In 1950 Church leaders approved the construction of a secondary school in New Zealand to replace the Maori Agricultural College, which had been nearly destroyed by an earthquake in 1931. After World War II, labor was often scarce, so to provide workers for the project, mission leaders set apart young Church members from New Zealand as labor missionaries. Their labor on the Church College of New Zealand in Tuhikaramea, near Hamilton, grew into an extensive building program that provided much-needed Church facilities throughout the country.
Hundreds of young single men and women and married couples were called. Other local members provided food, clothing, and about one dollar (USD) per week for each missionary, and the mission as well as local members provided accommodation and, in some cases, meals. The young missionaries helped build the college and dozens of new meetinghouses, learning a trade in the process. The labor missionary program brought the Saints in New Zealand together as a community and helped prepare many young members to later become leaders of their congregations.
Cyril d’Arcy Clarke, a recent convert from Rotorua, was called to serve a labor mission in response to a shortage of electricians on the building projects. When he arrived on his first construction site, he did not feel equal to the task. But knowing he was called to be an instrument in God’s hands gave him confidence to move ahead. He became the only New Zealand–born crew leader. Clarke and many others testified that they were helped and protected by the Lord in their work.
In 1955 Church President David O. McKay announced that a temple would be built in Tuhikaramea, near Hamilton. Prepared by their work on the college and other Church buildings, the small army of construction missionaries were called to perform much of the labor on the new temple. The missionaries often spoke of the construction site as a holy place. The temple was completed in early 1958 and dedicated by President McKay on April 20. The Church College of New Zealand was dedicated four days later.