Huge structure built for 200th anniversary of first Christian service in NZ.

Multimillionaire property investor Peter Cooper helped build the country's most important new heritage structure which opens tomorrow in the Bay of Islands.

Cooper and Company development manager Peter Jones said his firm helped plan and build the new Rore Kahu (Soaring Eagle), a project to mark the 200th anniversary of the first recorded Christian service in New Zealand.

Cooper is better known for creating Auckland's successful downtown heritage Britomart shopping, dining and commercial precinct, has property in Texas and owns The Landing, a Bay of Islands luxury housing and vineyard estate.

He is Maori and his Northland property The Landing is near the Marsden Cross.


Jones, Rore Kahu's project and construction manager, said the building which cost about $1 million was an extremely complicated structure, designed by one of New Zealand's top architects, Pip Cheshire, who has worked extensively with Cooper at both The Landing and Britomart.

Jones estimated about 40 or 50 people could fit inside the open structure which appears from a distance like a stealth bomber but stands above the Marsden Cross and will house displays explaining the area's historical importance.

"What it does is provides an interface. If you were coming by road to visit Marsden Cross, you had to park in a paddock and take a long walk down an open track. This provides a place to rest at the beginning or end, to understand the historic nature of the landscape you're standing in and to provide some interpretation of what it is you're looking at and what has come before," Jones said.

"It's an introduction to the historic area that has really for quite a long time been off most people's consciousness."

Watch: Architect Pip Cheshire talks about the project

The owner of the park and Rore Kahu is the Marsden Cross Trust Board and Jones said that organisation was assisted with funding by a number of individuals and organisations.

"Peter Cooper is one, although by no means the largest.

"There has been considerable input from local iwi, Heritage New Zealand and the Department of Conservation. The project and construction management of Rore Kahu was undertaken by Mountain Landing Project Management not Cooper and Company," Jones emphasised.

"We were asked to assist by the trust board because the remote location and specialist construction techniques which were required meant that it was not a job that could be easily or effectively tendered.


"We therefore partnered with them to manage the process."

Building the unusual structure was tough.

"It was a very challenging project because we had initially to learn the techniques of an ancient building form in terms of the rammed earth structure and methodology that went into building the walls. At the same time, we had to understand the very high-tech nature of the roof. ... a fascinating juxtaposition of the ancient techniques and the most modern ..."

The roof was made by Warkworth-based Core Builders Composites, which also built the Oracle America's Cup boats and Jones said the roof structures had a foam centre, covered by e-glass layers on either side.

"It's like a very high tech surf board with foam in the middle and then a glass on top and bottom."

The bicentennial commemoration and park opening by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae tomorrow starts with a powhiri at 10am and Jones said thousands of people were expected to attend.

Then, Cooper will host a VIP lunch at The Landing, where about 150 people will gather under a marquee.

They will include many dignitaries and politicians.