New chapter for papers detailing Tauranga’s rich past

Thursday 17 November 2022

Pages etched with Tauranga’s rich history have a new home and are again available for people to view, thanks to a partnership between The Elms Foundation and Tauranga City Libraries’ heritage and research team. The partnership means over 700 historical documents owned by The Elms Foundation are now being kept at Tauranga City Libraries’ new archives facility in Mount Maunganui, giving people greater opportunities to view the collection of national significance – both in-person and, over time, online.

Some of the most valued items in the collection include the original handwritten land deed for the Te Papa block covering more than 1,000 acres of land from the mission station to Pukehinahina/Gate Pā. Other items include journals from the Church Missionary Society’s (CMS) Reverend Alfred Brown covering the period between 1835 and 1847, correspondence between Reverend Brown and his family between 1828 and 1884, and Māori Baptism records from Matamata and Tauranga between 1838 and 1862.

There is also a rich collection of documents connected to the Maxwell family available to view. The Maxwell family, who inherited the land at Mission Street from Reverend Brown and the CMS, lived at the property from the late 19th century right up until the 1990s, making this collection a valuable social history record for Tauranga and the nation as a whole.

Up until five years ago, the collection was being stored at the now-demolished library building on Willow Street in Tauranga’s city centre. Following the discovery of leaks in the building, the collection was transferred to the Tauranga Heritage Collection facility in 2017, where it has safely remained until now.

The Elms Foundation General Manager, Andrew Gregg, says the Foundation is grateful for the collective care Tauranga City Council continues to show for this special collection of cultural heritage.

“We are delighted that Tauranga City Libraries’ new climate-controlled archive facility can provide safe conditions to protect the taonga entrusted to The Elms Foundation in 1999, when the charitable trust was first formed,” says Andrew.

“This new home also means more people have the opportunity to access these documents and understand many of the important events in Tauranga’s history that have helped shape who we are today as a city and community.

“One such record that is very relevant at present, is the land agreement for the Te Papa block, which cemented a relationship between the Church Missionary Society and tangata whenua in 1838-39. This document represents a commitment to shared guardianship of the land in the heart of Tauranga city.

“It is the honouring of the true intent of this agreement that led to the recent decision to establish Te Manawataki o Te Papa Charitable Trust, that will see the civic precinct land in the city centre jointly owned by Council and Otamataha Trust.”

Māori Heritage Specialist at Tauranga City Libraries, Elisha Rolleston, says the Libraries’ heritage and research team is honoured to be looking after the collection on behalf of The Elms Foundation.

“We feel privileged to be acting as caretakers for these incredible taonga of Tauranga,” says Elisha

“They will be kept safe in our purpose-built facility which is secure and keeps the temperature and humidity at levels that perfectly suits the safekeeping of these nationally- significant documents. 

“Over time, we also plan to digitise items from this collection on our online archive system Pae Korokī, so they can be accessible to the local, national and international community at the click of a button.”

Elisha says having digital access to the archives will also help to preserve the papers and manuscripts by removing unnecessary handling.

The Elms Foundation archives collection is available to view at Tauranga City Libraries’ archives facility by appointment only. To request an appointment, please email