te Taita. The businessmen were heavily impacted by the Long Depression and after they were unable to sell the railway line privately to pay back their loans from the Crown for its construction, the Crown took over ownership in 1890. On December 20 1897 a spark from a passing train set alight the church burning it and all its furnishings to the ground.

Creation of St Mary’s Church (Anglican) (1897-1900)

The loss of their church was a source of mamae (hurt) in the community. Unwilling to be without their church for long the community quickly rallied to build another church on a new site further away from the railway. In February and April 1898 Netana Patuawa and Te Rore Taoho wrote on behalf of the hapū to the Government asking if any assistance would be available for the rebuilding effort. With no government funds forthcoming the rebuild was funded by a small number of individuals and began in April 1898 and completed later that year. The site chosen for St Mary’s Church (Anglican) was further upstream on Taita Stream, north of the marae and closer to the settlement at Mamaranui reflecting the increased settlement in the north of the valley. The church was built on a stretch of land between the road and railway and would be visible to travellers on both routes.

The new building was also of Gothic Revival design and incorporated blue glazed windows similar to their 1875 church. Possibly in an effort to not delay the project, the plan of the church mirrored that of the Anglican Church of Bethlehem located south of Kaihū at Repia. The church was laid out with an L-shaped plan with the nave orientated east-west and a chancel was located at the eastern end. The porch with a small vestry extended from the west end of the nave on the south side. The kauri timber building was clad with rusticated weatherboards and internally timber lined. Gothic Revival elements of the design included trefoil ventilators with triangular frames and pointed arch doorways and windows, the largest of which, located in the chancel and west end of the nave, incorporated tracery. The pointed arch motif was further echoed in the carved pulpit. Early use of Gothic Revival style architecture had been encouraged by CMS missionaries and Bishop Selwyn for churches in New Zealand from the mid-nineteenth century and was appropriated by Māori Anglican church builders. As noted by architectural historian Deidre Brown this appropriation ‘may have been just one method that Māori used to move closer to the Anglican God without Pakeha intermediaries’.

Although construction had finished by the end of 1898 the opening of the new church was delayed by 12 months following the death of Netana Patuawa on September 28 that year. The opening and dedication took place on 28 February 1900 and was led by Rev A.J. Beck with assistance from two Māori ministers, Revs Wiki Te Paa and Hōne Tana Pāpāhia. The opening was well attended by Māori, who came from as far away as Rotorua for the celebrations, and local Pākehā. The church was dedicated as St Mary’s Church which continued the use of a name which had first been used for the 1875 church. Following the church opening a memorial to Netana Patuawa was unveiled in the urupā at the former church site. In 1907 the Native Land Court partitioned a number of sections within the Kaihu 1A block including the Church land.

Early use and Creation of Memorial

With the opening of St Mary’s Church the community continued to hold their regular services and the place was used for milestone events such as baptisms, weddings, and was incorporated into tangi rituals. While the church was closely associated with Te Taita marae through physical proximity, its community came from multiple marae in the valley with links to Netana Patuawa, and was also attended by Pākehā settlers also came to worship at the church.

In August 1928 a monument was erected on the south side of the church by the Netana family as a memorial to Rev. Penewhare Wī Netana (1897 – 1926). Following the lead of Netana Patuawa as a member of the clergy, Netana was one of the first of a dozen ordained Anglican ministers from the valley along with Wiremu Nētana Pānapa (1898-1970) from Ahikiwi, who became the second Bishop of Aotearoa in 1951. The two men graduated from St John’s Theological College in Auckland and were ordained minsters in 1923 having been among the first Māori students to attend the college following the closure of the Māori seminary Te Rau College in Gisborne. The memorial traced Netana’s whakapapa including his descent from Te Pahi and Ruatara, two Ngāpuhi rangatira who were closely associated with the arrival of Anglicanism in New Zealand.

The unveiling took place in December 1928. The memorial was a concrete obelisk on a square stepped plinth with a cross at the top. As well as detailing Netana’s whakapapa and important life events such as his ordination as a priest, the memorial contained the inscription: HE TAMAITI I AROHAINA E NGA/IWI E RUA MĀORI PAKEHA MO TE / MAHAKI METE ATAHANGA KITE

which reflected that Netana represented the coming together of Te Ao Māori and the Pākehā world and that he embodied the Christian values of his community.

Ongoing use of place (1930s – present)

As well as its regular use for services, celebrations and commemorations, the church was used for a period by the Taita Mother’s Union, and even had its own choir. In 1940 the realignment the main road saw part of the eastern half of the church land taken for the road dividing the property into two parcels. The property was formally gazetted in 1963 as a ‘church site for the common use and benefit of the Māori and descendants of Māori of the Church of the Province of New Zealand commonly called Church of England’.

