The Melanesian Martyrs' Memorial Church of St Andrews

Mary Atkin Cottage

Preservation of a Missionary Cottage

Written by the Hon. Rob Smellie

By her last Will, dated 18th March 1935, Mary Atkin left the cottage she had inherited from her father, and surrounding land, to be used for aged and infirmed missionaries or those on furlough. She also left the land on which St Andrew’s Anglican Church Kohimarama stands, and the vicarage. Other adjacent land she left for a children’s playground – now administered byAucklandCity.

Mary’s father landed on Kohimarama Beach in 1842 and took up land along the ridge, bounded by Kohimarama Road and Selwyn Avenue. He had two children, Mary and Joseph. Mary’s brother, Joseph, joined the church and was martyred along with Bishop John Coleridge Patteson on the small island of Nukapu in the Central Pacific in 1871.

In the early 1900s, Mary had the original cottage rebuilt to the design of the original residence. After Miss Atkin’s death, the cottage and land were used as directed in the Trust in her Will until approximately 2006.

In 2007, local residents and people from St Andrew’s’ congregation sought and obtained Heritage status for the cottage and the land.In that they were supported by the Auckland Office of the Historic Places Trust . By then it was clear that the Trustees wished to sell the land, and they opposed the application for a Heritage Order. The appeal by the Trustees to have the Order overturned, was abandoned in late 2009 as explained later.

The Trustees then applied to the High Court for Variation of the Trust to allow them to sell the cottage and the land. That application was opposed by the Vicar of St Andrew’s and one of his parishioners, and the General Trust Board of the Diocese of Auckland The ground for variation was that the original purpose of the Trust “ …. had become inexpedient by virtue of the needs of modern Missionaries and alternative means of accommodation that are now available “ . The objectors disputed that assertion “They produced evidence….that the cottage had been used up until recently for that very purpose and further proof that there is still a demand for the amenity the cottage provides.

The case took some time to come to trial, but the hearing was conducted in late 2008. It was adjourned by the Judge (the Honourable Justice Lang) to enable the Trustees to explore the possibility of a compromise. The Judge recorded in a later ruling, that he had decided by then that if no compromise resulted, he would decide against the Trustees and in favour of the objectors.

A compromise was reached. The cottage and immediately surrounding land was to continue to be maintained and used pursuant to the Trust set out in Miss Atkin’s Will. The balance of the land was purchased by theAucklandCityand has been added to the adjoining adjacent land, the former playground.

The objectors sought their costs, which had been underwritten by the Diocese of Auckland and were substantial, in fact of in excess of $80,000. The Trustees refused to pay the full costs, but offered a significantly smaller sum. The objectors asked the Judge to rule. As a result, the objectors’ full costs were ordered to be paid. In his reasons for so directing, the Judge indicated that had it not been for the objectors and the way in which their opposition was presented, the compromise may not have resulted. The compromise also involved the Trustees abandoning their appeal against the Heritage status ruling.

Thus, an historic cottage has been preserved for the use intended by its donor. And a beautiful wooded area becomes available to all Aucklanders, particularly those living in Kohimarama and Mission Bay. We are all indebted to the Anglican Church and the objectors for preserving these important amenities for posterity.

Subsequently, the Trustees have had the cottage and surrounds upgraded to a high standard. Much of the early 1900s’ ambience of the cottage has been retained, but a modern kitchen and bathroom have been substituted. The surrounding gardens have been replanted and landscaped, a double garage added, and what was originally a small wash-house, is now a freestanding study at the rear of the cottage. Photographs of the cottage as it now is, are displayed, as is a diagram indicating the area outlined in red that was the subject of the litigation and the compromise that was reached.

In a spirit of co-operation and reconciliation, the Trustees have now invited the Vicar of St Andrew’s, Kohimarama to assist in seeking out potential missionary occupants of the Mary Atkin Cottage. A service of re-dedication was held at St Andrew’s when the work was finished and the refurbished cottage was blessed by the Reverend Stephen Baxter and the Reverend Canon David Bindon

This was a fitting conclusion to a long saga.