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The Kerikeri Basin, in Northland, comprises land surrounding the Kerikeri River where it flows into the Kerikeri Inlet. The authentic heritage elements within this landscape are a unique cluster of Maori and Christian missionary contact period places and structures, including Kororipo pa (fortified settlement) and associated sites, the Kororipo whirlpool, the Kerikeri Mission Station (Mission House and Stone Store), and other archaeological sites within the Basin and its waterways.
The Kerikeri Basin is on the northwest margins of the Bay of Islands, the most accessible and safest anchorage in northern New Zealand for ships arriving from the wider Pacific region.
There was settlement here prior to European arrival, and the basin was the coastal settlement of Hongi Hika of Nga Puhi, a pivotal figure in New Zealand history in the 1820s and 1830s.
The Basin is on a longstanding route from the outer Bay of Islands to the Taiamai Plains (southwest of Kerikeri), a densely settled area prior to the 1820s.
The Kerikeri Mission Station was founded in 1819. It is the oldest surviving European settlement in New Zealand. The Kerikeri Mission House, built in 1822, is New Zealand's oldest surviving building. The Stone Store, built in 1836 as part of the mission settlement, is New Zealand's oldest stone building and the oldest trading building. The two stand close together and dominate the former wharf frontage to the river. They are of contrasting form and bulk.
The site is enhanced by the river in the natural shrubland setting of the basin, not dissimilar to that of the 19th century, and the Kerikeri Falls, one of the outstanding natural features of the basin.
Although this landscape from two centuries ago is fragile, the efforts of past owners and the present conservation agencies have ensured that the key places have survived reasonably intact. Thus the site is considered to meet the tests of authenticity for World Heritage status as regards the structures and sites and their setting, and comprises a cultural landscape of the highest significance.
Most elements of the basin are in the hands of the Crown (acting through the Department of Conservation) or the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and have a high degree of protection. Key sites have additional protection in heritage legislation. The key buildings have undergone a steady process of conservation, with major work being done in the past decade.
The overall setting has good prospects of enhancement, with central and local government approval of a bypass road that will eventually take all vehicle traffic away from the precinct and assist with protection from flooding.
The proposed ‘Sustainable Development Plan of the Kororipo-Kerikeri Basin' will assist in protecting and minimising threats to heritage values of the area. The plan has involved community input and public submissions, but has not yet been publicly released.
The Kerikeri Basin is notable for its integration of a mission settlement and the adjacent Maori settlements. Other New Zealand Church of England mission sites of the early period were abandoned some years after their establishment and little or no trace of them remains.
Some other New Zealand mission sites, notably Te Waimate (Church of England), Mangungu (Methodist Church) and Kororareka (Roman Catholic) have important surviving buildings, but none equals Kerikeri in intactness or pivotal historical significance.