Revising NZ History 5: Wiremu Kingi at Waitara

(To see John’s earlier articles, scroll down to August 10, 14, 21 and 29)

Kingi’s strong attachment to Waitara

By John Robinson

Waitara today looking south

Even though he had moved south from Taranaki, and lived at Waikanae for some years, Kingi had decided that he was passionately attached to Waitara (north-east of New Plymouth).

He repeatedly threatened anyone who would allow its sale, having forced the abandonment of the 1839 sale after it had been recognised by Commissioner Spain in 1844.  (See article 4: August 29)

In 1848, he broke a promise to Governor Grey and went back to the south bank of the Waitara River.  There he continued to oppose those Te Atiawa who wished to sell their land. 

Conflict between those for and against selling

Tamihana Te Rauparaha

The following decade was marked by savage feuds, with fighting between those who wished to sell their land and those who aimed to ban, and prevent, such sales.

(I have summarised these complicated and deadly feuds in a chapter of my book The Kingite Rebellion.)

This lawlessness among Maori, which was not then policed by the central government, was one reason why Tamihana Te Rauparaha at Otaki began to support the idea of a Maori king to control the tribes.

Kingi was active in attacks on the pro-sale faction.  At one time, when the position of a principal pro-sale loyalist, Ihaia, became desperate, it was reported that Kingi had evinced a determination to slaughter, without regard to sex or age, the inmates of the Karaka pa.  (Ihaia’s people).

The new governor takes a stand

For years the authorities were paralysed, too feeble to apprehend the murderers.  Then in 1855 a new Governor, Colonel Gore Browne, decided that law and order must be brought to the Maori of Taranaki.

Apirana Ngata

His first visit achieved little, as neither of the major opponents, allies Kingi and Katatore, came to meet him.  The native feud still raged, and neither cared to ask for safe-conduct.

The duty of the Governor was clear; the Treaty of Waitangi set down both the right to hold one’s land and of the right to sell if that is desired.

This is from the translation from the Maori by Apirana Ngata in 1922.

… the chiefs assembled and all other chiefs yield to the Queen the right to alienate such lands which the owners desire to dispose of at a price agreed upon between the owners and person or persons appointed by the Queen to purchase on her behalf.

Teira’s sale is approved but Kingi resists

When in 1857 Browne promised firmly to assert the law in Taranaki, Teira (an ally of Ihaia) offered to sell a small area of 600 acres in Waitara.  Browne had no choice, and he agreed to accept providing that Teira could prove his title.

In 1859 the local Land Purchase Commissioner, Parris, ruled in favour of the sale.

Even though he had agreed that the land belonged to Teira, Kingi (an ally of Katatore, who was murdered in 1858 as part of those feuds) continued to express his determination not to give the land up – Yes, the land is theirs, but I will not let them sell it.

Kingi’s people pulled up the survey pegs and built a pa on the disputed block.

War breaks out

Wiremu Kingi

This forced armed action by a Government that was determined to bring the rule of law to Taranaki, and conflict began.

Kingi, being no warrior himself, fell to the rear, and his relative, Hapurona, became his fighting general.

This conflict then provided the opportunity for hawks in the newly formed king movement to join the fighting (against the wishes of their ‘king’, Te Wherowhero) and over the next few years war spread across the island.

While so many Maori were rejecting old tribal rivalries and living peacefully, here a peacemaker had become a warmonger.

Disagreement between Maori was the catalyst for war

It is important to recognise that the stimulus for war was conflict among Maori, disagreement between Maori groups.  There was no effort to force land sales; indeed the Government had been hesitant until forced to uphold the rights of a willing seller, Teira.

The Government was, quite rightly, an arbiter in a Maori disagreement, acting to uphold one law for all.

A year later there was a cessation of hostilities in Taranaki, when a meeting between Government and rebels was preceded by discussions between Te Atiawa and their Waikato supporters.

During those discussions Kingi placed the disposal of Waitara in the hands of Wiremu Tamihana, a major figure in the king movement.

Peace with some, but not the Waikato

After negotiations, Hapurona Pukerimu and Patokakariki accepted the terms of peace put forward by the Government party, led by Governor Browne.

