The mystery of the Otuhianga Rd Church in Matakohe now solved

 Many including myself have over the years been intrigued by the small delapidated church that can be seen in its rural setting, on Otuhianga Road, from State Highway 12 on the way towards Dargaville. Many have stopped by photographed the building but never have been able to answer the one question we all have had. Who built it, when, and who was its congregation?

 Seemingly it had been abandoned and forgotten. A chance encounter with a local woman named Minnie who lived close by soon started to give the answers I had been looking for. Minni told me she and others of the nearby community had been taking care of the building. She also told me its year of construction. A comment left on my farm blog, on a related post to this one yesterday has shed further light on what is a beautiful religious building built in 1889. This church is known as the Zion Church (Anglican) at Parirau. It converted to Ratana during the 1930s, and has been ever since. There's currently an effort underway for fundraising to restore the church back to its original state. The building was constructed by Matakohe by one Mr Morris for the Te Rarawa people who had originally come from Whangape near Herekino.

The following is by Christopher Thompson who left this comment on the 2008 post on my farm blog

This church...started life as a place of Anglican worship for a group of Te Rarawa, who had migrated to Parirau to find work in the nearby gumfields and forests.
Known as Zion Church, it was the second Anglican church built on this site on Otuhianga Road and its dedication in April 1889 is well documented in the Anglican Church Gazette for May 1889:
'Parirau, Kaipara. – New Maori Church. –It is several years ago that the Maories of Parirauewha, Kaipara, commenced collecting funds wherewith to build a new church, their old one having become dilapidated. They are a colony of the Rarawa tribe from Whangape, Herekino, and Ahipara, and as they had to purchase the land they occupy from the European settlers, they have had a hard struggle to acquire the means for attaining their object. By steady exertion they have succeeded, and are now in possession of a house of prayer of which no English community need be ashamed. The building will accommodate 130 worshippers, and is complete in every detail. The cost, with furniture, was £198, and on the evening of the opening day, not only were all the liabilities defrayed, but there was a small balance to credit...'
The church served the Anglican congregation at Parirau until the 1930s when it was transferred to the Ratana congregation. It is currently closed for restoration and the local restoration committee is seeking funds for this work. 
With a personal thank you to Christopher and also to Minnie, I also did a new search in Papers Past and found the report on the opening of the church.

About five miles from Matakohe there lies one of the most prettily situated native settlements to be found in the North, that known as Parirauewha. Shut in partly by hills and partly by a lofty kahikatea forest, one may pass within a half mile of it without being aware of its existence.
 The land in which it and its sister village of Te Kowhai stand, was purchased from the Government and from private owners 20 years or more ago by some hapus of the Rarawa tribe who, leaving their homes at Whangape and the Herekino, came to settle by the waters of the Kaipara, from the Wairoa arm of which these settlements are from one to two miles distant. 
Almost the first thing a Maori does in making a new settlement is to erect a church, and so by dint of much self-denial one was built years ago at Parirou. This building from age having become well-nigh useless, it was resolved some time ago to erect a new one, and a contract for this purpose was entered into in September last with Mr. Morris, builder and carpenter, Matakohe, who, I may say, has right well fulfilled his engagement.
 The new church, a shapely building, consists of nave, chancel, porch, and vestry, and is altogether a most compact little structure. All the windows, 10 in number, are of stained glass, the interior of the building is varnished throughout, and seated to accommodate 130 worshippers. A handsome stone font stands just within the western door, whilst a neat pulpit occupies the north-east corner of the nave. The sanctuary is nicely carpeted, and the holy table vested with a becoming cloth. The total cost of the building and fittings has been about £200, which, I am glad to say, was raised entirely by free-will offerings. The church was formally dedicated on Saturday, the 6th April, by the Venerable Archdeacon Clarke, B.D. The Archdeacon, accompanied by the Rev. C. A. Tobin, the clergyman of the parochial district, arrived at Parirau on the Thursday, when he was warmly welcomed bv the assembled natives, who, after the usual shawl-waving and loud cries of Haere mai haere mai! drew up in line to receive their beloved Akirikina. 
On Thursday night, the Archdeacon was the guest of Mr. E. Coates, of the Ruatuna, whence he returned to the natives on the Friday, the night of which was spent in listening and replying to speeches made in welcome of the pakeha visitors and of the Maoris, who from miles around had responded to the invitation of the Parirau natives to be present at the whakapuretanga of their church. It was not until the small hours of the night that the speechifying ceased, and the tired orators could refresh themselves with sleep. 
By dawn on Saturday all were up, and the morning service being over, and breakfast finished, after a short rest the bell at 10.15 announced that the opening ceremony was about to begin. The church was speedily, though quietly, filled. Uriohau Maoris and visitors from other tribes occupying the south side of the nave, the Rarawa and European visitors the northern side, but by far the greater number of the Rarawa had to remain outside, where seats had been erected to accommodate 100, who, the windows being open, could join in the service and hear all that was said. Inside the building, 230 persons found sitting-room. 
The clergy present at the opening service were the Venerable Archdeacon Clarke, and the Rev. C. A. Tobin, Wiki Te Paa, Matiu Kapa, and Hone Tapahia, all of whom took some part in the service, the archdeacon preaching a forcible and eloquent sermon from St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, v., 8. The offertory taken at the opening service amounted to close on £20. A still further sum was received during the day in the alms-box at the door of the church, the amount of which I have not heard. After the service, a general invitation was given to all to come and dine, and so many visitors were present that though the long dining whare held over 80 persons, it took no fewer than four relays where all could be supplied. Altogether, over 200 Maoris were present, and in the latter part of the day at least 120 Europeans. The food provided by the Maoris, which was, of, course, free of charge and for all, was capital and abundant.
 The cooking, too, was excellent. The substantial tables almost groaned under the weight of heavy joints of beef, mutton, and pork. Kumara, cakes, and puddings were in plenty, whilst for the little ones were apples and lollies galore. Menata Karamu, and Metana Miru, the well-known chiefs of Parirau and Te Kowhai, acted as masters of the ceremonies, and right well they did their part. The behaviour of all, Maoris and Europeans, was most exemplary, and the utmost good feeling prevailed, a marked contrast to the disgraceful conduct of some Europeans at Whangarei a year or two ago, when Pehiawiri was opened, then they literally rushed the building, and behaved generally in such an outrageous manner that a native woman, who spoke English well, exclaimed in their hearing, 
The Europeans sometimes treat the Maoris as pigs when they visit them, but they, when they visit us, behave as pigs." It is to be hoped the rebuke taught a well-deserved lesson. Archdeacon Clarke spent the evening with Mr. Ovens, at Matakohe, on the Sunday, preached to the English congregations at Matakohe, Paparoa, and at Pahi, the congregations at the two former places being unusually large. At Parirau the services were conducted by the native clergy

