Restoration work on one of the Kaipara's most significant historic buildings has exposed an original 19th century shingle roof.
Ruatuna – the birthplace of the first New Zealand-born prime minister, Gordon Coates – is undergoing a major upgrade by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, which cares for the Category 1 historic building.
A key focus of the programme is to replace the ageing corrugated iron roof that covers the original shingles.
"The shingle roof is a remnant from Ruatuna's earliest days when it was built in 1877.
Unfortunately the shingles are not weather-tight or in a condition to remain exposed to the elements. That's why it has been previously covered by corrugated iron," Matakohe resident and Heritage New Zealand's northern region director, Sherry Reynolds, said.
"The building has had an iron roof for the better part of 100 years, and this new roof will probably be the third iron roof during that time."
The original shingle roof will be retained, however, and protected by the replacement roof. The profile of the new corrugated iron has been carefully selected to be as close as possible to the previous historic roof iron.
"Ruatuna is a remarkable example of a house and its contents reflecting the various changes and additions that have taken place over time, right up until the last family occupant – Joy Aiken – passed away in 2000," Reynolds said, who was on-site when the shingle roof was uncovered recently.
"Putting on a new corrugated iron roof is part of that continuum of change, and particularly appropriate given that it will protect the original shingle roof."
The changing histories of places are an important part of their heritage value, according to Reynolds.
Ruatuna is nationally significant for its association with Coates, and the rural pioneering background that helped shape his political views.
It also has valuable links with the development of stock breeding in New Zealand, and reflects important changes in land ownership in the northern Kaipara during the later colonial period, including the creation of large private estates.
In terms of social history, Ruatuna reflects rural attitudes to self-sufficiency, home education, sanitation and other aspects of daily life, and in its time has been a family farm run by an all-female household.
"The new roof will be another layer of history on a place that is already rich in heritage value," Reynolds said.
The restoration work at Ruatuna has been funded through donations from Heritage New Zealand supporters around the country. To learn more www.heritage.org.nz/the-list/details/7