The Anglican Church of Aotearoa has apologised for its role which led to Tauranga Moana hapū losing 432ha of land in central Tauranga to the Crown after the Battle of Gate Pa.

The church has also agreed to stand alongside Ngāi Tamarāwaho and Ngāti Tapu hapū in support of their claim for redress before the Waitangi Tribunal.

In New Plymouth on Thursday, about 100 members of the church's General Synod rose to their feet and stood in heavy silence as Archbishop Philip Richardson made the apology on behalf of the church to about 10 members of the hapū.

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The apology concerned the sale by the Church Missionary Society of a block of land to the colonial government on which downtown Tauranga has since been built.

It was made because of the church's actions in 1866, which led to the loss of the hapū's ancestral land which had been given to the society in "sacred trust" to the mission station.

In 1838 missionary Archdeacon Alfred Brown negotiated with local Māori leaders to buy the block of land down on Te Papa Peninsula for use as the church's mission station.

But in 1866, the Church Missionary Society Central Lands Board resold most of that land to the colonial government without seeking an agreement from the two hapū.

Archbishop Richardson described the sale as a "basic moral error" which was made amid "unrelenting pressure" from the Crown.

Anglican Bishop of Waiapu, Andrew Hedge, said the Tauranga mission land "is the heart of Tauranga City", land on which the government made a settlement and a city had grown.

"It was not sold to the Church Missionary Society for the purposes of developing a city."

Archdeacons Brown and Henry Williams protested several times, but in the end, Brown caved and released the 435ha block to the Crown.


"Their part in the Tauranga mission lands story was a story of human failure under intense pressure, a story of integrity and high values that yielded to the forces of power, authority and greed," Hedge said.

Hedge said Thursday's ceremony was "a solemn, moving occasion" and was with an "overwhelming sense of grief" that the "very sincere" apology was made.

The church would continue "to pray for a final and mutually agreeable settlement to the Tauranga Moana land case before the Waitangi Tribunal," he said.

Hedge the church would support the hapu in their endeavours to seek redress from the Crown, he said.

Peri Kohu, a Ngai Tamarāwaho kaumatua, said his hapū had struggled to return to its former glory in what in his eyes was "the most beautiful part of the country".

"I know that our people invited the church to Tauranga, and that we gave them a place to stay. That we gave them gardens and lands to live by.

"At that time our ancestors were happy. However, after the loss, we lost our way a little bit... And I've spent my lifetime, and my parents and grandparents have spent their lifetimes trying to figure that out. But today I see us coming together again."