Topic: Tauranga Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pā)

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For many years the cemetery was referred to as the Military Cemetery. There are monuments to the Naval Brigade, the 43rd Monmouth Regiment, and a mass Māori grave. Rawiri Puhirake, leader of the iwi at Gate Pā, who was killed at Te Ranga, was exhumed and reinterred here in 1874. Hori Ngatai, whose account of Gate Pā appears in Mair's The Story of Gate Pā, was buried here when he died in 1912.

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For burials in Tauranga Mission Cemetery visit this page: Burials in Tauranga Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pā).

  • Otamataha Pa was first visited in the 1820s by the early missionaries from the Bay of Islands looking for supplies. It is situated in a commanding position overlooking the harbour entrance and Mauao.
  • The pa was abandoned after most of its inhabitants were killed in 1828 by Ngāti Maru raiders from the Thames district.
  • Reverend Alfred Brown returned in 1835 and chose the northern end of the Te Papa peninsula as the site for a mission station.
  • The Mission Cemetery is the oldest European cemetery in the Bay of Plenty. Until 1864 only there were only three burials here, Anne Wilson, wife of missionary John Alexander Wilson, Marsh Brown, son of Alfred and Charlotte Brown, and Irihapeti, wife of trader John Lees Faulkner.
  • The cemetery contains the graves of about 55 military men killed in the engagements around Tauranga and 14 Maori warriors who died at the battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga. A memorial stone was erected on the mass grave in 1997.
  • Today the cemetery, now closed for burials, is a tranquil space for both Maori and Pakeha to rest in peace.

This northern point of the Te Papa peninsula was once the site of Ngāti Tapu's busy Otamataha Pā. In 1828, a raid by Ngāti Maru from the Thames district led to the death of most of the inhabitants, and the abandonment of the pā. Bones dating from this time are still sometimes found when erosion of the cliffs occurs. 

Mission Cemetary

Mission Cemetery (2000s)

When the nearby Mission Station was established in 1838, this tapu (sacred) area was chosen by the missionaries as a suitable place for a graveyard. The first burial took place all too soon. Ann Catherine Wilson, wife of one of the missionaries, died of breast cancer in November of that year. 

As well as the graves of mission families, monuments in the cemetery tell the story of soldiers, sailors and Maori who died during the Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga in 1864; enemies in battle, but all equally honoured in death. Whilst the graves were being dug, a greenstone mere was unearthed, known by the name of Te Raukaraka (pounamu mere) due to it being made from a rare kind of greenstone resembling in colour the leaves of the karaka tree. It belonged to the Tauranga chief Koraurau, who held Otamataha Pā. In 1828, he gave the mere to Gilbert Mair (Snr), father of Gilbert Mair, during a visit to Tauranga in the mission schooner Herald.  Mair (Snr) left the mere for a short time in the care of Koraurau, but on his return found that Otamataha Pā had been decimated and Koraurau killed. Nothing more was heard of the mere until after the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864, when some soldiers, who were digging graves for their fallen comrades, unearthed it. The mere was identified and handed over to Koraurau's son Hohepa Te Mea, who gave it to Captain Mair in pursuance of his father's promise. Auckland Museum now holds the mere.

Although Mission Cemetery was officially closed in 1881, some of the early settlers and their families were also buried here. In May 2014, one month after the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gate Pa, the cemetery was part of a 7863 square metre site transferred from the New Zealand Mission Trust to the Otamataha Trust - the Hapu of Ngati Tapu and Ngaitamarawaho.


Further links:

A visit to the Cemetery at Te Papa (New Zealander, 1 June 1864).

Burials in Tauranga Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pā).

Historic Tauranga cemetery returned to Maori (Bay of Plenty Times, 29 May 2014).

New Zealand Wars Monuments at Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pā).

This page was archived at perma cc January 2017

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Tauranga Mission Cemetery (Otamataha Pā)

City:Tauranga, New Zealand

Latitude and Longitude coordinates: -37.6750791,176.17000299999995

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