Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 19 (August 1957)
– 36 –

The Story of Three Mission Hostels

Pioneers in the movement to establish hostels for young Maori people in Auckland, the United Maori Mission is specially designed to meet the changing needs of a growing and developing section of the community. The mission has its roots in the rural Maori setting from where they spread to the city stimulated by the movement of Maoris from the country to the towns under the impetus of the wartime emergency.

Three hostels run by the mission function in the city. They are at 60 Shelly Beach Road, Herne Bay. 29 Hepburn Street, Ponsonby, and at 89 Gillies Avenue, Newmarket. Known affectionately as “Heppy”, “Gillies” and “Shelly”, they cater liberally for the spiritual, social and material requirements of the young men and women in them. “Gillies” is the only boys' hostel.

Picture icon

Mixed choir at Gillies Avenue hostel.

The motto of the mission is “All One in Jesus Christ”. These are Christian homes in the truest sense of the term. Every attempt is made to cater for sport, social activities, and Bible training. Supervision in the homes is directed toward adjusting young people to a healthy city life without placing unreasonable restrictions on their outside activities. The fact that the mission authorities are able to find employment and arrange apprenticeships for Maoris in most trades indicates the reputation of the mission for encouraging stability and industry among these who enter its doors.

What else have the hostels to offer young people coming to the city? First of all the buildings are conveniently situated and are noble examples of the elaborate architecture which was a feature of New Zealand cities half-a-century ago. The people

– 37 –

Picture icon

Some girls at Hepburn Street hostel.

who once lived in these homes were devout churchmen and pioneers in industry and commerce who laid the foundations for modern enterprise and progress. The rooms are spacious and airy and are equipped with the comforts and amenities to suit modern requirements.

The activities of the hostels are designed to suit all needs. Parents can rest assured that regulations regarding hours of attendance and general conduct are rigorously enforced. But the happy atmosphere which prevails indicates that these are not unreasonable requirements. There are plenty of trips away in leisure hours—picnics, camps, and visits to other institutions. The way the boarders enter into the cultural life of the hostel is an inspiration. Concerts produce a wealth of variety and talent while Maori culture adds a distinctive note which is healthy, satisfying, and appealing to visitors.

Tea at the hostel is something to remember. Here the family and community spirit is demonstrated in a way which is a worthy example to outsiders. Friends and visitors are welcome at all times and an unannounced arrival never finds the hostel unprepared.

It would be unrealistic in an outline of the services which the hostels provide to omit the important question of payment. The rates of board

Picture icon

Sister Jessie, matron at Hepburn Street.

range from £2/10/- to £3 a week but they are adjusted according to the wages which each person earns. The mission depends almost entirely on this income to maintain its hostels. Unless they are patronised to the full, there is a grave danger of them closing their doors and the Maori people being deprived of facilities which contribute so much to their social, educational and vocational welfare.

There is no more earnest worker for the mission and, through it, for the Maori people than the secretary, Mr L. E. Buckley. He is modest about his achievements, and stresses what others are doing to keep the hostels going.

“There are people”, he says, “who are making great sacrifices for the sake of the spiritual life

Picture icon

At Shelly Beach hostel, the photographer was struck by the cosy, happy atmosphere in which the girls live.

– 38 –

Picture icon

Some of the girls at Shelly spend their spare time doing taniko work.

Picture icon

Physical culture is a popular recreation at the boys' hostel in Gillies Avenue.

Picture icon

A meal with a Maori flavour at Gillies Avenue hostel.

of the Maori”. He gave the example of an elderly pakeha woman who has saved £5 annually out of her pension in order to be able to contribute to the mission funds. As the mission motto implies, the scope of its work is interdenominational and the preaching is evangelical and not doctrinal.

The hostels came about through the zeal and courage of Sister Jessie Alexander, who for many years worked with the Presbyterian Maori mission among the people on the East Coast, in the Urewera Country, and at Taupo, Sister Jessie, who now lives at 25 Eldon Road, Balmoral, Auckland, told about the beginnings of the mission in an interview.

Her work in the country finished, Sister Jessie returned in 1938 from a well-earned holiday in Honolulu to find many young Maoris in Auckland at a loose end and walking the streets, particularly at weekends.

“I could see,” said Sister Jessie, “if we had a house we could help the girls a lot more. They were coming to the city in large numbers to do essential war work and many of them were right from the backblocks.”

As a result of her efforts a hostel for 12 girls was obtained in Union Street. But Sister Jessie realised something had to be done on a larger scale. She approached Mr H. G. R. Mason, who then Minister of Native Affairs. He visited Union Street and saw that this represented the beginning of a worthwhile project and a larger house was warranted.

One evening Sister Jessie took a party of girls to the Presbyterian manse at 29 Hepburn Street. When the minister in charge heard the girls singing he expressed great interest in the work which they had helped to initiate.

– 39 –

Picture icon

Flowers, mirror and girl (Miss Wiki Rota)—a study of hostel life by Peter Blanc.

A girl remarked to him “What a lovely hostel this house would make”. That put the idea in the minister's mind. He approached the Presbytery to see if the home could be sold to the Government for a hostel. The Government of the day sanctioned the purchase and the large home for 26 girls in Ponsonby was handed over to the mission to run.

The Union Street house was filled with boys but the need for a larger house for them soon became apparent. As a result the Government bought the home at 89 Gillies Avenue, which had been used for an American Officers' Club.

The Union Street building was sold and the money used to develop Hepburn Street. There was still a need for more accommodation and Sister Jessie found a suitable house at Shelly's Beach Road, Herne Bay, for which again she received official support.

Are the hostels always full? It appears that there are usually some vacancies for young Maori boys and girls coming to the cities. Parents who are worried about their children's move to the city are able to place them there if they wish. They provide a protection against the impact of city life on young people from the country whose life was previously far more sheltered.


The opening of the Taiporohenui meeting house near Hawera last May was attended by the Minister of Maori Affairs, the Hon. E. B. Corbett, who made this the occasion for his farewell speech to the Maori people of Taranaki.

The meeting house, named Whareroa, was dedicated by the Superintendent of the Methodist Maori mission, the Very Rev. G. Laurenson.

It stands on the site of a formerly very important Taranaki meeting house on the Taiporohenui marae.

The name Taiporohenui was originally given to a very large conference house—180 feet long—which was built in 1853 when the Maori King movement was first mooted. This building be came the first pillar of the movement; others being the beautifully carved storehouse (Pataka) at Wi Tako, Lower Hutt; another at Papawai, near Greytown, under the chief Potangaroa; and still another at Waihiki (Taradale) at the pa of Tareha There was another at Pukawa, Lake Taupo, the pa of Te Heuheu Iwikau.

Three other meeting houses of the same name (Taiporohenui) have been built since the original one was destroyed by fire.

– 40 –

Picture icon

A Passion Play was presented by girls of St Joseph's College, Green-meadows, at the Easter festival arranged by the Federated Catholic Maori Clubs at Hastings last Easter. Above are some of the cast. With more than 1,000 people attending, and a great variety of religious, cultural and sports activities, this gathering, presided over by Mr Hikaia Amohia of Taumarunui, was a great success. (Russell Orr Photograph.)

Picture icon

Notable overseas visitor with a special interest in Maori dancing was Miss Katherine Dunham seen here taking part in an action song performed by students of Auckland University College. Her tour this season revealed to many for the first time the great dancing traditions of South America and Africa. She took with her from New Zealand Mr and Mrs Kahu Karaitiana of Kaiapoi. He will sing and his wife will be a wardrobe mistress. (N.Z. Herald Photograph.)