New Zealand’s lost Christian legacy


Wiremu Tamihana – by Gottfried Lindauer               Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Many New Zealanders question if our nation ever had a strong heritage of Christian faith. Wiremu Tamihana is the answer to their doubts.

As a young Ngati Haua chief, Tamihana found faith in the early 1830s under the teaching of the CMS missionaries in Matamata. He renounced warfare and instead led his tribe on a different path – establishing the Christian villages of Tapiri and Peria. They included farms, houses, a flour mill, a school and a church that could accommodate 1,000 (perhaps New Zeland’s first so called “mega-church”).

Today you can visit the sites by following Peria Road out of Matamata and looking for the Matamata Historical Society plaques. Most people on this road are looking for Hobbiton – little do they realise it is the road to a far more significant but little known part of New Zealand’s lost Christian legacy.

Wiremu Tamihana went on to become a key player in establishing the Maori King movement. Indeed he was known as the kingmaker and presided over the coronation of the first king Potatau Te Wherowhero with prayer and Bible readings. It was a movement he hoped would bring unity among Maori and help prevent the ongoing alienation of Maori land by reinforcing chiefly authority.

Some might say it was a strategic mistake to set up another “King” rather than simply calling the new leader a paramount chief. The settler government used the formation of the Maori King as evidence of a rebellion against the sovereignty of the Crown. On this basis an inevitable conflict ensued with dire consequences for Maori – including the disintegration and dispersion of Tamihana’s Christian communities in the Waikato.

Perhaps the label “king” was a mistake. However Wiremu Tamihana never was a sly political strategist. He was simply a humble Christian chief who tried to lead his people in the ways of justice and righteousness. As the land now returns to his people, may his legacy of faith also.

Ewen McQueen
October 2014

This entry was posted in Cultural Renewal, Economic Transformation, NZ History, Spiritual Renewal, Treaty of Waitangi and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to New Zealand’s lost Christian legacy

  1. John says:

    Totally agree about Wiremu Tamehana. Reading the biography by Evelyn Stokes , while although a tough read, opened my eyes to the mana of this man. His treatment by the Governor being made to sit outside his office in Auckland for three days was an absolute disgrace. And to then have the ignominy of a junior staff member come out and pretty much tell Tamehana to go back down to Matamata and let the “real”brains run the country was indicative of the arrogance of the administration. No wonder Tamehana went back with a realization and commitment to develop what became the King movement. What a leader he was – one who had a heart to care for his people. If the crown were going to ignore them there was no way Wiremu Tamehana was going to let the Maori be neglected.
    Great man!


  2. Andy Oakley says:

    I did leave a response a few weeks ago, one that I had researched and drawn a couple of conclusions on. I see you have deleted these conclusions all together leaving no trace of my opinions. Obviously this site is not one for leaving opinions on, unless they concur with your way thinking of course. That relegates your site to one of “Ewen’s World”. Very much less appealing I’m afraid and so I will not be back.


    • Ewen McQueen says:

      Hi Andy
      Your comments were not researched but were simply idle and offensive speculation. Hence they were removed as per my blog guidelines. I have published a number of other comments by you which I strongly disagree with so your last point is clearly not true. Whether you come back here again is over to you.


  3. Rongohaua Taingahue says:

    Amen to this humble tipuna, some of our political leaders should also read this too.


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