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A slice of missionary life

Kerikeri Mission and Kororipo Pa: An Entwined History by Angela Middleton (Otago University Press, $29.95)
Review by Judith Nathan

keriekeriWith 2014 being the bicentennial of the arrival of the first missionaries in New Zealand, this booklet about the oldest surviving mission station at Kerikeri, and the adjacent kainga and pa at Kororipo, is very timely.

As mentioned in the title, this account emphasises the extent to which the two communities were interlinked, at a location chosen by Samuel Marsden in 1819 on the advice of Hongi Hika. Here the missionaries were dependent on their Maori patrons for survival, and the Maori reaped the benefits of life alongside the Europeans.

An archaeologist, Middleton has made good use not only of written records but also of artefacts which give more of an insight into the daily lives of the missionaries and their settlements. As well as mission families, these include former convicts who accompanied them from Sydney as servants and labourers, and Maori children and former slaves who lived in missionary households for education in European ways (and, in the latter case, protection from Maori conquerors). There is a fascinating list of rules which specifies the weekly provisions issued for each man, woman and child in mission households.

Kemp House (1822) and the Old Stone Store (1836) are the oldest surviving European buildings in New Zealand. The house was occupied initially by the Rev. John Butler, the mission superintendent. After his enforced departure in 1823, the house passed to other missionaries including James Kemp, whose family bought the house and owned it from 1832 to 1974.

As for the store, safe storage of goods and food was essential to the missionaries’ survival (self-sufficiency not being as easy to attain as Marsden had assumed). But quite why Marsden supported such a very impressive stone store remains something of a mystery. Middleton makes it clear it was controversial amongst the missionaries at the time.

By the 1830s, Kerikeri was no longer the hub it had been. Hongi Hika had always had two bases: Kororipo and inland Waimate, and over time his hapu focussed more on Waimate; meanwhile the missionaries set up stations at Waimate and Paihia. Consequently, both the European and Maori settlements at Kerikeri declined.

The booklet is liberally illustrated in colour, which explains the price. It has attractive photographs of the landscape, paintings and a wide variety of objects, including two contemporary maps, though the small format does not do justice to some of them.

To a considerable extent it covers the same ground as the comprehensive book edited by the late Judith Binney, Te Kerikeri 1770-1850; The Meeting Pool, to which Angela Middleton was one of 13 contributors. But this more concise survey may have more appeal to the general reader or visitor to Kerikeri.