1814-1904 (aged 91)
Buried at St John’s
Tututotara, north of Marton.
His epitaph says: “I have finished my course. I have kept my faith.”
Early in 1837 a sickly, thin Octavius Hadfield decided to become a missionary. His Church Missionary Society (CMS) application said, he expected to die early, and the sooner he did something useful like preaching the gospel in faraway lands, the better it would be for all.
He was the first missionary to become a deacon in Australasia, the first priest to be ordained in New Zealand at the age of 25-years and ultimately the first democratically elected Primate of New Zealand late in his life when the Anglican Church broke away from the Church of England and severed its ties to the English Crown and State.
From his arrival on the Kapiti Coast at the request of cousins Katu (Tamihana) Te Rauparaha and Matene Te Whiwhi in 1939 he remained a vigilant battler for justice on behalf of Maori. He ordained the first Maori priests; Riwai Te Ahu and Rota Waitoa were in the Kapiti cousins first Bible school before the missionaries arrived.
Hadfield was considered one of the most hated men in New Zealand for opposing Governor Gore Browne’s actions in invading Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitaake’s Waitara lands in 1860.
Kingi had protected Wellington against the potential of a major attack
from Te Rangihaeata and Te Rauparaha before taking his people back to Taranaki in 1848. When he returned to his ancestral homeland the pressure was on to acquire more land to meet the New Zealand Company’s land quota. He wouldn’t sell to Governor Grey and instead turned the land into a tribal enterprise that was successful with cropping, farming and selling produce to New Plymouth.
When Gore Browne accepted an offer from Te Teira who claimed he owned the land it was accepted despite Kingi’s protests. When 60 old women were sent to pull out the surveyors pegs Browne had already prepared a full military response. He declared martial law before a shot had been fired and the next day ordered up warships and troops from Auckland. The British fired the first shots and the first stage of the Taranaki land wars had been blundered into.
When Kingi and his Te Atiawa people and their allies resisted, in came the big guns and Waitara and ultimately Warea’ the pa of Te Whiti and Tohu - another industrious village that produced wheat, flour and produce for New Plymouth - was bombarded into the dust because they sympathised and were flying the King movement flag.
Hadfield and other missionaries were incensed. He waged a media campaign against the declaration of martial law and the bombardment of Waitara and Warea. He wrote to local newspapers, and to influential people in England.
While Hadfield’s campaign eventually resulted in Gore Browne being sacked the events at Waitara led to a chain reaction and 30-years of ongoing wars and skirmishes throughout Taranaki, Whanganui, Waikato Tauranga and along the East Coast.
The very politicians who ignored or vilified Hadfield when he tried to explain Maori customary rights and the injustice at Waitara eventually apologised and admitted they could have saved millions of pounds in the cost of the wars if they had taken his advice and simply investigated the true ownership of the land rather than insisting on upholding a claim that was later found to be false.
Hadfield was a humble, wise, thoughtful, scholarly man who preferred to minister in Maori to Maori rather than reading a sermon to Pakeha from his pulpit. On his retirement his daughters found him tending a bonfire in his backyard and on asking what he was doing he informed them he was burning all the things he had written about politicians so his family wouldn’t face libel challenges after he was gone.
Octavius Hadfield retired to Marton after a long and eventful career where he lived with family for 11-years.