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Methodist influence flows through Rehua Marae

When Methodist Conference 2005 convenes in Christchurch this November the welcoming powhiri will take place at Rehua Marae.

Located near the heart of the city, Rehua has been a pivotal place for Maori in Canterbury during the post World War II era. Last month it entered a fresh phase as the building that gave rise to the marae was razed to make way for a new development.

Secretary of the Rehua Marae trustboard, Dr Terry Ryan says the Methodist Mission purchased the land on which the marae sits after the war to create to accommodation for the young Maori who were beginning to move to the city.

“Rev WE Falkingham, of the Methodist Central Mission Christchurch and Rev Wira Couch and Joe Moss from the Maori Methodist Mission went to a hui in Ngaruawahia and saw the hostel for girls Te Puea had established in Hamilton. They were so impressed, they acquired the property to build a hostel at Rehua.

“They named it Te Maire after the early Methodist missionary Rawiri Te Maire. It opened as a hostel for girls in 1952 but after discussions between the Mission and the Department of Maori Affairs, it was decided to convert it to a hostel for boys taking part in the Maori Trade Training Scheme.”

Rev Falkingham and Wira Couch went to Wairoa, Mahia, and Poverty Bay to recruit the first boys for the training programme. They came to Christchurch to learn to be painters, mechanics, and carpenters in a programme jointly run by the Methodist Central Mission, Ngai Tahu elders, and Christchurch Polytech. Over the years, many of those who came to the Garden City stayed on after their training, changing the ethnic makeup of the city.

Rehua’s meeting house opened in 1957. Henare Toka from Kaipara did the carvings and local Ngai Tahu and Pakeha women made the tukutuku panels. Terry says Henare was chosen to do the carvings because he was an apotoro (apostle) of the Ratana church.

Throughout its history the meeting house has been used to hold both Methodist and Ratana services, and this continues today.

In the 1960s another hostel was built adjacent to Te Maire as the training scheme expanded to cover other trades. Terry is one of the thousands of old boys who passed through the training scheme before it ended in 1982.

Te Maire was later used as an administration block for social service providers and it served as the first kohanga reo in the South Island. However, time took its toll on the building, and demolition of it began last month.

A brief blessing and service of commemoration of Te Maire took place on Sunday, June 19th following Rehua’s monthly Ratana service. Ratana minister Rev James Robinson, Christchurch Methodist Mission superintendent Rev Michael Greer, and Terry led the service.

Te Maire will be replaced with community housing, opening a new stage in the life of the Rehua Marae.

Several years ago the Methodist Mission transferred title of the property to the Rehua Marae Trust Board. Today the Methodist Te Taha Maori has three representatives on the marae’s trust board, Maera Couch, Kathy Stuart, and Terry. Others on the trust board are representatives of the nine Ngai Tahu runanga in Canterbury and old boys from the trade training scheme.

So when Methodists assemble on Rehua Marae, they will stand on a place that springs from the Church’s tradition of social development.