Story: Temuera, Pāora

Page 1: Biography

Temuera, Pāora

1886/1887?–1957

Ngāti Whakaue; Anglican priest

This biography, written by Angela Ballara,  was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Born in Ōhinemutu, Rotorua, probably in 1886 or 1887, Pāora Temuera, sometimes known as Pāora Ngatapu Temuera, Pāora Temuera Tokoaituā or Pāora Tokoaituā, was the elder son of Temuera Tokoaituā, a Ngāti Whakaue Anglican Māori missionary, and his first wife, Tuihana Pāora. He grew up at Rangitīkei and Ōtaki, where Temuera Tokoaituā served in the Rangiātea Church, and was strongly influenced by his father’s faith and role. His younger brother, Te Wētini, died in 1919.

In 1909 Pāora Temuera, then educated only to standard two, was given a grant of £20 to enable him to study at Te Rau Kahikatea (Te Rau Theological College) as his father had done. He was ordained a deacon in 1913 and a priest on 16 December 1916. His first posting was as assistant curate to A. O. Williams at Wanganui. He married Kuini Wī Rangipūpū Wikiriwhi on 8 January 1915 at the Māori mission church at Ōhinemutu. She was from Rotorua, and was a teacher at Pūtiki mission school. The couple were to have one daughter.

In March 1917 Temuera left for the Waiapu diocese. He served at Rūātoki, in the Bay of Plenty, from 1918 to 1921, when he was posted to Ōhinemutu. Kuini died about this time, and on 4 July 1923 he married, at Temuka in the South Island, Mere Tī Gray, daughter of William Gray and Hīria Kokoro Tiratahi of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe. There were no children of this marriage.

In 1926 Pāora Temuera moved to Taupō but continued to visit Ōhinemutu and elsewhere. During the visit of the duke of York in March 1927 he led the prayers with Frederick Bennett and Wiremu Nētana Pānapa. In 1929 Temuera welcomed the religious and political leader, T. W. Rātana, to Taupō. Unlike other Anglican clergy, he continued to minister to Rātana’s followers among Ngāti Tūwharetoa. Around 1931 he was transferred to the parish of Tūranga (Gisborne). In addition to his usual parish work, he became involved with local organisations, helped to raise money for various causes, and accompanied the bishop of Aotearoa on pastoral visits about the East Coast. He published reports on activities in his own and other East Coast parishes in the Anglican Māori newspaper Te Reo o Aotearoa.

When his father retired from his position as Māori missionary at Rangiātea in 1933, Temuera returned to the Wellington diocese and on 18 May was appointed in his place. Temuera Tokoaituā, now elderly and with failing sight, stayed on to assist his son until his death in 1937.

Rangiātea was widely regarded as one of the most important taonga of the Māori people. Its name derived from an important spiritual centre in the Society Islands, from which, according to legend, soil was brought in the Tainui canoe. This soil was deposited beneath the church as it was constructed. It was therefore regarded as the sacred altar of the Tainui people on the Kapiti coast. Built under the aegis of the missionary Octavius Hadfield and the Ngāti Toa conqueror of the Kapiti coast, Te Rauparaha, in the late 1840s, it was completed in 1850 and acquired tremendous mana among Māori people of every denomination. Gifts were showered on the church on important occasions: in 1934 newly carved altar rails were installed.

Temuera soon became involved in restoration. In 1936 he began some essential repair work and initiated a scheme for renewal, which was quickly taken up by others. Plans matured during 1947 and work began in 1948. Sir Apirana Ngata taught a team of women, which included Pāora’s wife, Mere Tī, how to restore the tukutuku panels and advised the carvers, carpenters and builders. Pāora's role was to pray with, encourage and advise the workers, and continue the life of the parish while coping with the difficulties of restoration. Work was completed in time for the March 1950 centenary. Celebrations were held at the church and at the nearby Ngāti Raukawa marae. Pāora Temuera presented a carved shield for competition between haka teams during the weekend hui. During the Sunday church service, Pāora Temuera was made an honorary canon of St Paul’s Cathedral Church, Wellington, in recognition of his contribution to Rangiātea's restoration.

In June that year Pāora Temuera was made an MBE. In October he was selected by Kingitanga elders to receive on behalf of Ngāti Raukawa a model of the Tainui canoe carved by Tāmati Hērangi, the nephew of Te Puea Hērangi, and a miniature greenstone mere hewn from a block that once belonged to Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, the Māori King. (These would be saved when the church was destroyed by fire in 1995.) At Temuera's request, Bennett, now bishop of Aotearoa, obtained for Rangiātea an altar frontal carved by Īnia Te Wīata and gifted by King George VI.

Pāora Temuera retired from his post at Rangiātea in 1952 but stayed at Ōtaki. He tended the church grounds, conducted visitors over the church, and continued to assist the Rangiātea community. In 1956 he was appointed a member of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. He died on 16 July 1957 in the Palmerston North Hospital, survived by his wife and the daughter of his first marriage. His funeral was attended by King Korokī and a party from Ngāruawāhia, cabinet ministers, MPs, senior clergy and many notables. Kepa Ēhau, leader of the Arawa confederation of tribes, delivered a panegyric. Temuera was buried on 19 July in the Rangiātea Māori cemetery.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Temuera, Pāora', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4t12/temuera-paora (accessed 8 March 2021)