The Anglican Church Missionary Society established a mission at Pūriri in 1833 under the headship of James Preece. The site was chosen because it had a large population keen for a mission, and because it was well placed for river communication. Through 1836 fighting inland and on the Bay of Plenty coast led to other mission stations closing or being destroyed, and their inhabitants took refuge at Pūriri. The decline in the Māori population to just 70 in the summer of 1835–36, coupled with the unhealthiness of the swampy site, led to the mission shifting to Parawai, near present-day Thames, in 1837. It was to survive there for many years.
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