Author(s): Judith Binney
Kerikeri is the oldest unbroken European settlement site in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and it nestles alongside several contemporaneous (and earlier) Maori sites on the Kerikeri River. Today, the Kerikeri Basin, which acted as a 'meeting pool' for the country's two major cultures, is one of New Zealand's most important heritage sites - now being promoted for World Heritage status. A vigorous Maori society had long been established in the north when Anglican missionaries established a station on the river below Kororipo pa in 1819. Kororipo, in the hands of Ngapuhi, was located strategically to control the route to the sea from inland Waimate. For a time, Kerikeri was pivotal in northern Maori politics. The Kerikeri mission house and the Stone Store are both still standing today, built respectively in 1819 and 1837. Here Revd William Yate printed the first work in te reo, and here too he worked with the Maori leaders who wrote the 'letter from the rangatira' of 1831 to the King, initiating the chain of events that culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, nearby, in 1840. This account tells of Maori and Pakeha in a particular place at a time of radical change. Key historical figures emerge: Hongi Hika, Hone Heke, Rewa, Titore, Waikato, Samuel Marsden, Thomas Kendall, Marianne Williams, George Grey. For a period the two cultures shared a 'middle ground', finding ways to engage. By the 1850s, only James Kemp remained at the mission, and Maori were living under a new dispensation. Land at the Bay of Islands and throughout New Zealand was passing steadily into the newcomers' hands. Evidence of the entwined histories that lie at the heart of Aotearoa/New Zealand can be seen at the Kerikeri Basin. Here, enduring emblems of the past - the surviving buildings, the evocative archaeological sites, the memories of wahi tapu - are shared by both cultures.
Judith Binney, dcnzm, frsnz, is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Auckland. Her publications include The Legacy of Guilt (1968, 2005), Mihaia (1979, 2005, co-author), Nga Morehu (1986, 2005, co-author), and Redemption Songs (1995, Montana Book of the Year Award), The Shaping of History (2001, editor). Her contribution to New Zealand history was acknowledged in the Prime Minister's Award (Non-fiction) in 2006.