History of The Elms, Tauranga


The Elms Foundation Trust Board proposes to commission a new publication about The Elms, to serve as a concise and accessible history of the site and as a visitors’ guide. The Elms is the former Te Papa mission station, established by the Church Missionary Society in 1835 and now operated as a tourist attraction and wedding venue.

This new publication will update the history of The Elms in light of a substantial body of historical research over the last 40 years. It will replace the history written by Charles Vennell and published by The Elms Trust in 1984.[1] Vennell was a journalist and his history, while useful, was not a referenced volume and reflected Eurocentric attitudes.

It is expected that the new publication will reframe The Elms as an important and enduring site of cultural contact in Tauranga Moana. As the late Dr Angela Middleton commented in her history of the Kerikeri Mission and Kororipo Pā, such sites ‘provide tangible evidence of the entwined history of Māori and Pākehā, the relationship that founded modern New Zealand.’[2]

The publication will be written in a lively, accessible and engaging style and include appropriate references and bibliography. It will include biographical portraits of key individuals, ‘break-out panels’ of important events, places and issues, be well-illustrated (photographs, paintings, maps) and informative appendices as appropriate.

It will be aimed at a non-specialist (or general) audience, but more specialist readers should also find it valuable as a contextual reference work. The primary target audience is visitors wanting to know more about the history of the site and desiring a memento of their visit, as well as an attractive addition to their book shelves. It will also inform and educate former, current and future Elms personnel about the history of this nationally-significant place.

This will be a work of 50,000 words and approximately 100 illustrations. An indication of the topics to be dealt with are as follows: (1) pre-European times with particular reference to Otamataha Pā; (2) the mission period up until The Elms became a private home; (3) the Maxwell family history including the management by Euphemia Maxwell and her daughters, particularly Alice, followed by the period where Duff Maxwell was manager of the property. A brief statement of facts relating to the purchase by The Elms Foundation Trust and its guardianship up to the present day will also be included. Woven throughout the narrative will be an exploration of the heritage aspects of the site, including how the buildings were constructed and modified over time.

The central narrative must remain clear throughout. The work should present a broadly-based, overarching account of The Elms’ history, not attempt to document every single person and event related to The Elms over the centuries. An appropriate balance must be found between the mana whenua, mission and other threads of The Elms story while situating those threads within the wider context of Aotearoa New Zealand’s history.

Applicants for this commission should have either (1) a research-based post-graduate tertiary degree in history or a related discipline from a recognised tertiary institution, or (2) a bachelor’s degree from a recognised tertiary institution, historical research experience and a publication track record.

If you would like to apply for this commission, please express your interest by submitting a cover letter, curriculum vitae, and writing sample to Andrew Gregg, Manager of The Elms Foundation, by 5pm Friday 10 December (email: manager@theelms.org.nz; post: PO Box 14218, Tauranga Mail Centre, Tauranga, 3143). At the completion of the expressions of interest period, The Elms Foundation will invite a selection of applicants to submit a fully scoped proposal that includes a detailed chapter outline, project plan and budget. Proposals will be assessed in February 2022 with a decision notified in early March.

The Elms Foundation

15 November 2021


[1] C.W.Vennell, Brown and The Elms, The Elms Trust, 1984

[2] A Middleton, Kerikeri Mission and Kororipo Pā: An entwined history, Otago University Press, 2013