Story: European exploration

Page 2. Missionaries

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Samuel Marsden

Missionaries were the first group of Europeans who recorded travels in inland New Zealand. The first was the Sydney-based Anglican Samuel Marsden. Like other men of the cloth, he went into the wilderness to spread the gospel to Māori.

On his first visit in December 1814, Marsden headed westward from the Bay of Islands, as far as Lake Ōmāpere. His party carried 700 pounds of potatoes and 300 pounds of pork in baskets.

On his third voyage in 1820, aged 55, he went overland from Thames to Tauranga, visited Manukau Harbour, and walked twice from Waitematā Harbour to Kaipara and on to the Bay of Islands. On the way he explored the Hokianga, which he had visited the previous year. He used Māori guides and followed Māori tracks.

Exploring the north

Missionaries ventured further in 1833–34, including a number of Anglicans. Henry Williams led a party up the Thames valley to Matamata in November 1833. The next year, Alfred Brown and James Hamlin explored the Waikato for five months, looking for sites for mission stations. They began at Kaipara Harbour, paddled up the Waikato River to Ngāruawāhia, and then travelled over to Raglan and down to Kāwhia. They saw Mt Ruapehu and Mt Tongariro. Later that year, Brown returned with William Williams to establish a mission at Mangapōuri. Also in 1834, the Wesleyan William White travelled through the Waikato with Simon Peter, a Māori convert. William Puckey, another Anglican, went far north to Spirits Bay and Cape Rēinga.

By the end of 1834 missionary zeal had opened up the top half of the North Island to the newcomers.

Once is enough

James Buller’s long journey from Kaipara to Port Nicholson in 1839 was repeated by another Wesleyan missionary who commented, ‘To make such a journey once was a sin of ignorance, and might be forgiven. To attempt it a second time was a sin of presumption, for which there is no forgiveness.’ 1

Southern North Island

1839 was a significant year for exploration. Henry Williams went to Port Nicholson (Wellington) and helped Octavius Hadfield establish a mission at Ōtaki. He then travelled up the Whanganui River and to the volcanic plateau, reaching the east coast at Tauranga. While Williams was camping at Lake Taupō, the Wesleyan James Buller saw his fires. Buller was on his way south, following much the same route to Port Nicholson. The next year Hadfield walked from Ōtaki to Cape Egmont and back. The south and west of the North Island had now been seen by European eyes.

  1. Quoted in W. G. McClymont, The exploration of New Zealand. Wellington: Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1940, p. 40. › Back
How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'European exploration - Missionaries', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 June 2024)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 24 Sep 2007