Story: Temuera, Paora

Page 1: Biography

Temuera, Paora


Ngati Whakaue; Anglican priest

This biography, written by Angela Ballara, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.

Born in Ohinemutu, Rotorua, probably in 1886 or 1887, Paora Temuera, sometimes known as Paora Ngatapu Temuera, Paora Temuera Tokoaitua or Paora Tokoaitua, was the elder son of Temuera Tokoaitua, a Ngati Whakaue Anglican Maori missionary, and his first wife, Tuihana Paora. He grew up at Rangitikei and Otaki, where Temuera Tokoaitua served in the Rangiatea Church, and was strongly influenced by his father’s faith and role. His younger brother, Te Wetini, died in 1919.

In 1909 Paora 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 Wi Rangipupu Wikiriwhi on 8 January 1915 at the Maori mission church at Ohinemutu. She was from Rotorua, and was a teacher at Putiki mission school. The couple were to have one daughter.

In March 1917 Temuera left for the Waiapu diocese. He served at Ruatoki, in the Bay of Plenty, from 1918 to 1921, when he was posted to Ohinemutu. Kuini died about this time, and on 4 July 1923 he married, at Temuka in the South Island, Mere Ti Gray, daughter of William Gray and Hiria Kokoro Tiratahi of Ngai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe. There were no children of this marriage.

In 1926 Paora Temuera moved to Taupo but continued to visit Ohinemutu and elsewhere. During the visit of the duke of York in March 1927 he led the prayers with Frederick Bennett and Wiremu Netana Panapa. In 1929 Temuera welcomed the religious and political leader, T. W. Ratana, to Taupo. Unlike other Anglican clergy, he continued to minister to Ratana’s followers among Ngati Tuwharetoa. Around 1931 he was transferred to the parish of Turanga (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 Maori newspaper Te Reo o Aotearoa.

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

Rangiatea was widely regarded as one of the most important taonga of the Maori 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 Ngati Toa conqueror of the Kapiti coast, Te Rauparaha, in the late 1840s, it was completed in 1850 and acquired tremendous mana among Maori 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 Paora’s wife, Mere Ti, how to restore the tukutuku panels and advised the carvers, carpenters and builders. Paora'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 Ngati Raukawa marae. Paora Temuera presented a carved shield for competition between haka teams during the weekend hui. During the Sunday church service, Paora Temuera was made an honorary canon of St Paul’s Cathedral Church, Wellington, in recognition of his contribution to Rangiatea's restoration.

In June that year Paora Temuera was made an MBE. In October he was selected by Kingitanga elders to receive on behalf of Ngati Raukawa a model of the Tainui canoe carved by Tamati Herangi, the nephew of Te Puea Herangi, and a miniature greenstone mere hewn from a block that once belonged to Potatau Te Wherowhero, the Maori 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 Rangiatea an altar frontal carved by Inia Te Wiata and gifted by King George VI.

Paora Temuera retired from his post at Rangiatea in 1952 but stayed at Otaki. He tended the church grounds, conducted visitors over the church, and continued to assist the Rangiatea 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 Koroki and a party from Ngaruawahia, cabinet ministers, MPs, senior clergy and many notables. Kepa Ehau, leader of the Arawa confederation of tribes, delivered a panegyric. Temuera was buried on 19 July in the Rangiatea Maori cemetery.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Temuera, Paora', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 12 August 2020)