An unusual building marking the entrance to a Northland heritage park is one of 12 New Zealand designs in the running for the World Building of the Year title this week.

Rore Kahu (which means "soaring hawk"), overlooking Rangihoua Heritage Park in the northern Bay of Islands, was opened by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae in December 2014. It is made of rammed earth walls with a composite panel roof and was designed by Cheshire Architects of Auckland as the park's entrance and the start of a pilgrim's way leading to Rangihoua Bay.

Rore Kahu will be up against 338 finalists which include a ribbon-shaped Japanese chapel, a wooden grotto in Canada and the zinc-clad Stonehenge Visitors Centre. The buildings will be judged across 31 categories at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore from November 4-6. Northland's only finalist is in the civic and community category.

Rangihoua was the site of New Zealand's first European settlement, founded by a small group of British missionaries and settlers in 1814 under the protection of Chief Ruatara, whose pa can still be seen on a nearby hilltop.

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Rore Kahu was commissioned by the Marsden Cross Trust Board, which represents descendants of the first European settlers. The other groups involved in establishing Rangihoua Heritage Park were Ngati Torehina's Rangihoua Pa Native Reserve Board and the Department of Conservation.

Rore Kahu's roof was made by Warkworth-based Core Builders Composites, which also worked on Oracle's America's Cup boats. Other New Zealand finalists include an art gallery in West Auckland, a botanic garden centre in Christchurch and a kura kaupapa in Wairoa.

Last year, a Northland building, Ngati Hine Health Trust's Te Mirumiru childcare centre in Kawakawa, won the top prize at the World Green Building Council awards, also held in Singapore.