Toku Toru Tapu Church, Kaiti

Stone church set on grassy hill

Toku Toru Tapu Church at the foot of Kaiti Hill, Gisborne, was originally conceived as a war memorial church. In March 1919 the Poverty Bay Herald carried a series of advertisements requesting tenders for a building that was described as a 'Reinforced Concrete Maori War Memorial Church' in Hirini Street, Kaiti. This was intended to replace the original church at Te Poho o Rāwiri marae. It would be a memorial to the fallen soldiers of Ngāti Oneone.

However, in 1923, before the church could be built, the Gisborne Harbour Board embarked on an ambitious scheme to expand and enlarge the Gisborne harbour. In 1927 it compulsorily acquired the site of Te Poho o Rāwiri marae for its Kaiti Basin development. The compensation was used to re-establish the marae on its present site at the corner of Ranfurly Street and Queens Drive.

The new marae was opened on 11 March 1930. It was soon decided to build a substantial church nearby, using both the plans of and funds raised for the proposed memorial church. On 10 January 1936 Dr H.W. Williams, Bishop of Waiapu, laid the foundation stone of the new church. On 6 March 1936, Dr Williams and F.A. Bennett, the Bishop of Aotearoa, dedicated the completed Toku Toru Tapu ('Church of the Holy Trinity').

There is no indication that Toku Toru Tapu was dedicated as a war memorial church at the time (in any case, in 1926 St Mary's at Tikitiki, up the Coast, had been consecrated as a memorial to all Māori soldiers of the region who had died in World War I). However, during the ceremony a memorial to the late Mrs Katerina Hei, who had been instrumental both in securing funds for the church and in reviving the project, was unveiled. The obelisk stands outside the church near its western entrance. Its inscription reads: "He / Whakamaharatanga / Kia / Katerina Hei / I mate i te 11 o Akuhata / 1935 / Nga tau e 58 / He wahine aroha ngakau / Mahaki a / I mahi I nga mahi nunui mo te iwi."

See: ‘To builders … Maori war memorial church’ [public notice], Poverty Bay Herald, 26/3/1919, p. 1; 'Building notes: Kaiti, Gisborne', Progress, 1/4/1919, p. 485;  ‘Maori memorial: new church at Kaiti’NZ Herald, 2/4/1919, p. 10; Native Land Amendment and Native Land Claims Adjustment Act 1927, s 51; 'New Maori church building at Kaiti', Poverty Bay Herald, 21/1/1936, p. 13; 'Kaiti church', Gisborne Times, 28/2/1936, p. 5; 'New Maori church: dedication on Kaiti', Gisborne Times, 7/3/1936, p. 5; Philip Whyte, Gisborne's Battle for a Harbour: A History of the Gisborne Harbour Board, Gisborne, 1984, p. 86

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