Mayor Marchbank and Dick Himona

After the opening of the memorial in 1961, Masterton's mayor W.L. Marchbank and iwi representative Dick Himona carefully removed the capsule containing the covenant.

Statue 1921

The statue was erected in Masterton Park in 1921, following a hui held at Te Ore Ore marae to discuss the prophecies of Paora Potangaroa.

statue in 2001

On March 16, 2001, the statue was opened again, and the covenant between Maori and pakeha was restored during a special ceremony.

click images to enlarge



Te Ore Ore marae was a hive of activity in early 1881. Te Potangaroa, the chief who had built the meeting house Nga Tau E Waru on the site, and who was regarded by many Wairarapa Maori as a prophet, called his people to the marae to hear him tell of a vision he had received. As well as gathering to hear the words of Paora (Paul) Potangaroa the meeting was also to celebrate a meeting held in the same spot in 1841 when a decision was made to follow Christianity.

Thousands of visitors made their way to the marae from early March for the hui on March 16, 1881. A contingent of Napier Maori were met at the outskirts of Masterton and escorted to the marae by the Masterton Brass Band. There were said to be 52 buggies and 60 horsemen and horsewomen in the party. Food was also gathered and stored in an enormous 'big pyramid,' said to have been 50 metres long, 3 metres wide and a metre and a half high.

On the 16th Potangaroa unveiled a flag that he had seen in a dream, and asked those assembled to give their interpretation of the flag, which had a deep black border containing sixteen stars in the centre, with chequer work on the right, and clothing painted onto material on the left. Various chiefs came forward with their interpretations of the flag, but there was no unanimity about its meaning. Potangaroa died shortly after this large meeting, and was buried on his ancestral lands at Mataikona. Before he died, however, he made certain predictions about the coming of a new church that would fill the needs of Maori. A covenant was drawn up by the scribe Ranginui Kingi, setting out his prophecies, and sealed beneath a marble memorial stone erected inside the Nga Tau E Waru house, along with various artefacts.

Among the predictions that Potangaroa is recorded as having made was one concerning the coming of a special church for Maori. "There is a religious denomination coming for us; perhaps it will come from there, perhaps it will emerge here. Secondly, let the churches into the house - there will be a time when a religion will emerge for you and I and the Maori people." Potangaroa also predicted a number of other signs would let Wairarapa Maori know that his prophecy had been fulfilled within the next forty years.

Shortly after this prediction the missionaries of the LDS Church arrived and many local Maori became Mormons, believing Potangaroa had predicted their arrival. Over the years other churches, including Ringatu and Ratana also claimed he had predicted their arrival. Another church, this time a home-grown church, strongly based in Wairarapa, was also to claim that Potangaroa had predicted its coming.

The Church of the Seven Rules of Jehovah was founded by Simon Patete, a Ngati Kuia chief from Havelock, in Marlborough in the mid 1890s. His church, again founded following a prophetic dream, was quickly taken up by Wairarapa Maori and was soon more popular in this area than in its area of origin.

The local leader of the church was the Ngai Tumapuhiarangi chief Taiawhio Te Tau, who was also active in the Maori Council, being Chairman of the Rongokako Council, which covered the area from Dannevirke to Cook Strait. As the church grew in strength in Wairarapa churches were constructed at Tauweru, Mataikona and Homewood. The church at Homewood, known as Manga Moria, has recently been renovated and restored.

In 1921 local Maori realised that the forty year anniversary of Potangaroa's prophecies was approaching, and that another hui should be held to discuss whether his predictions had come to pass. A hui was called for at Te Ore Ore, in the meeting house Nga Tau E Waru, which still contained the monument to Potangaroa, and his covenant.

The meeting was called by the Rongokako Council. As Potangaroa’s flag flew outside the people gathered for the hui discussed how the advent of Christianity had brought peace to Wairarapa, making it the only area in New Zealand where there had been no blood shed between Maori and pakeha.

The meeting decided to mark the fortieth anniversary of Potangaroa's covenant by placing another covenant in another monument. This time, though, the monument was to be erected in Masterton Park, rather than at Te Ore Ore. A special statue was commissioned and a large ceremony was held in Masterton Park, at which Taiawhio Te Tau represented the Maori race, and Masterton's mayor, O.N.C. Pragnell, represented the European race. In the ceremony great stress was placed on the peace that existed between Maori and pakeha in Wairarapa, and the harmonious way that the two races co-existed.

The statue was made of Italian marble, and featured the form of an angel. A special cavity was drilled into the front of the marble plinth holding the angel, to allow for photographs of members of the British Royal family to be placed on show. A cavity was also made in the base, leaving room for a new covenant to be placed inside the monument. The covenant once placed within the monument was not to be seen for another forty years.

Meanwhile other changes were taking place at Te Ore Ore.

The prophet T.W. Ratana had started his movement in 1920 and was gaining many adherents. Many in Maoridom wondered whether it could have been his church that Potangaroa had spoken of in 1881. In 1928 Ratana paid a visit to Te Ore Ore, and while at Nga Tau E Waru removed Potangaroa's memorial stone from inside the meetinghouse and placed it outside. The covenant, which had been carefully placed inside the monument, had become so damaged as to be unreadable. Fortunately, in 1881 it had been photographed before being sealed inside the marble monument.

About this time Potangaroa's flag went missing, and shortly after that the loving cup cemented to the top of the Potangaroa monument fell to the ground in the 1931 earthquake. Ratana's actions in removing the stone, at the request of many Wairarapa people, increased his mana in the eyes of many Wairarapa Maori, and the Church of the Seven Rules of Jehovah lost many of its followers. Taiawhio Te Tau, the bishop of the church, left to become a follower of Ratana.

In 1939 the meetinghouse Nga Tau E Waru burnt to the ground, destroying the famed carvings and drawings it held. A new house was built following World War Two, and named Nga Tau E Waru, in honour of the old house.

As March 16, 1961 approached thoughts turned once again to Potangaroa's predictions, and to the covenant placed within the stone in what was now called Queen Elizabeth Park. By now the stone was looking a little worse for wear, and over the years it had developed a lean. Local historian Keith Cairns agitated to have a formal ceremony to open the monument, and to update the covenant placed within it, but he could not convince the then Masterton Borough Council.

Eventually the monument was opened, with a minimum of fuss, in July and the covenant was removed from its hiding place in the base. Once again the records were damaged, and the partially rotted papers were taken to Alexander Turnbull Library where attempts were made to repair them. The little that could be read of the covenant made it clear that they had been placed in the base by the members of the Church of the Seven Rules of Jehovah.

At the time of the opening another set of papers was deposited in the base of the statue, there to remain until March 16, 2001, when the monument was once again opened, and the covenant renewed in a special ceremony.

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