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‘Some dozen raupo whares, and a few tents’: Remembering raupo houses in colonial New Zealand.

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Journal of New Zealand Studies, 17(2014), 39-57

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This article delves into the historical significance and decline of colonial raupo buildings in New Zealand.

It explores how early building legislation, specifically an ordinance imposing a tax on raupo houses, contributed to their decline. The study draws from census data and settler reminiscences to illustrate the role of raupo houses in the collective memory of settler New Zealand, signifying a benchmark for measuring colonial progress. Harman highlights the early 20th-century health concerns that led to the evacuation and destruction of many Māori-occupied raupo homes and the abandonment of such dwellings by New Zealanders by the 1930s. The paper contributes to scholarship theorizing the ‘middle ground’ in colonial New Zealand, suggesting a phase of mutual dependency and exchange between Māori and Pākehā (European settlers) until the 1860s. The article offers an in-depth analysis of the historical and cultural significance of raupo houses in colonial New Zealand. By examining legislative changes, census data, and personal reminiscences, the article sheds light on the socio-economic factors leading to the decline of raupo houses. Harman adeptly illustrates how these structures, once ubiquitous in early colonial settlements, became relegated to the annals of history as symbols of primitive living conditions, overshadowed by more permanent and ‘civilised’ forms of housing. The article is valuable for understanding the dynamics of colonial expansion and its impact on indigenous Māori architecture. Additionally, it highlights the complex interplay between health policies, colonial legislation, and cultural shifts in the early 20th century, driving the transition from traditional to European-style housing in New Zealand.

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