New Zealand Church apologises for its role in Maori land grabs during the colonial era

Bishops from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia listen as the apology is read(Photo: Anglican Taonga)

The Anglican Church of New Zealand has apologised to the Maori people of Tauranga for forced land possessions in the 1800s.

The original inhabitants, the Ngati Tapu and Ngai Tamarawaho clans, had entrusted 1333 acres of their land to the Church Missionary Society but in 1866 this was handed over to the Crown.

The magazine of the Anglican Church of New Zealand, Anglican Taonga, reports that the apology was read during a service on Saturday by Pihopa (Bishop) Ngarahu Katene and Archbishop Philip Richardson, two of the most senior figures in the Church.

Archbishop Richardson read the apology in English while Pihopa Katene read it in the Maori language.

The Archbishop then kneeled down and presented the document, sealed with the Primates' seal, to elders of the Ngati Tapu and Ngai Tamarawaho clans.

'With heads hung low, two of the most senior bishops of this church apologised,' Anglican Taonga said.

'True, the CMS had come under intolerable pressure from the Crown to sell out. But that land was not CMS's to sell, nor to give away – but once given, it was gone forever, and the [two Maori clans] were thrown into poverty.'

Bishop of Waiapu, the Rt Rev Andrew Hedge, said the members of the Anglican Church of New Zealand attending the service 'bring to this day the representative grief of a nation of Anglican bishops, clergy and laity'.

'We come with solemn sadness that the events of the past have cast such a long shadow on the generations that have followed and left a legacy of injustice and controversy,' he said.

'We come in the anticipation that this act of repentance may help to shine a light of reconciliation across this whenua (land).'

The apology was agreed upon by a meeting of the General Synod in May this year where Bishop Hedge said he had 'never before experienced the palpable sense of overwhelming grief that was present'.