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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79

Otaki Maori Mission Church, "Rangiatea."—History of its Erection

Otaki Maori Mission Church, "Rangiatea."—History of its Erection.

To give a right history of the erection of the unique church erected by the Maoris in Otaki, we must hark back to ancient history. According to tradition, when the canoes Tainui and Arawa sailed from Hawaiki, they brought with them the soil on which stood their sacred altar Rangiatea, in Hawaiki. These ancient roving mariners first touched land at a place called Whangaparoa, in the vicinity of Mawetu (Bay of Plenty). The former canoe, Tainui, manned by a select crew, left Arawa, and made her passage northwards, towards Auckland, and here they anchored. Perceiving a seagull flying from the West Coast, over Otahuhu, they surmised that there must be water not far off, so some of them climbed a high hill, and found that their surmise was correct. They decided to draw their canoe overland to the water on the other side, and in due course reached the water now known as Manakau Harbour. Then they proceeded on their voyage southwards, and touched at Aotea, but finding this place unsuitable, proceeded still further south, finally landing at Kawhia. Their canoe was hauled ashore, and the Maoris built an altar, and the soil which they brought from Hawaiki was spread on the altar, which was dedicated in the sacred name of "Rangiatea."

During the time the Ngatiraukawa and Ngatitoa tribes inhabited this district a disturbance broke out at Heretaunga (Hutt) The leader of this disturbance was Rangihaeata, but the Europeans surmised it was Te Rauparaha and other influential chiefs who were aiding Rangihaeata. Matene te Whiwhi (nephew of Te Rauparaha) at that time was the guest of Governor Grey. Te Rauparaha resided at Plimmerton. There was also trouble between the Maoris and Europeans at Horokiwi. The former trouble was becoming serious, and Maoris had gathered from all parts, at Otaki, to assist Rangihaeata. Matene te Whiwhi and Tamihana te Rauparaha (son of Te Rauparaha) heard of this mobilisation, and knew serious trouble would occur. They requested Governor Grey to capture Te Rauparaha and take him out to sea, stating page 4 that if Rangihaeata came to hear of Te Rauparaha's capture be would immediately abandon his idea of fighting. Governor Grey agreed with this suggestion, and ordered a war-sloop to lay of Porirua. Boats were quietly rowed ashore at night, and Te Rauparaha was made a prisoner while he was asleep in his house. He was carried on board the man-of-war Calliope, and remained a prisoner for twelve months. Te Rauparaha naturally protested against his capture, as he considered he was a king acting on be half of Queen Victoria. Governor Grey eventually promised him that if he would use his influence to get Rangihaeata to leave off fighting he would be released. Te Rauparaha agreed to this, and one of his emissaries was despatched with a message to Rangihaeata, stating that his obedience to the Governor's wishes would save him from his perilous position. The messenger with an escort, delivered the message to Rangihaeata, who was sorely grieved when he heard of the position Te Rauparaha was in. His followers were also much distressed, and the messenger was sent back with a message stating that Rangihaeata would agree with the terms, and cease to make trouble.

Soon afterwards Rangihaeata and his followers migrated to Otaki and Poroutawhao (midway between Levin and Foxton), where they passed the rest of their days.

The warship Calliope, with Te Rauparaha on board, after receiving the ultimatum of peace from Rangihaeata, set sail for Australia. On arrival at Sydney, Te Rauparaha was welcomed and received with great festivities. He was taken to the leading places of worship, and his stay in Sydney was made a thoroughly pleasant one. These places of worship made such an impression on Te Rauparaha that he kept them in his mind, and thought what a wonderful and grateful people the Europeans were. After a pleasant stay, he embarked for Melbourne, where he told Potatau, grandfather of King Mahuta, M.L.C., all that had been done for him in Australia, and the treatment and kindness accorded him. He resumed his voyage from Auckland, and finally the man-of-war conveying him and all the leading chiefs of the Waikato, anchored outside the mouth of the Otaki river. They landed in boats, and the narrator who saw the event will never forget it. The occasion was a memorable one. The shore was lined with thousands of Natives, and a right royal welcome was accorded the chief Te Rauparaha, who was attired in an Admiral's uniform, and carried a sword. He was accompanied by Governor Grey and the commander of the warship. The earth trembled with the feet of those thousands of warriors, who, delighted at the return of their chief, danced, and gave their war-cries with great gusto. After a formal greeting, page 5 Te Rauparaha related an account of his trip to Australia, how well he had been treated, and what good people the Europeans were, and he exhorted them to side with the pakehas under the sovereignty of Queen Victoria. He also stated that the pakehas loved their religion, and they should follow their example by keeping close to God. He exhorted them to build a church, and not to set their minds at rest until one was built.

