Manawatu’s “Holy City”
Nobody in 20th century Manawatu needed an explanation of which was the district’s “Holy City”. But how did the little settlement of Rongotea get this reputation?
In the 1890s, when Rongotea had a population of around 500, Primitive Methodist, Wesleyan Methodist, Presbyterian, Plymouth Brethren Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic congregations were all flourishing. During the early part of the 20th century there were six churches in the town.
Temperance was a hot issue in New Zealand towards the end of the 19th century and was championed by the various denominations of Christianity. In Rongotea, the evils of alcohol were so generally acknowledged that in 1896 when New Zealanders voted on whether or not their local community would have a public house serving alcohol and be “wet”, 60% of the Rongotea vote was for a “dry” town. And so it remained for the next 71 years. A licence for a tavern in Rongotea was not granted until 1967.