Guardians of the Kauri story, past, present and future.
Ngā kaitiaki ō ngā kauri kōrero ō nehera, ō wātu me te wāheke.

With 4,500m2 of undercover displays, The Kauri Museum is the largest undercover attraction in Northland. It is a community Museum governed by a Charitable Trust, the Otamatea Kauri and Pioneer Museum Board.

The Kauri Museum is self-funded through admission and shop revenue, and receives no local or central government operational funding.


The kauri tree Agathis australis

Scientific Name: Agathis australis
Family: Araucariaceae
Genus: Agathis
Species: Australis is the only species endemic to New Zealand

The kauri tree, Agathis australis, is New Zealand’s largest and most famous native tree. The kauri is related to the conifer tree and grows in the subtropical northern part of New Zealand’s North Island.
Ancestors of the kauri first appeared in the Jurassic Period 190 – 135 million years ago. The kauri – podocarp (cone bearing) forests are among the most ancient in the world.

The largest kauri standing is Tane Mahuta (Māori for ‘Lord of the Forest’). Tāne Mahuta is 4.4 metres in diameter and 17.7 metres to the first branch, and can be seen in Waipoua Forest. The oldest tree is estimated to be 3,000 years old. This is Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest) also in Waipoua Forest. Displays in The Kauri Museum show older and larger trees which grew in the past.


The Kauri Museum - Guardians of the kauri story, past, present and future.

The Kauri Museum was opened in 1962 to commemorate the arrival of the Albertland Settlers to the district. Initial called a Pioneer Museum the museum quickly developed, through the support of the community, and our many visitors, into an unmissable stop on the Kauri Coast. The focus on the kauri tree and the stories relating to the kauri industries, industries that founded the nation of New Zealand, speak of the visionary leadership of the founders of the Museum.

From its small beginnings the Museum continued to grow and now encompasses more than 4500m2 of covered displays. We continue to explore the story of the kauri tree past, present and future.

Kauri forests

Kauri forests once covered much of the land north of the Coromandel (south of Auckland). Abundant with bird life and a diverse range of flora and fauna the forests lived on this landscape for 100 million years. 

Land clearance and logging of the ancient forest has resulted in only a small fraction of the ancient kauri remaining in the twenty first century. 

Whilst concerns for the cutting down of the kauri forests began in the nineteenth century it was not until 1985 that the New Zealand Government put an end to logging of live kauri trees.


Kauri timber

Many years ago, long wide planks of faultless, superb timber were cut from the mighty kauri tree trunks. The timber was used for many purposes: ship building (including masts and spars of sailing ships), houses, furniture, bridges, fences, dams, patterns (used for metal casting), vats and tanks, barrels, large rollers (in the textile industry), railway sleepers, mine-props, carving, wood turning and a myriad other uses. Kauri timber was exported all over the world through the nineteenth century.

Swamp kauri refers to kauri timber which has been recovered from under the ground. This kauri comes from forests which were buried by natural cataclysmic events. Carbon dating indicates that logs were buried up to 50,000 years ago. Leaves and cones are often preserved in the anaerobic conditions with the logs but quickly deteriorate when exposed to the air. Swamp kauri is naturay stained by the soil it is buried beneath producing rich dark brown and greenish hues emphasising the grain.
Older kauri is on display in the museum, including a 30 million year old
Australian kauri from the Yallourn coalfield in Victoria.


Kauri Gum

Kauri gum is a resin which bleeds from the kauri tree where bark is damaged or a branch broken – the resin bleeds to seal the wound, preventing rot or water getting into the tree. Gum can build up into a hard lump. As the tree grows and bark is shed, gum is forced off to fall to the ground, a process that has been happening for millions of years. Many years ago, there were vast quantities of gum in the ground. New Zealand’s fossil kauri gum, found in coal, has been dated as 43 million years old. More recent gum from 10,000 to 30,000 years old is known as kauri copal (or resinite). This gum is our version of juvenile amber. 

Kauri gum, as with the timber was an important export for New Zealand being sent overseas by the ton. It was collected from the ground by picking up the exposed pieces where the forests had once grown. As the easily found gum disappeared, the gum diggers probed in the ground with spears to locate the gum nuggets, then dug it up with spades. 

Trees were also a source of gum – collectors would chip pieces of old hard gum from the branches and top (or head) of trees where it had collected for many years. Attempts were also made extract further gum by cutting the trees to bleed fresh gum, collecting it later after it developed into a hard lump. 

Gum was used by Māori for cooking fires and lighting because it burns very easily. It was also had many other uses including medical remedies, for chewing gum, and the soot of burnt gum made a pigment for tattooing.


Mervyn Sterling QSM (1916-1992)

Mervyn Sterling (Merv) foundered the Museum, roundly supported by a team of community volunteers. Merv also co-founded the Old Time Transport Preservation League, the Museum of Transport & Technology (MOTAT) and helped set up Wagener Museum. It was his vision which motivated the community and his determination was rewarded as he watched the museum gain international repute from its small beginnings in 1962.

Tudor Collins (1989-1970)

The stunning work of Tudor Collins, bushman and photographer extraordinaire, is seen throughout The Kauri Museum and his photographs are of immense importance in documenting the history of the kauri and the people of the North.

A. H. Reed CBE (1875-1975)

A. H. Reed was a New Zealand publisher, author and entrepreneur, who migrated from England in 1887. The foundations of The Kauri Museum greatly benefited from Reed’s kauri gum digging experience, great expeditions and work as an author.


Grant McCallum


Deborah Clapperton


Pam Goode


Hone Martin


Jesse Pidgeon


Takiri Pumipi


Hinurewa Te Hau




Pete Panhuis


Larissa Pumipi

Collections & Administration


Gum Polishing

Jo Allely

Admissions & Retail

Leanne Sterling

Admissions & Retail

Mandy Lee

Admissions & Retail

Bill Curtis


Els Bloom


Mary Jury


Sue Botica


Grant O'Neill