Story: Ngā hāhi – Māori and Christian denominations

Page 6. Salvation Army

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Arrival of the Salvation Army

The Māori term for the Salvation Army is Te Ope Whakaora, which means ‘the army that brings life’. Salvation Army officers first arrived in New Zealand from the UK in 1883, at a time when Māori were growing increasingly disillusioned with mainstream Christian churches. The Salvation Army at first concentrated its efforts in towns and cities, and as most Māori lived in outlying rural areas, few of them joined the colourful new movement in its first years. Those who did included ‘Maori Joe’ Solomon of Kaiapoi and Maraea Morris, a high-born East Coast woman who became colour-sergeant of the Gisborne corps.

Missions to Māori

In 1888 Salvation Army Captain Ernest Holdaway and his wife Lizzie began a mission to Māori on the Whanganui River. They gained an influential convert in Tamatea Aurunui, a chief of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi. He made available his house at Jerusalem for their meetings and presented the officers with a canoe named Rangimarie (Peace). Holdaway later travelled to other large Māori communities, meeting leaders such as Tāwhiao, Te Whiti and Te Kooti, and leading Māori concert parties to international Salvation Army gatherings overseas.

Notorious rehab

In 2008 a fifth-generation Salvation Army officer, Major Lynette Hutson, and her husband Ian were invited by Edge Te Whaiti, a leader of Hawke’s Bay’s Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob, to set up a residential programme for Māori addicted to the drug methamphetamine (‘P’). The first programme was held at Kākahi, near Taumarunui. Of the 12 Notorious members who took part, 10 stayed free of the drug, while two who relapsed attended a second programme in Tūrangi. Leaders of both the Black Power and Tribesmen gangs joined Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia at the closing ceremony of the Tūrangi camp.


20th century onwards

Policy changes by the Salvation Army’s national administrators reduced its work in Māori communities, and support for the Army among Māori declined in the early 20th century. However, Major Robert Prowse ran a mission on the East Coast for more than 30 years, until his death in 1967.

Since 2000 work among Māori has become important to the Army again. Auxiliary Captains Joe and Nan Patea (of Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi and Ngāti Porou respectively) became national leaders of the Salvation Army Māori Ministry in 2006.

How to cite this page:

Hirini Kaa, 'Ngā hāhi – Māori and Christian denominations - Salvation Army', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 21 June 2024)

Story by Hirini Kaa, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Mar 2017