Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
295:  The Beginning and End of Church College of New Zealand:  Witehira & Puriri

295: The Beginning and End of Church College of New Zealand: Witehira & Puriri

Photo Credit: Parry Kauri Park, Warkworth, New Zealand by jdegenhardt

Church College of New Zealand, which was opened in 1958, had a short life by education standards.  For 52 years it served the mostly Māori Mormon LDS community.  But, in a swirl of confusion, it was finally closed in 2009 and demolished.

The school’s motto was ‘Build Now For Eternity’ which motivated many Māori Mormons to contribute money, material resources and years of labour for the building of the school.  Today, despite promises to develop the land and reinvigorate the community of Temple View, few of the promised improvements which were offered to replace a much-beloved school have been realised.

Peter Witehira,  former Chair of the Temple View Heritage Committee, and Rā Puriri join me to discuss the beginning and end of Church College of New Zealand.

Video promoting the LDS Church’s Temple View redevelopment and envisaging.

Link to Aue te Aroha by St Joseph’s Maori Girls’ College)


  1. Church College of NZ was the flag-staff of the LDS Church in New Zealand and Maori made significant sacrifices in the construction of the school in terms of donation of time, labour and gifts of money, food and logs from the Waipoua Forest. I had two uncles in the McKay whanau who volunteered as labour missionaries in building the school. When it was announced in 2006 that CCNZ would be closing the school in 2009 it was a sad day for many of us who were former students including myself. I was told by brother Tipi Arthur that the decision for the closure of the school was decided by the leadership of the LDS Church here in Aotearoa New Zealand and not from Salt Lake City.

  2. Amiria Phillipps

    I look back on my years as a boarding student and am grateful for the lessons learned there. They proved invaluable after I left its environs and still now I see that I did ‘build for eternity’ as a wife, mother and Nanny. The CCNZ legacy still lives on. Years later I was saddened to see the state of the place and what had become of it. Our people did not appreciate the gift we had in latter years. We had a pearl that lost its lustre and we were undeserving of it. I thought the decision to close was the right one for the Lord will always take away even that which we have when we do not use it properly. Are we still trying to ‘steady the ark?’

  3. Paul Andrews

    We lived at the camp when my uncles were building the college. They sacrificed time & money to do this, so that 50yrs later, it cld be razed to the ground? How long-sited was that?

  4. Bryant

    I am having a difficult time trying to find the right words to describe my feelings about this topic. My uncle was Brother B, and he is such a large figure in our family. My Grandma spent time in New Zealand during the building of the temple and college and told me so many great stories of the building of the college which always made me so proud of uncle George. George himself also told me some interesting stories about his time there with Bro. Mendenhall. I remember visiting with him in California and before we knew it, he had us down as the local chapel doing remodeling work (back when local members actually did those kinds of things). I knew the kind of man he was and the work ethic he had. Let me tell you that as your guests said, the buildings were put together correctly. George would have made sure that everything was in proper order before ever letting the job be called done. He never would have let anything, however small, not be done correctly and to the highest standard, even if no one would ever see it. The ridiculousness of saying that the master beam was unbolted is purely someone stretching a story for their agenda. It is also such a backhand to those who gave their time and money to actually go and do the building. They believed and sacrificed, but ultimately were lied to.

    George had a contract in San Diego to do some work on the restoration of the buildings in Balboa park. He took me to his company where they were casting the moldings for the buildings and I saw the level of detail and precision he put into his work so it would be perfect, even if hardly seen by anyone as they visited the park. He was so meticulous that he overdid it, and he made little money on that project. Before moving from Salt Lake to San Diego, he was building a cabin in the mountains east of Salt Lake. We visited there a few times and although I was fairly young, the level of precision put into that place was one that was obvious.

    I am so disgusted by what the church did in NZ by closing the college (for starters), and then the lies told in order to accomplish their goals. I, for one, am coming to the opinion that that the church is really a real estate business masquerading as a church. I see so little of the hand of a loving God in so many of their actions in the last decade or so. I believe that a loving god would not care about the potential money to be gained as he would the continuing education of so many wonderful people that would go to the CCNZ. After seeing what the church has done in Hawaii, it seems that what is important is the gain from things like the hotels and the Polynesian Cultural Center. The same goes for projects like the Gateway center in SLC and now projects around the US and in other places in the world.

    Thanks for discussing this topic and also a big thanks to all those who bravely fought to keep the college open. Things like this are just usually not known or talked about here in the intermountain west, and I’m glad to see this.

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