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The Governor-General opened the Park at an official function on 21 December 2014 attended by many hundreds of people. All are now welcome to visit the Park, the site of the first Pākehā settlement established in accord with, and under the protection of, the Māori people of Rangihoua Pā.
The coming of Christianity to Aotearoa New Zealand was celebrated at the Park on Christmas Day, 25th December 2014. Two hundred years before the Rev. Samuel Marsden had preached to a congregation of Māori and Europeans. The service was overseen by Marsden’s friend Ruatara.
Walk through history, in the footsteps of the people who occupied this valley, Māori for many centuries and the Pākehā settlers beginning in 1814. Learn more of these two peoples who came together with great hope in the future, and their achievements despite great difficulties.
From the Oihi Road carpark a short walk leads to the wing-roofed and rammed earth Rore Kāhu. The whole valley opens before us and the Marsden Cross Pathway leads to the mission settlement below. Along the way illustrated panels tell the story of Rangihoua and its peoples.
Rangihoua Pā overlooks the Heritage Park. This was the local town at the time of the mission settlement, home to many hundreds including Ruatara, Māori leader and friend of the Rev. Samuel Marsden. The people of Rangihoua Pa were the protectors of the settlement in its early days.
Today but a few terraces mark all that remains of our first Pākehā settlement established by the Church Missionary Society at Rangihoua Bay in 1814. In 1832 the settlement moved to more fertile land at Te Puna a few kilometres to the west. The site is fully interpreted and introduces those early personalities.
The Rangihoua Heritage Park is located in the Bay of Islands, just 40 minutes drive from Kerikeri
At Rangihoua sustained daily association between Māori and Pākehā signalled the human connections that define so much of our society.
Two hundred years ago two people holding different world views came together in the intensive relationship that the settlement of one, European, among and under the protection of another, the people of Rangihoua. To visit this place is to walk with those people, now long gone, and feel a sense of connection across cultural boundaries and time. They faced great difficulties yet were the precursors of so much we value as good in our contemporary society. The mission settlement was not only the earliest settlement based on accord, but also was the site of the earliest recorded church service on Aotearoa New Zealand soil, one of the earliest trading posts, and the location of the earliest European school. Here was the first formal transfer of Māori land, and it was also the place where the first Pākehā child was born in our country. The mission settlement folk faced a hard life; that first child, Thomas King, died before his fourth birthday and is buried here at Rangihoua.
The Christian mission in Aotearoa New Zealand began at Rangihoua.
On Christmas Day 1814 the Christian message was proclaimed by the Rev. Samuel Marsden before a gathering of Māori, and the Europeans associated with the Church Missionary Society. This was enabled by the vision, hospitality and protection of Marsden’s friend, Rangatira Ruatara of Rangihoua. So was established the mana of the Mihinare (mission) Churches wherein the two pathways, tikanga Māori and tikanga Pākehā, affirm the principles of partnership and bicultural development and the importance of keeping open all avenues leading to common ground. It was from this beginning that Christian values and perspectives would become part of our belief systems and our history. Ruatara is now honoured as “Te Ara mo te Rongopai – The Gateway for the Gospel”.
The Māori and Pākehā partners aspired to a just society based on accord, as do we today.
Rangihoua Heritage Park speaks to us across two centuries as the place where an accord between two friends, Ruatara and Marsden, was given substance in our first permanent Pākehā settlement among Māori protectors. That accord is still as relevant today as it was then – peaceable and fruitful engagement among peoples seeking a just society. This is a place of pilgrimage, not as some unitary practice arising from a particular faith, but more diverse and all-encompassing, expressive of everything that reinforces our sense of New Zealand identity and shared humanity. It is a place for all New Zealanders, and visitors to our shores. If there exists a parallel, it is to be found on the far side of the world, Anzac Cove at Gallipoli.
Rangihoua Heritage Park was initiated by the Marsden Cross Trust Board Te Ripeka o Te Matenga, and achieved in partnership with Ngati Torehina, the Rangihoua Native Reserve Board, and the Department of Conservation.