Early Church History in Kaikohe

Christianity is said to have been introduced to the Kaikohe area by Ripi whose people lived on the shore of Lake Omapere.

Ripi was engaged in 1830 in making a road, under the direction of the missionaries, from Kerikeri to Waimate. After the death of his son, Ripi was consoled by the missionaries. He became interested in their teachings and made weekly visits to attend services at Waimate. He studied with his friend Aperahama and began relaying teachings of Christianity to his own people. Enthusiastically he built a small church and then began to embark on missionary activities. These works took him to Kaikohe where the principal chief of the time was Atua Haere, a relative and friend.

The next step was to build a church at Kaikohe, which might entice the missionaries at Waimate to come and preach in it. The site chosen was where the present Kaikohe West School stands (formerly the Kaikohe Maori School) and work began in 1834. Unfortunately, with the builders being unfamiliar with European construction the building failed. A second attempt with help from a released slave trained by carpenter Charles Davis also failed.

In 1837 it was decided to rebuild on another site to the west of Kaikohe, and this site was visited by Samual Masden on his last voyage to New Zealand. The Aperahama Church standing there today was built in 1884 on the same site. In front of the current church are the original memorial gates erected and dedicated in 1837.

Marsden, who was in poor health at the time, was carried by litter to Waimate across country from Hokianga, where his daughter Martha had disembarked from the “Pyramus”. Ripi and Atua Haere, who were anxious to show Masden what had been done in Kaikohe, arranged for his journey from Waimate to Kaikohe.

Richard Davis, who had been working in many capacities for the Church Missionary Society, (CMS) in New Zealand before his ordination as deacon in 1843, was two years later given the task of opening a station in Kaikohe.

Richard Davis arrived in Kaikohe in Apil 1845, after Heke and his warriors had four times cut down the flagstaff at Maiki Hill (Russell). Until Heke died in August 1850, of consumption, Davis had little peace in his area. Davis had an affection for Heke but the friendship did not prevent him from seeing Heke’s faults and expressing more than once his exasperation with the chief.

In 1853, and also in 1857, the electoral roll for the Bay of Islands lists Richard Davis, ‘clergyman, freeholder’ as the only European resident of Kaikohe. It was to be several years before the European population of the Kaikohe area showed any increase.