The advice of the great chieftain was not lost, and in the year 1847 the Maoris commenced to cut the timber for the building—the greater part from the Manawatu and Ohau districts. In those days there were neither horses nor bullocks, and all hauling was done by manual labour. The rafters and huge timbers were floated down the Ohau river and into the Waikawa river, and then out to sea. The Ohau river in those days ran into the Waikawa river, and out to sea, forming quite a large river at its mouth. Hundreds of Maoris with ropes could be seen hauling the great trees along the sea coast, and there was one of the Natives standing on the tree with a pole keeping the trees out to sea, while the others were hauling on the sea beach. These [unclear: inmau]se totara trees were eventually landed at Waitohu, near Otaki, and then dragged over the sandhills by hundreds of Natives to the site where the church now stands. Then all the timber was adzed down by Native adzes, which are now to be seen in the church. The Maoris having no machinery in those days, all the large trees, acting as pillars now, were erected, as was the Maori custom, by hand labour. Te Rauparaha got many Natives from the Manawatu district to come down and do the carving, which is indeed a work of art. The laced work was also carried out by these people. The whole of the work was splendidly carried out, and remains to this day a monument to the industry and energy of a noble race. Recently it was found necessary to strengthen the building, and a large sum of money—some £700 or £800—was subscribed by Natives and Europeans, for strengthening and improving the structure. The main parts of the building are still in a perfect state of preservation, and experts are of opinion that the historical structure will now last for fully another fifty or sixty years without further attention.

An incident is related in connection with the work of erection of the church. When floating some of the huge logs in the sea from Ohau to Otaki, one of the Natives on top of a tree got tired with the pole, and he called out to others to take his place. In jumping off into the sea he jumped on to a stingray. This fish has a poisonous barbed spear at the tail, which was driv- page 6 en right through the calf of his leg. Immediately the Maoris rushed and pulled him out of the sea, and carried him ashore. The wound being poisoned by the sting many of the Natives took turns, and sucked the poison from the sting. The man was carried to Otaki, and in about two months had recovered under the Native treatment.

In April, 1910, soon after the celebration of the re-opening of the Native Mission Church at Otaki, after its restoration, Mr Bevan penned the following letter to the "Otaki Mail":—"To the Ngatiraukawas: I salute you all, chiefs and elder men; I wish you all health! I was glad to see you all rejoicing at the re-opening of the Church. Rangiatea, and I was pleased to see the good work that has been done in restoring the church to good condition. Thanks are due to Mr H. S. Hadfield, Hori te Waru, Hema te Ao, Pitiera Taipua, Kipa te Whatanui, Kingi Rawiri, and all the Native Committee for their exertions in this [unclear: cirec]tion. I was amongst your ancestors when Te Rauparaha was sent back to Otaki by Sir George Grey, and I was present at the right royal welcome accorded the great chieftain. I have received many acts of kindness from your ancestors, and I trust I have done honour to a brave race in my dealings with them, and in my writings of them. I was in Otaki when Te Rauparaha accepted the paheha's God, and built the church Rangiatea, which now stands as a monument to the practical Christianity of Te Rauparaha and your ancestors. Many times I have seen the great warrior going to worship at the church; he was continually worshipping until his death, which occurred at Otaki on November 27th, 1849.

" When I came to live with your fathers, in 1845, all the Ngatiraukawa people were living at Rangiuru pa and at Pakakatu pa, but as it was pointed out to them that these sites were not suitable, they shifted to the present Otaki township site, and made a beautiful settlement of it. At that time pretty clumps of bush were scattered round the township, with here and there some beautiful karaka trees. Around every Native settlement could be seen the beautiful indigenous bush, with its many lovely page 7 shades. What a contrast now! Your pas and kaingas have vanished; your little gardens of Eden are overgrown with weeds. In those good old times your fathers were a diligent and industrious people, and devoted to their religion, and while under the care of the late Bishop Hadfield and archdeacon Williams, the church bell rang every day at sunrise and sunset to call the Natives to prayers. I can never pass those once populous places without deep emotion, and memories crowd upon me of my numerous good Maori friends of old. In those old days the late Bishop Hadfield took a fatherly and kindly interest in the Natives, who were better cared for than they are to-day, for the Government's professed care of them is really nothing more that a profession. I hope that the authorities will do something, however small, to see that medical attendance is made available to the Natives, in such a way that they can avail themselves of it."