'Some dozen raupo whares, and a few tents: remembering raupo houses in colonial New Zealand'


  • Kristyn Harman




This article traces the genealogy of colonial raupo buildings in New Zealand, and also charts their decline. This decline was in part attributable to the passage of the colony’s earliest building legislation, ‘an ordinance for imposing a tax upon raupo houses’. It draws on census data and settler reminiscences to demonstrate that collective memory of raupo houses became essential to settler New Zealand as a benchmark against which to measure colonial progress. It also shows how, in the early decades of the twentieth century, health concerns were mobilized as the official rationale for both the removal from raupo houses of those few Pākehā who continued to occupy them, and the wholesale destruction of many Māori-occupied raupo homes. By the 1930s, few New Zealanders continued to occupy raupo houses, and their extensive use by early colonists was conveniently forgotten. Remembering raupo houses in colonial New Zealand contributes to recent scholarship theorising the existence of a ‘middle ground’ in the colony, at least until 1840 and potentially up to the 1860s.


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