About the museum

The Far North Regional Museum was established in 1969 with the purpose of collecting and preserving treasures and taonga relating to the history of the Far North.

In 1985, archives became an important part of the museum and over the past 25 years have become a comprehensive asset.

Our Far North history, in New Zealand terms, begins very early with the arrival of the French explorer de Surville in Doubtless Bay in 1769. Thirty years later, whaling ships were dropping anchor in Mangonui Harbour. The settlement of an Anglican Mission Station in 1834 and a thriving industry of kauri timber spars, flax and kauri gum all contributed to a robust community.

In 2006, the concept of bringing all Far North District Council amenities under one roof was envisaged. The new community centre, named Te Ahu, was completed in 2011 -incorporating the i-Site Visitor Centre, Library, Cinema, Café, Auditorium, Council Service Centre and the Museum @ Te Ahu.

The museum and archives are administered under the guidance of the Far North Regional Museum Trust and staffed by a full time curator/manager and administrative assistant - ably assisted by an enthusiastic team of volunteers.

Current trustees are:

  • Bronwyn Bauer-Hunt (Chair)
  • David Senior (Deputy Chair)
  • Sean Stratton (Treasurer)
  • Awhina Murupaenga (Secretary and Te Hiku Community Board representative)
  • B.J. Natanahira (Te Runanga o Te Rarawa representative)
  • David Russell
  • Russell Shackleton
  • Sarah Wale

Behind the scenes at the museum

The mammoth task of upgrading the quality of storage and accessibility of the thousands of items held by the Museum @ Te Ahu has begun.

Funding is in place, tenders for contracts to undertake the specialist work required have been requested and let.

The first task is the thorough cleansing of Pioneer House and the Sanctuary. High quality, industry-standard environmental controls are being installed to ensure that everything is kept at the correct temperature and degree of humidity, eliminating the dangers of damp and mould. This will both protect the collections and provide a healthier working environment for anyone using the space.

Museum Trust Chair, Bronwyn Bauer-Hunt, noted that "this project has been in the wings for a few years now, and the trust is satisfied that the process followed to prepare for this long awaited project has been robust. Trustees, staff and volunteers are very much looking forward to the unearthing of historic treasures that will tell our community story."

Once this work is done the items in storage will be cleaned, catalogued and stored in appropriate cases, shelves or containers. They will be easy to find and readily available to museum staff and any researchers who care to apply for access.


History of the Museum

The Museum @ Te Ahu (formerly known as the Far North Regional Museum) holds a remarkable collection. Its purpose is to illuminate the stories and histories of the Far North District (Te Hiku o te Ika) of New Zealand.

Treasures among the pre-European mãori collection include pounamu, early carvings and the 500 year-old skeletal remains of the extinct kuri (Polynesian dog).

Other major themes are gum digging and the Dalmatians, kauri gum and timber, early shipwrecks and missionary pioneers.

The museum has a large archives collection - documents, journals, newspapers, maps and photographs from the extensive Northwood Collection. It is the proud home of the first European item left in New Zealand, the mighty de Surville anchor.

On Friday 18 October 1940, the Centennial Memorial Library and Rest Room was officially opened by the Hon. W.E. Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs. Funded by public subscription and government subsidy, the building was the district's New Zealand Centennial Memorial.

By 1967, the library had outgrown the premises and as interest in establishing a museum grew, a suggestion was put to the council that the old library building would be suitable as a repository to house artefacts and documents relating to our Far North people and district. The council agreed, providing funds were raised by the public to relocate the library and establish a museum.

Fundraising commenced in 1968 when Ivan Berghan, County Chairman, and Des Bell, Mayor, formally made donations. Foundation Memberships were available to the public for $100, and Life Membership for $20. Generous financial support came from the regional councils, private donations and public fund-raising events.

As part of the Queen Carnival, a ‘mini museum’ was set up on the top floor of Vegar's Drapery Store where Arthur Northwood’s Collection of over 400 photographs were displayed for the first time. As interest grew to establish a museum, the committee received numerous donations of display items for the exhibits.

The Far North Regional Museum opened in December 1969.

Our Far North history, in New Zealand terms, begins very early with the arrival of the French explorer de Surville in Doubtless Bay in 1769. Thirty years later, whaling ships were dropping anchor in Mangonui Harbour. The settlement of an Anglican Mission Station in 1834 and a thriving industry of kauri timber spars, flax and kauri gum all contributed to a robust community.

The discovery of the de Surville anchor in 1974 provided a major boost of publicity for the museum and a new addition was added to the old building to house the anchor, discovered by Mike Bearsley, and the growing collection.

From 1976 to 1985, Judy Evans was custodian and ran the Tourist Information Centre operating from the museum, assisted by an enthusiastic team of volunteers. During the 1980s, Olwyn Ramsey, recognising the need to collect historical documents about the district and its people, established the archives within the museum.

In 1985, archives became an important part of the museum and over the past 25 years have become a comprehensive asset.

In 2006, the concept of bringing all Far North District Council amenities under one roof was envisaged. The new community centre, named Te Ahu, was completed in 2011 - incorporating the i-Site Visitor Centre, Library, Cinema, Café, Auditorium, Council Service Centre and Far North Regional Museum (Te Ahu Heritage).

In 2012, the museum and archives relocated to the new Te Ahu Centre and Museum @ Te Ahu was born.