Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Century-old land dispute to be laid to rest

A local bill sponsored by Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell would transfer the Tauranga land. Photo / Mark Mitchell
A local bill sponsored by Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell would transfer the Tauranga land. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Parliament will today amend a century-old trust which was set up to convert Maori to Christianity and evangelise to "heathen races'' all over the world. The New Zealand Mission Trust is a remnant of the first missionaries to visit New Zealand in the early 19th century, and held disputed land in central Tauranga which local Maori were now seeking to retain possession of.

The Church Mission Society bought two large blocks of land in Te Papa in 1838, which has now become the heart of Tauranga City.

Around 80 per cent of this land was gifted to the Crown 14 years later.

Near the end of the century, some of it was transferred to the New Zealand Mission Trust. The trust held the assets "for the spiritual benefit and spiritual instruction of Maori people in the North Island of New Zealand or failing that, the evangelisation of heathen races in any part of the world''.

The purchase of the land has never been accepted by local Maori, and its subsequent gifting to the Crown has since been found to be in breach of Treaty of Waitangi principles.

A local bill sponsored by Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell would transfer the Tauranga land - around 8000sq m - to a new organisation, the Otamataha Trust, which is run by members of Bay of Plenty hapu Ngati Tapu and Ngaitamarawaho.

The Church Mission Society was based in England, but spread its influence in Australia and New Zealand through prominent Anglican missionary Samuel Marsden. It converted only two Maori in its first seven years in New Zealand, but mass conversions began after 1830.

By 1845, an estimated 43,000 Maori were attending the society's services.

Timeline
1814 - Church Mission Society, led by missionary Samuel Marsden, makes first trip to New Zealand
1823 - CMS established in New Zealand
1838 - CMS buys 2 large blocks of land in Tauranga from tangata whenua
1867 - Crown acquires (by CMS gift) 80% of the land
1896 - some of the land transferred to NZ Mission Trust Board, held for "the benefit and spiritual intruction of Maori people''
2004 - Waitangi Tribunal finds that land purchase breached the Treaty
2013 - Legislation introduced to transfer land back to local Maori

- NZ Herald

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