Kingi moved to the Waikato district, and refused to give his sanction to them or to meet the Government.

While Te Atiawa agreed to the truce and negotiated terms of peace, Waikato Maori remained belligerent, and withdrew.  The letters to Government from Wiremu Tamihana that followed are confused, and it is difficult to understand either him or the extremely divided king movement.

When the truce was made, Wiremu Tamihana, said: Let the law have the care of the Waitara; let a good man from the Queen investigate the case – that is, some person sent by the Duke of Newcastle, to suppress the troubles in this land.

Peace efforts from Grey and Fox fail

Governor George Grey

Thus when the next Governor, George Grey, travelled to the Waikato, there were hopes for a final settlement, but Wiremu Tamihana and the other leaders of the King party would not meet him.

Premier William Fox persevered and went to the upper part of the district, to see them face to face, with a proposal to refer the Waitara question to arbitration before a tribunal of two Europeans and four Maori, three to be appointed by the natives, and three by the Governor.

Leading chiefs of the King party met with Fox, and replied that Waitara had been placed in the hands of Wiremu Tamihana (who was absent from the district), and whatever he might decide would be accepted by the rest.

Premier Fox

Even though the Government was offering just what Wiremu Tamihana had asked for, the written reply was a disingenuous and evasive document, replying that he would not now agree to Waitara being investi­gated.

Influential tribes at Hawkes Bay expressed great surprise and disappointment, and wrote to Wiremu Tamihana to know if it was true.  They were told distinctly in reply that the Waikatos disapproved of the proposal to investigate Waitara and they were snubbed for their interference.

The country was drifting towards war, but many efforts by Grey for discussions were rebuffed.  Difficulties in reaching an agreement were to continue after the major fighting with the Kingite rebels ended in 1864.

The offer to return confiscated land to Waikato Maori

In 1878 the Governor and the Native Minister went to meet the proclaimed king, Tawhiao, and made a generous offer, which included the return of all confiscated Waikato land not disposed of by the Government to Europeans.  Most Maori confidently expected agreement to follow.

Warrior chief Rewi Maniapoto, who had been a leader in the rebellion and whose attacks had begun the Waikato fighting, was delighted; a load had been taken off his mind.

Rewi Manaipoto: happy with the Waitara deal

The fighting was over and it was time for peace.  Rewi immediately set off across the island to proclaim the terms of settlement and procure general concurrence.  The hatchet would then be buried at Waitara, on the spot where it was first used.

The great meeting was attended by many Government officials and leading chiefs.  Proceedings were delayed for several days in the hope that Wiremu Kingi would attend, but he did not come.

He was an old man, too feeble for travelling.  This is the last appearance of Kingi in our story.  He had decided that he, as a chief, should decide what land was to be sold, and started a rebellion that ended in defeat.

(A later article in this series follows Tamihana Te Rauparaha from nearby Otaki, who remained loyal to the new regime and lived as a wealthy squire.)

Waitara sorted

The substantive issue was the future of Waitara.  Rewi wished Sir George Grey to give him back Waitara.

The simple and direct answer was that Waitara is now given up to both of us.  It belongs to us two.  This is the proper spot on which we should loose our hands from one another’s heads and cease struggling.

Rewi readily agreed and the deal was done.

That was a joyous meeting, to be remembered and celebrated.

The Maori “king” refuses to cooperate

“King” Tawhiao

Meanwhile the Government offer sat on the table waiting a response from Tawhiao for a further year, when a substantial official party, led by Governor Grey and Native Minister Sheehan, came expecting the completion of the agreement, and another positive step forward in putting an end to conflict.

Sadly, that positive attitude was lacking from Tawhiao.  He turned down the Government offer, to general surprise and consternation, with a refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

Even after declaring an end to fighting in 1881, Tawhiao continued his refusal to swear that oath, and he turned down further similar generous offers in 1882 and 1888.  That insistence of a rival monarch and refusal of loyalty was nothing other than treason.  But this farcical ‘king’ continues today.

That foolish refusal cost Waikato Maori dearly.  Only 26% of confiscated land was returned in Waikato, compared with 64% in Taranaki and 83% in Tauranga.