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Taonui and Aorangi, New Zealand

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  • John Mason (Mason) Durie, JP, OBE (1889 - 1971)
    John Mason Durie, usually referred to as Mason and known to Maori as Hoani Meihana Te Rama Apakura, was born on his father's farm at Aorangi, near Feilding, on 1 July 1889. His father, Robert Durie (Te...
  • Kahurautete Durie (b. - 1965)
  • Sir Mason Durie
    Sir Mason Durie KNZM FRSNZ FRANZCP is one of New Zealand’s most respected academics and was knighted in 2010 for services to public and Māori health. In 2002, he was awarded a Doctor of Literature from...
  • Bonar Waugh (1917 - 2004)
  • Flora Ewen (b. - 2008)

The name Taonui means "large spear" and is a reference to the food gathering expeditions which moved up and down the Taonui Stream, just out of Feilding in the Manawatu, New Zealand. The Taonui Stream is a small tributary of the Oroua River. It originates near Reids Line, Feilding, and winds southwesterly to join the Oroua near Rangiotu. The Taonui Stream was regarded and accepted as the border between the Rangitane people and the Ngati Apa people and the land in between the Oroua River and the Taonui Stream was widely known as Aorangi. The name Aorangi means "cloud in the sky" and was given to the area by historic explorer Matangi, who, while chasing a large flock of birds observed them to fly very high like a "cloud in the sky". (taken from the book "A Centennial History of the Taonui School and District 1879-1979" by Mason Durie)

There were many pioneers in the Taonui Aorangi area and it is not possible to rank them in order of importance, all have been part of the history and character of the area, however 4 stand out: William Lisson Bailey, Captain John Campbell, William Maxwell and Te Rama Apakura Durie.


The Education Board report of February 26, 1879, indicated that a new school was needed at Bunnythorpe and in May, Board member Mr I Bryce wrote to the Board stating that 40 acres of land had been gazetted and set apart for Secondary Education. This land had actually been donated by settler Mr William Lisson Bailey whose property adjoined that of the school. In 1879 308.6.3 pound was spent on buildings and the school opened in 1879 being known as the Bunnythorpe School and closed for the year with a roll of 43 pupils. Mr Dinsdale was appointed as the first teacher. The name changed from Bunnythorpe to Aorangi in 1885 and then to Upper Taonui because another school in the district had opened under the name Taonui, that school was later changed to Newbury after Wiggins sisters Emily Gore and Sarah Parr bought a farm there which they named Newbury after the area they had come from in England. The whole area became known as Newbury and the school changed its name to reflect it. That meant that Upper Taonui school could simply be Taonui School.

The school buildings were threatened from time to time by fire from burn offs clearing the bush, earthquake, wind and flood, but more serious threats to the survival of the school came from proposals aimed at consolidating schools and centralising facilities.


Timber milling was the first significant industry in the Taonui area. Milling was the necessary pre-requisite to farming and in 1870 there were 4 in the Taonui Aorangi area. James Bull, a settler from Rangitikei estabilished on at Aorangi in 1873, the site is now a golf course. In 1875 brothers William and Walter Bailey came to work for J BUll but by 1878 had built their own mill at Taonui, the site is now the Taonui airfield. Richter, Nannestad and Co set up a mill in 1877, it ceased operation in 1887 when the land was bought by Captain John Campbell and was where the Campbell homestead now stands. Another mill was on the corner of Reids Line and Taonui Road, owned and operated by Henry Adsett. Henry's grand daughter Dell Adsett attended Taonui school and became a writer.


Taonui Airfield is also known as Feilding Aerodrome and is a small airport located three nautical miles (5.6 km) southeast of Feilding, a town in the Manawatu District on the North Island of New Zealand. It sits on the site of the Bailey Timber Mill and opened in March 1938.

Operational Information Runway Strength - ESWL 1020 Pilot Activated Lighting available Circuit: Runway 10 – Left Hand Runways 28 – Right Hand Circuit Altitude 1100ft AMSL Standard Overhead Rejoin Altitude 1500ft AMSL Gliders from the Wanganui Manawatu Gliding Club operate at the field.


The Aorangi marae is approx 3 kms from Feilding and has played an important part in local Maori culture, and can continue to give impetus to the direction of Maori and Pakeha culture in the future. Some measure of its value to the community is found in its history. In 1946 while the Rt Rev Manuhuia "Manu" Augustus Bennett ONZ CMG and NZ Anglican Bishop (later Bishop of Aotearoa, New Zealand) was pastor, a chapel was erected on the Marae and dedicated to St Luke in October of that year by the Bishop of Aotearoa. Manu's brother Spencer Eruini Bennett married the daughter of local, and past Taonui school pupil, Frederick Job Parkinson Barnaby, Shirley Sophia Mary Barnaby.

Having travelled down from Waikato around 1830, the Ngati Kauwhata people eventually settled in the Awahuri area, close to the Oroua river. Here they established a settlement and took an interest in clearing land for agriculture.

In the late 1880s Te Rama Apakura and his wife Hurihia (also known in Pakeha circles as Mr and Mrs Robert Durie) moved from from Awahuri to Aorangi and began farming family land there.

With them went other members of Ngati Tahuriwakanui, a sub-tribe of Kauwhata, and they built houses as land was cleared. They also moved their meeting house, Maniaihu, which had previously stood on the Awahuri side of the Oroua River. How the house was transported is not known nor is its exact age on record. It was, however, in good repair when it was re-erected on its present site around 1890.

A small settlement of Ngati Tahuriwakanui grew up around the meeting house, which served as a much-used cultural centre for the various families living there. Today only one of the original homes still stands but even in the 1940s four or five other homes were located adjacent to the marae.

The marae boasted its own bakery and blacksmith and a Maori-owned store was in operation by the turn of the century. Other signs of permanence including a burial ground appeared a few hundred yards away.

In later years as the Maori population moved towards Feilding, the marae saw many alterations. The bakery was no longer needed and the store had been replaced.

By the 1920s much of the responsibility for the marae had been assumed by the late Mr Mason Durie and his wife Kahu, who were farming the surrounding land. They were to spend a lifetime continuing to develop the marae and were largely responsible for the national prestige which became associated with Aorangi.

From its beginning the marae was closely involved with the Anglican church and it became the centre of the Maori mission in the Manawatu-Rangitikei pastorate. The meeting house itself was used as a regular place of worship for many years and frequent large church gatherings were a distinguishing feature of the marae.

Later, after World War II, another building was added — St Luke's Chapel. This had been constructed by voluntary labour when the Rev. M. Bennett (now Bishop of Aotearoa) was pastor in the area. Each month services in Maori are still conducted in the chapel.

Other improvements included a new dining room and the establishment of many native trees.

The links between Ngati Tahuriwakanui of Aorangi and the other sub-tribes of Ngati Kauwhata have always been strong and there has been close co-operation between the three Kauwhata maraes.