Prophecy will come true ... eventually

KATE NEWTON AND IAN STEWARD
Last updated 05:00 07/02/2011
CLARE MCINTOSH/Stuff.co.nz

At a Waitangi dawn ceremony Maori elder Kerei Tia Toa said he had "seen" a great earthquake that was going to ravage Wellington.

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PETER MEECHAM/Stuff.co.nz Zoom
LIT UP: The flagpole is raised at the dawn service on the upper marae at Waitangi.

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A kaumatua's Waitangi Day prophecy of doom and destruction for Wellington should be taken with a pinch of salt – though a massive earthquake in the capital is inevitable, experts say.

Anglican minister Gray Theodore, who was born Te Kerei Tiatua, stunned the 1000-strong crowd gathered at the Treaty grounds when he revealed his vision at yesterday's dawn ceremony.

"A terrible earthquake is going to hit Wellington. I have seen body bags in the streets of Wellington. I have seen houses on the hills of Wellington – seen them disappear. I have seen the roof of the Beehive lying in the debris of the streets of Wellington."

God had shown him the harbour waters receding, then rushing back in a tsunami that would affect an area from the South Island to as far north as Whanganui. He did not know what year the catastrophe would strike – but it would be in the month of June.

Te Arawa and Ngapuhi kaumatua said he had had the vision 38 years ago and had "run from it" ever since.

He said he had been to Wellington with the intention of warning the Government twice before but events intervened to stop him – including when another minister fell dead in his arms and he had to take over his service. The third opportunity, yesterday, was biblically correct, as the Lord always spoke three times, he said.

Wellington kaumatua Sam Jackson said he did not know Mr Theodore's full whakapapa, but he would take the prophecy "with a grain of salt".

"It's just a wild guess."

However, an earthquake in Wellington was "a foregone conclusion".

The prophecy was unusual, he said. "There's some extraordinary things [Maori prophets] do predict about contacting people or finding out things about them, but this one's something new."

Veteran historian Bill Oliver, who has researched and written on the Maori prophetic tradition, said he had not heard of anyone making a prophecy like Mr Theodore's before.

"Predicting specific events is something I've never heard of in relation to Maori prophecy. As far as I know it seems to be a novelty within the prophetic tradition of Maori."

Wellington emergency preparedness manager Fred McCoy said it was unlikely to change Wellingtonians' behaviour.

"Some people would take it more seriously than others, depending on your cultural beliefs. We obviously base our planning on scientific knowledge."

All current science pointed to a "when, not if" scenario for Wellington's big one, so Mr Theodore was likely to be proved correct eventually.

"It doesn't alter the essential message to people to acknowledge that we live on a fault line and because of that, we know that there's going to be a rupture someday."

NZ Skeptics chairwoman Vicki Hyde said prophecies of destruction were made worldwide every year. She was bemused by Mr Theodore's timing. "If he's been 38 years waiting for a June you'd think he'd have had better luck."

Mr Theodore commanded respect because of his position as a minister and kaumatua. "It's the responsibility of those in authority to think very carefully about what they say."

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However, Mr Theodore said he awaited rejection because it was part of the "prophetic ministry".

Prime Minister John Key, who led a prayer earlier in the service, said he would "not be taking too much away from that last [speaker]."

- The Dominion Post

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