Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

03 June 2010

Onuku Church, The Kaik, Akaroa

Onuku marae is a small Maori village beyond the town of Akaroa on Banks Peninsula. While Akaroa is the oldest town in New Zealand, Onuku ‘kaik’ or kainga was probably there before the French tried to colonize the local area. It’s not the easiest place to reach because the road isn’t signposted. It isn’t signposted because the local sub-tribe probably don’t like having too many visitors. But it’s a neat settlement and is very, very proud of its Anglican church.
Its red ochre ‘Maori-ness’ and carvings turn a typical, simple nave and porch into something very special. Even the picket fence that surrounds it is a celebration. Although I’ve drawn it many times in the past, it always comes out differently. (Have a look at my book ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ or enter ‘kaik’ in the search box).

Onuku church was begun in 1876 and opened as a non-denominational ‘all-welcome’ whare karakia on 21 March 1878 to a congregation not only of locals but also of people from the North Island and the Chatham Islands.
There’s a sealed bottle in the foundations containing secret documents concerning the now resurgent Ngai Tahu iwi.* I’d love to know what’s written on them…
‘Kaik’, by the way, is simply an unfortified village.

* In Maori, ‘Iwi’ equates to ‘tribe’. Ngai Tahu is the iwi that largely dominates Maori presence in the South Island. Whare karakia means house of prayer.


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By Don Donovan