Eru Potaka-Dewes

Ngāti Porou

1939 -

Eru Potaka-Dewes was born in Hicks Bay and was educated at Waiorongomai Māori School, Te Karaka School, and Matawai School. He was one of the original foundation members and first Māori student at Lindisfarne College where he won the "most improved in Latin" prize. He continued his studies at the University of Canterbury and graduated with a B.A. in 1962 and with an M.A. from the University of Otago in 1963. Dewes studied theology at St John’s College, Auckland, and in 1967 was ordained an Anglican priest. From 1967-1971 Potaka-Dewes was Curate in the Wellington Māori Pastorate. He married Kiri Haira; they have two children and three plus mokopuna. They spent fifteen years in Australia where Potaka-Dewes obtained a Dip. Tchg. and taught for many years in Western Australia. On his return to New Zealand he was appointed Head of Māori at Edgewater College, and subsequently Deputy Principal at Nga Tapuewae College. In 1985 he was appointed Officiating Minister in the Diocese of Auckland. He worked for the Māori Anglican Mission and was appointed Chaplain to Carrington Hospital and Chaplain to Middlemore Hospital. In 1990 Potaka-Dewes was awarded a Licentiate in Theology (L.Th) by Te Pihopatanga O Aotearoa. In 1993 he successfully auditioned for a major role in Kevin Costner’s film "Rapanui" (Easter Island). He is currently a Certificated Teacher at Te Kura Kaupapa o Ruamata, Rotorua, Assistant Priest for Te Pihopatanga O Aotearoa in Te Pariha o Te Ngae, Rotorua, and Lecturer at Te Papapa, Rotorua (The Theological College of Te Pihopatanga). Potaka-Dewes was an early critic of Tomorrow’s Schools and its impact on the Māori educational scene and wrote a number of papers on this and other educational issues. Some of these unpublished papers are held by Graham Smith at Auckland University. The Auckland Diocesan Archives holds a copy of Potaka-Dewes’ sermon preached on the eve of the retirement of Archdeacon Taki Marsden.

Biographical sources

  • Correspondence with Potaka-Dewes, Feb 1993, 9 and 16 Mar. 1998.
  • Phone conversation with Potaka-Dewes, 12 June 1998.
  • Te Hahi O Te Porowini O Niu Tireni: Church Of the Province of New Zealand: Clerical Directory, 1988. No details.


  • Kaumatua Council Report: Mt Eden Prison 12 January, 1991. No further details.
  • Potaka-Dewes writes a report of the visit of the Kaumatua Council to Mt Eden Prison on 12 January 1991. He reports on the inmates’ views of the proposed 15-hour lock-up, visit cut-back, tangihanga leave, and the relationship between inmates and wardens. Potaka-Dewes writes a general overview of the living conditions of the prison which he deems ‘appalling’. Potaka-Dewes was chair of the Kaumatua Council and wrote and presented this Report to the Justice Department during the week of riots and fires at Mt. Eden.
  • Other

  • He Tono na Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa ki Te Ohu Kai-Moana Me Nga Ropu-a-Iwi, me Nga Iwi Tuturu o Te Motu. No further details.
  • In this letter dated 17 March 1988, Potaka-Dewes, on behalf of Right Reverend Whakahuihui Vercoe, writes an alternative arbitration solution to the current Ohu Kai-Moana High Court litigations. The proposal suggests that Māori withdraw from High Court litigations and draw upon the resources of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa for arbitration, mediation and reconciliation ‘as a process to determine effective Māori solutions to complex Māori issues’. A framework of how that arbitration could take place is outlined.
  • Papers/Presentations

  • "Māori Illness and Healing." Mental Health: A Case For Reform. Papers presented by John Dawson et al; commentaries presented by D. Finnigan et al. [Auckland, N.Z.]: Legal Research Foundation, 1986. No further details.
  • In this paper presented at the University of Auckland on 5 September 1986, Potaka-Dewes discusses two kinds of illness that affect Māori: Mate Māori (Māori Illness) resulting from infringement of tapu restrictions or presence of some form of evil, and Mate Pakeha (Pakeha illness) referring to diseases introduced by Pakeha which can include issues like racism. Potaka-Dewes cites two examples of institutionalised racism and concludes by looking at issues of healing in the community.
  • "Copy of a speech delivered at McLaurin Hall University of Auckland, N.Z. in support of the Palestinian Struggle in Israel - April 1989." Te Iwi o Aotearoa 25 (Sept. 1989): 22.
  • Potaka-Dewes discusses land ownership in Aotearoa, the meaning of tangata whenua and an outline of the tangata whenua’s struggle to see Treaty of Waitangi promises honoured by the Crown, for access to resources and decision making rights at all levels of government, and for Māori to regain sovereignty over their own destiny and rights.
  • "Gulf War Comments." Te Iwi o Aotearoa 41 (Feb. 1991): 3.
  • Potaka-Dewes writes one of a series of Māori responses to the Gulf War. He calls for Māori not to get involved in the Gulf War and asserts that Māori have to fight for their own liberation for tino rangātiratanga and the honouring of the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • "Sovereignty Lecture Series: An Article On The Rotowhio Occupation." Ed. Sheryl Smith and Moana Sinclair. Auckland, N.Z.: Te Kawao Maro, 1995. No further details.
  • A paper presented at the University of Auckland for Te Kawao Maro - the student Māori society.
  • "The Politics of Clones." Nga Tai Puhoro 2 (Feb./Mar. 1998): n.pag.
  • In this critique of the New Zealand First political party Potaka-Dewes maintains that the new group of New Zealand First Māori politicians have the appearance of being clones of Winston Peters with little benefit to Māori. Potaka-Dewes discusses why he predicts that the current coalition between National and New Zealand First will be short-lived.
  • The Healing Ministry Within Te Kai Hapa. Rotorua, N.Z.: Te Taapapa ki te Manawa o Te Wheke, Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, 1998.
  • Potaka-Dewes states that the aim of this publication is ‘to talk about the Healing Ministry in the context of the greatest and most sacred of sacraments, Te Kai Hapa’(Last Supper). The book is divided into five sections: the healing ministry within Te Kai Hapa; Mana Tangata - Kai Tangata and the Kai Hapa; Mana Whenua - Kai Para and the Kai Hapa; Mana Hinengaro - Kai Tiaki and the Kai Hapa, and Mana Wairua - Kai Manawa and the Kai Hapa. This publication on the healing ministry was prepared for the Summer School held at Te Taapapa, Rotorua in 1998.
  • An Introduction to Atuaranga. Rotorua, N.Z.: Te Taapapa ki te Manawa o te Wheke, Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, 1998.
  • A discussion paper in which Potaka-Dewes provides explanations and definitions of Atuatanga, and presents a ten-step guide for understanding Atuatanga. Potaka-Dewes gives an analysis of the similarities and differences between Atuatanga and the Biblical approach to belief in God and includes a series of comments and questions which could be used for an individual or group exploring Atuatanga.
  • Māori Spirituality In The Year 2000 And Beyond. Centre for Social Work, Auckland, N.Z. College of Education, 15 May 1998.