Topic: St George’s Anglican Memorial Church (Gate Pa)

Topic type:

The first St George's church was built in 1900 as a memorial to the battle. The church was extensively damaged by fire in 1982, and virtually destroyed by fire in 1992. The present church dates from 1993.

Looking strange? see an archived version here

This content is from a 2011 essay on the Battle of Gate Pa by Debbie McCauley:  Identity and the Battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina), 29 April 1864.

A piece of land lying to the east of the main highway was gazetted as a domain and on 23 August 1880 Canon Jordan requested part of it be made available for a church. Land was also made available for the Gate Pā Tennis Club in 1953 and the Gate Pā Bowling Club (Cable, 2009). The bodies of Māori killed during the Battle of Gate Pā are buried on the western slopes below where the bowling green is now situated. St George’s Memorial Church was erected in 1900 virtually on the site of the pā.[2] In 1986 it was damaged by fire and due to an electrical fault burnt down completely in 1992. A new church was rebuilt in 1993 and a stained glass window (designed by Rita Haagh) was added to the west wall depicting Te Kiri Karamu giving water to wounded British soldiers (St George’s Church, 2010, p. 3) further reinforcing identity with her story.

St Georges Church Gate Pa c 1910 99-110

St Georges Church Gate Pa (c1910) (Tauranga City Libraries) 

A series of three Tukutuku panels (designed by Lee Netana) were installed in St George’s Church in 2011. They serve to affirm a strong Māori identity within the church. All three relate to the Battle of Gate Pā:

  • Panel 1: Tukutuku Tuatahi, Te Pakanga – The Conflict (2011). ‘The first panel represents the Battle of Gate Pā, the green colouring symbolising the whenua/land where the battle took place. The centre pattern symbolises the different peoples and communities that were involved in this conflict.’
  • Panel 2: Tukutuku Tuarua, Te Whakawhitiwhiti – The Transition (2011). ‘The second panel depicts the transition process between conflict and peace. The central pattern of green and blue symbolises a pathway towards peace, which all peoples and communities within the conflict must meet for the peace to be lasting. The purple patterns each side of the pathway represents a time of negotiation and parley. The black and yellow squares are symbolic of the peoples and communities that are not directly involved in the conflict or negotiations, but affected by the whole process and ultimately the outcome, for better or worse.’
  • Panel 3: Tukutuku Tuatoru, Moungarongo – Goodwill (2011). ‘This third panel represents, not the ending of the story, but the ongoing journey that all cultures travel to make their communities safe, healthy and happy’ (St George’s Church, 2011, para. 1-3).

St George's Church Gate Pa 06-235 

An enduring identity: the Gate Pā site today

Today, the site of the Battle of Gate Pā is a reserve with minimal evidence of fortification. At the top of a rise next to St George’s Church is a memorial marking one end of the defensive line. Organised by the Tauranga Historical Society this was unveiled during 1964 centennial commemorations along with a flagpole, cairn and brass plaque. According to Maclean & Phillips (1990) the marker perpetuates ‘Pākehā myths and biases’ (p. 40) which are quite likely offensive to Māori when it reads ‘this plaque commemorates the chivalry displayed by both Māori and Pākehā, which has helped unite the two races.’ This is a patronising fallacy, born from an outdated paternalistic attitude. It is one which also adorns Puhirake’s monument (1914) which states; ‘The seeds of better feeling between the two races thus sown on the battlefield have since borne ample fruit: disaffection has given place to loyalty, and hostility to friendship, British and Māori now living together as one united people.’ Belich (1998) discusses the ‘romantic legend of Gate Pā as the epitome of the spirit of Christian chivalry in which the war was allegedly fought. Complimentary as this was to the Māoris, it operated to obscure their other achievements’ (p. 186). These unbalanced sentiments and the myth of a harmonious relationship were thrown into disarray by the Māori protests that were to come later.

More recent memorials such as the 1997: Tauranga Maori New Zealand Wars memorial and informative signs erected at the battle site in 2010 appear more sincere and honest. Maclean & Phillips (1990) confront the issue when they state, ‘the question facing us is whether the time has come to destroy the offensive monuments and the offensive texts of the past – or whether we should keep them as a record of past Pākehā attitudes, and build for ourselves new memorials’ (p. 43).

Carved tomokanga at the site of the Battle of Gate PaOn Sunday, 29 April 2007, a carved tomokanga (a welcome to all people onto a sacred place) was added to the Gate Pā site marking the anniversary of the battle. The carvings were designed in consultation with Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Rangainui and Ngāti Pukenga iwi. A 40-hour marathon of carving, directed by Tauranga master carver James (Hemi) Tapiata, was carried out from 4pm on Friday April 27, an event which this author witnessed with her children on April 28. The amo (vertical figures) depict Tu, the God of War, and Rongo, the God of Peace. The maihi (barge boards) symbolise the hokioi (now an extinct bird). Tapiata explains that the tomokanga is ‘the first Māori symbolism going onto the site’ (Tapiata, as cited by Udy, 2007, p. 4) and as such it serves to reaffirm Māori identity.


 St George's Church Gate Pa 06-239

This page was arrchived at Perma cc April 2017 

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

St George’s Anglican Memorial Church (Gate Pa)


Latitude and Longitude coordinates: -37.7183842,176.13949779999996

javascript needs to be on to use Google Maps