Regular maintenance of the church was undertaken including an interior renovation in 1947 and a further repainting in the 1970s. In 1975 the centenary of St Mary’s Church was celebrated and the church was rededicated. Six of the community’s ordained ministers were in attendance on the day. In the 1990s more work was needed to maintain the church and the community, led by Samuel Thompson Waipoua Taoho – ‘the last remaining mokopuna of Netana and Tarati Patuawa’ – raised $5,000 which was used to reblock the church as well as the removal of the interior paint in the nave, chancel, and porch with a sandblaster and angle grinder. A local businessman donated a kauri sign for the church which was erected in the front of the church. In the early twenty-first century Veronica Nathan-Patuawa, the wife of the vicar, led a local group to create a set of pegboard tukutuku panels which were installed in the church incorporating traditional tukutuku patterns with Christian iconography including an image of Mary. These panels, which were created by the ‘inspiration and commitment to the Christian beliefs of the people involved’ and convey the strength of the Māori history and community association with the place, form part of a revival of Māori arts as an expression of Māori identity which began in the mid twentieth century and have continued importance in Māori communities .

Over many years the church has been visited and photographed by passing tourists, many of whom left koha. Robin Morrison, a noted New Zealand landscape photographer, took photographs of the church in the early 1990s including two of the interior showing the east and west windows, font, and pews, in his last publication. In 2021 the church continues to be in regular use by the local community.

Physical Description

Current Description


St Mary’s Church (Anglican) is located south of Mamaranui, near Taita marae in rural Northern Wairoa on State Highway 12. Situated in a largely flat rural area which is predominantly in pasture, the place is on a slightly raised plateau in the Kaihū River floodplain. A few farmhouses and farm buildings are the nearest neighbours to the church and marae, which is located on the opposite side of the road south of St Mary’s Church and contains largely twentieth century buildings. The 1875 church site and urupā are located a short distance further south along the main road and a earlier pā site was reportedly located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the urupā.


St Mary’s Church (Anglican) is a generally rectangular grassed site which is divided into two spaces by a picket fence with centre gate on the east side which encircles the western half of the property with the church building and other features while the eastern part of the property fronts the road. This disconnects the path to the church from the road and visually separates the place from the State Highway. Inside the fenced section a church building is located in the northwest corner with a memorial obelisk to the immediate south. A section of planting occupies the southeast corner opposite the church sign in the northeast corner. A concrete path leads from the gate to the building entrance.

St Mary’s Church building

The L-shaped building is primarily comprised of a tall nave with steep pitched gabled roof orientated east to west with a smaller gabled chancel on the east side and a small gabled porch on the south side at the western end. The building is clad with rusticated weatherboards and has a corrugated iron roof. The north elevation contains four two -pane pointed arch gothic windows and the south elevation has three of these windows lighting the nave and the fourth on the southern wall of the porch. The east end of the chancel and the rear, west wall of the nave each have a larger pointed arch window with tracery which evokes the concept of gothic lancet windows with blue glass in the lower panes and red glass in the top to create a golden light effect internally. The chancel tracery also incorporates a roundel above the lancets. In each of the nave gables is a trefoil ventilator with triangular surround. The entrance to the church is on the east side of the porch through a pointed arch doorway. Three cross finials are located on the peaks of the nave and chancel gables.

The church interior is lined with vertical timber boards which are generally varnished, except in the vestry which remains painted white from the 1970s, and has tongue and groove floorboards. The internal space is comprised of four main sections – the chancel, nave, porch and vestry. The vestry occupies the southern part of the porch and has little decoration. The vestry is entered through a four panel timber door from the porch. A pointed arch archway connects the porch and nave on the north side of the porch.

The nave is also largely unadorned with scissor braces between the rafters, each with a shaped rafter bracket below. Between the windows a number of tukutuku panels and other Christian imagery has been placed. A fixed pulpit with carved pointed arch detailing is located in the northeast corner of the nave beside the chancel.

The smaller chancel is visually demarcated by a chancel arch and altar rail as well as being raised by a step. Angled beams by the windows hold a curtain across the lower portion of the window.

Furniture in the church includes pews and a concrete baptismal font and other items include a cross, vases, and candlesticks.

Tukutuku panels

Seven tukutuku panels are arranged around the nave walls. The panels were created by the local community and incorporate traditional tukutuku patterns including double poutama, kaokao, and pātiki, with Christian iconography including the cross, an angel, and Mary. The panel with Mary, the namesake of the place, is located immediately behind the pulpit.


The memorial is comprised of a multi level concrete obelisk on top of a three level stepped square plinth with chamfered edges. The lowest portion of the obelisk is a rectangular block with the memorial inscription on its east side which is below a smaller middle rectangular block and topped with a chamfered block with a cross finial at the apex. The inscription on the memorial reads:




HURAE 1923




Construction Dates

Original Construction
1898 -

Original Construction
1928 -

1947 -

Repainting, replaced side window glass

Reblocking; Removal of paint in nave, porch and chancel

Construction Details

Timber, Glass

Completion Date

23rd February 2021

Report Written By

Alexandra Foster

Information Sources

New Zealand Herald, 1900

New Zealand Herald, 6 March 1900, p. 3.

Church Gazette, 1900

Church Gazette, Mar 1900, p.69.

ACGS 16211 J1 590/n 1898/167

‘From Netana Patuawa and others, Taita, Maropiu Date: 17 February 1898 Subject: For assistance, as their Church has been destroyed by fire’, 1898, ACGS 16211 J1 590/n 1898/167, Archives New Zealand.

Other Information

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from the Mid Northern Area Office of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.


Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.

Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.