New Zealand Herald, Volume XXVI, Issue 9336, 12 April 1889, Page 6

I had wondered if two photographs I found on display at The Kauri Museum were this church. After rechecking the images I had taken of them one was captioned "Parirau Ratana Church 1884"

Image courtesy of the Kauri Museum

However, the year is 5 years too early. It is the same building just with the wrong year on the caption. With heritage new information is constantly coming to light on many previous buildings that before had little or no information. There is also the matter of the second photo on display which states the church in the photo is at Ruawai with the caption "Ruawai Trust Church". However, I believe that it is also the Parairau Ratana Church

 If the front of the building in this image is compared to those of the images I took of the church, the similarities are too obvious too ignore. The question I have now is; was it renamed "Ruawai Trust Church"? or has there been an honest error in the identification of this particular image.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for that history. I have also photographed this old Church. Good to hear its history
Liz said…
It's taken five years of patience to finally get a history on this church. I'm just pleased there are moves to see it restored back to how it was again.
Unknown said…
Liz I have just bought a swamp kauri church pew which a local woodworker whose label is on it said came from the Ruawai Church. What is the history of this church and has it been re-stored as we will visit the are Nov 18-21, 2014.
Liz said…
Hi there

There are three churches in Ruawai. I woud need and idea of which one it might have come from to give you any history.
Unknown said…
Liz the pew I have could have come from any of the area churches that consolidated to become the Ruawai Cooperative Church. Any information and photos you have regarding the kauri pews would be appreciated as I am attempting to find out about the origins of my swamp kauri pew. We will visit the area Nov 18-21 so would like to know where to search - thanks PJ
Liz said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said…
Hi Liz,

Many thanks for acknowledgements. Your passion and contribution to our humble church is wonderful and much appreciated.

The Church and Cemetary site is now structured under the 'Parirau Maori Reserve' to which i am a trustee to.

As you are aware we are in process of restoring our church and appreciate all kinds of support from our communities at large.

Feel free to contact me directly via:

Unknown said…
Curiosity was too much so we went to have a look. A great surprise as we were of the Ratana Church. Thank you very much for the Information.
Unknown said…
Wow and all these years I wondered why there was a church right next to my great grandparents house which is the small blue house that still stands there to this day. Amazing to finally read some history about the church.
Unknown said…
Our Nana Minnie Manga lived next door to that church for years,as my mum and 18 siblings all grew up and us as grandchildren when ever we travelled up to see our nana from auckland would always at sometime during our visit would go down to this church whos doors were always open and we would just sit inside and listen to the history coming from the walls AWESOME to see that it has not been forgotten and hopefully restored back to its original self.
And still to this day my grandparents home still stands next to this church has been and always will be a great reminder of our tupuna
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Unknown said…
Kia Ora koutou, Ko Kayleen Neho ahau, well just last month-Feb 2022 I took a well deserved hikoi 2 stop my boredom frm WFH due to covid-19. I travelled with 2 cuzins going thru Kaipara way 2 get back home 2 Panguru. The Zion Church was a location we used to find our whānau whenua frm my karani ma Mihiwera Rokena (Rogan) who married Piri Koroneho. Our whānau whenua is on the hill close by the church & while having our packed kai frm the top of the whenua u were able to just take a moment & breathe & take in the views frm the top. Viewing the whole landscape frm a high point is a big advantage as u miss alot of things frm a low point. It help us 2 point out Wairoa river, Ruawai, Tokatoka maunga which we climbed. Also I took some lovely pics of the church frm the top of our whenua & also noticed the blu whare so it was lovely to read some of the comments on here frm the whānau & the history of the church frm the past & the present & the future. We too also had a ihu around the church & noticed a difference & that is the placing of the church building how the side entrance doors are @ the back & the big window is @ the front is it placed backwards for a reason? Mauri Ora!

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