Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970

by A. Feilden Thorp

In 1865 money was supplied by an English Church Missionary Society to establish a Maori Mission in Paeroa. There being no roads or bridges, a site was chosen in a Maori Village on the Ohinemuri River one mile south of the present town. Timber was taken up the river and both a Church and a two storeyed cottage were duly built. (This land is now occupied by the Thorp family).

Apparently there was no follow-up by Missionary workers, but the reason for this we do not know. The cottage was occupied by a Maori Chief who lived there for some years. When he died the buildings became "tapu" and remained unused. Following an argument between two tribes as to the ownership of the land, a survey line was run dividing it according to the watershed, the Te Moananui tribe retaining the Church site.

The current story was that Chief Te Moananui died as a result of "makutu" (black magic). Two Maoris are reputed to have hidden under a bridge over which the chief walked as they performed a rite by crossing two sticks thus producing an evil spell. No doubt the Chief was informed and believed in the "makutu". Following this, the owner decided to sell their land and about 1875 it was bought by A.J. Thorp, a pioneer surveyor at that time and a younger son of Paeroa's first white settler Joshua Thorp. The cottage was used for workers but the "tapu" seemed still effective as one of the drainers named Hogan died there and was not found for some time. The house was then deemed to be haunted. The Kakikatea timber soon became severely worm-eaten, but the buildings remained until 1912 when they were demolished. The church site is now occupied by a farm building.

St John's Maori Anglican Church at Paeroa

St John's Maori Anglican Church at Paeroa - "Tamatera" - dedicated 2nd June, 1932. Inset, Rehitato Mataia.

Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 13, May 1970
St John's Maori Anglican Church at Paeroa

Missionary work did not seem to proceed among the local Maoris some of whom became Hau Hau or Ringatu. Later a Govt. Nurse - Miss Breerton - established a Mission in a house made available by Mrs. Nicholls (Rihitato Mataia) wife of the late Hon. W.G. Nicholls, M.L.C. who had twice been Chairman of the O.C C. (1887 and 1905). This house, opposite the Paeroa College is now occupied by Mr. & Mrs. Viv Nicholls.

Miss Manning also helped at the Mission but she died in the great epidemic while nursing Maori Soldiers in Narrow Neck camp. Later a Miss Smythe conducted a Sunday School for Maoris in what is now Mrs. Martin's house in Normanby Road. But Mrs. Nicholls, a Chieftainess in her own right again came to the rescue in 1931 and donated and had built the present St. John, the Tamatera Maori Church in Rotokohu Road. Services have been conducted there ever since and now there is a resident Maori Minister in Paeroa, the Rev. C. Kaa having been ordained in 1969.