Whiteley_Street.jpg Whiteley Street sign (2014). Mike Gooch. Word on the Street image collection.

Whiteley St sits in the heart of an area once known as Whiteley Township. In 1840 the local iwi, Ngāti Te Whiti, sold 36.5 hectares (90 acres) of land in Moturoa to the Wesleyan Missionary Society. The Wesleyans established an education institution for Māori children, the Grey Institute, run by Wesleyan Missionaries, one of whom was the Rev John Whiteley.

In 1903 a decision was made to subdivide much of the block for leasehold settlement. Not only was a street named after Whiteley, but the area itself was named Whiteley Township.

More recently, some residents have taken the opportunity to freehold their sections, although a number of leases remain in place.

John Whiteley was born in Kneesall, Nottinghamshire in 1806. After completing his theological training, he left for New Zealand in 1832.

One of his early postings was Kawhia, where he established a mission station. Whiteley impressed his superiors with his genuine contribution to Māori welfare.

In 1856, following his success in Kawhia, Whiteley was dispatched to an increasingly unsettled Taranaki. Once here, he was placed in charge of the mission school at Ngamotu.

The turmoil in Taranaki restricted his missionary work, and the government made use of him as a translator and adviser in disputes over land ownership. Early on, Whiteley had supported customary native land tenure, but in Taranaki he increasingly supported the settlers' desire to purchase unoccupied land.

In one of the final acts of the Taranaki wars, Whiteley was killed at Pukearuhe on 13 February 1869, at the hands of a Ngāti Maniapoto war party.

He had ridden north from New Plymouth to conduct a service at the redoubt for local military settlers. Although warned not to proceed, he chose to, and arrived to find the settlers dead.

Unfortunately, Whiteley was then also shot and killed. A memorial erected in 1923, on the site of his death, was removed in October 2006 and replaced by a roadside memorial nearby.

Another monument to him still stands in Te Hēnui cemetery, and, of course, the impressive Whiteley Memorial Church on the corner of Liardet and Courtenay Streets also celebrates this respected clergyman.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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