New Zealand History


Revising NZ History 1: Credentials

We welcome a new columnist in Dr John Robinson. John lives in Waikanae and his writings on our past challenge many of the politically correct myths which many so-called professional historians perpetuate.

Revisionism of revisionism: taking history back to reality

By John Robinson

I am a retired scientist with an interest in New Zealand history.

I have written a few books on the interactions among and between Maori and Europeans in the early days of contact.

I moved to Waikanae early this year, and have prepared a series of articles introducing some of the information I have gathered.

This first one is an introduction to my background and history writing.

A background in researching futures

After a period as a research scientist, an applied mathematician specialising in fluid dynamics. I came to recognise that many long-term trends were taking the world towards a global collapse, around 2030.

 In 1972 I started to work in holistic futures research.  That was fruitful until 1984, when employment opportunities disappeared.

My capacity to look across cultures and across time led to a study of Maori futures, with research into Maori social trends, along with a few reports for the Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit at Victoria University under contract to the Crown Forestry Research Trust.

I eventually ran into trouble when I found it impossible to support their insistence of great wrongs done by colonisation in the nineteenth century. 

Conforming to get paid

The facts that I was asked to consider showed that at the same time that land was being sold, the population was recovering from the collapse that was evident from the first few census counts.

The required correlation between land loss and population decline did not exist.  But I could only get paid if I blurred and hid that message.

Once I had retired (or rather, once I was no longer employed) I was free to follow the evidence without pressure to conform to a predetermined current picture.

Social disintegration in Maori society

Pre-Treaty Maori culture was dominated by inter-tribal warfare

It is simple enough.  Savage inter-tribal warfare had led to social disintegration, and by 1840 there was a considerable shortage of women and girls in the Maori population.

Few women meant few new births. Few girls (the mothers of the future) meant a lack of women to produce children for decades into the future. 

Decline was inevitable and the turnaround, within 40 years, was rapid in population dynamics, which is a generations-long process.

A paper on this work was rejected, and claims of collapse caused by the Treaty continue to dominate current ‘scholarship’.

This is one topic for a future article.

Chiefs seek British help to end the disastrous tribal wars

Many Maori were themselves deeply concerned with the extraordinary nation-wide intertribal warfare and could see that their society was dysfunctional, and that their numbers were reducing significantly.

That, along with the new culture on offer, led them, in particular a group of Northern chiefs, to seek change.  They repeatedly asked the British for help before welcoming the Treaty of Waitangi – they were so keen that after one short day of debate they caught Hobson unawares with a demand to sign the very next day.

The cultural revolution was general, with a majority of Maori signing up to Christianity in the years around 1840.

My conclusions have not been fashionable

These changes are described in When two cultures meet, the New Zealand Experience (2012, all my books are printed by Tross Publishing).  While based firmly on accounts of the time, this picture is currently unfashionable.

Further comments critical of the conventional wisdom, and of the wholesale recent ‘revisionist’ rewriting of history, are found in contributions to two co-authored books, Twisting the Treaty, a Racial Grab for Wealth and Power (2013) and One Treaty, One Nation (2015).

Scientists are used to asking questions, finding problems, and seeking solutions, and that has been my approach to New Zealand history.  Can we follow the changes in Maori thinking, I asked?

Certainly, they were human beings like us all.  Thus Two great New Zealanders, Tamati Waka Nene and Apirana Ngata (2015).

Then, how was it that a king movement, with a figurehead ‘monarch’, the old warrior Te Wherowheo (renamed Potatau), who was a friend and confidant of Governors, raised the flag of rebellion?

The answer is in the divisions among the chiefs, with the hawks forcing the doves into conflict – rather like the politics of today.  This is described in The Kingite Rebellion (2016), which, with its many short chapters, provides the material for many of the coming articles.

Difficulty getting the truth published

Any nonconformist author will find that it is impossible to get a book reviewed; papers have reduced their staff and must answer to wealthy, often overseas, owners with their class-based agendas – and many alternative publishers are only manned by one or two overworked and over-stressed individuals, who fail to respond to any approach.

The Kapiti Independent offers one alternative, for which we must be thankful.  I enjoy telling the real story of New Zealand and welcome the opportunity.

I could even get on to the future of the world, which is dire indeed, as argued in A plague of people, how a suicidal culture of growth is destroying modern society and the environment (2013).



Revising NZ History 2: The Insecurity of tribal life

The reality of New Zealand history

By John Robinson

I have introduced myself, in “Revisionism of revisionism: taking history back to reality”, (Scroll down to August 10), as the author of several books on New Zealand history, with a focus on the key role of the Maori actors in the unfolding drama.

Here I note some features of pre-contact Maori tribal life, to consider what the movement of tribes meant for those whose lands, and lives, were taken from them.

As I have read further historical accounts, I have often found a common story, repeated many times over the centuries, of tribal movement to conquer and replace the then ‘people of the land’.

Further confirmation of brutality

Andreas Reischek

I have just come across two more.

One is a book about Tuwharetoa of Taupo.  There Maruiwi, “one of the aboriginal tribes of New Zealand”, had been driven out by Te Atiawa, then “hunted and slaughtered as they retreated”.  The next residents, Ngati Hotu, were in turn overwhelmed by Tuwharetoa, who took over that land.

The other is of Northland, where Chief Pairama told Andreas Reischek “the tribes formerly living here had been very good at working and cultivation, but who knew little about fighting.  His forefathers had conquered them, eating those they killed, and enslaving the rest.” 

There was a similar happening around Kapiti when Rangitane came through the Manawatu.

Buick describes how, after one of the last battles, “so important a battle was celebrated by a great feast, and for the next few days the ovens were kept hot for the reception of the dead bodies, which as fast as they were cooked were served up with all the horrors attendant upon the savage orgies and cannibal banquets of the ancient Maori.” 

The Ngatiawa survivors retreated and sheltered on the island of Kapiti.

Fear and insecurity

Many communities were driven from their ancestral lands, and many were living in fear of attack from their neighbours.

The insecurity was immediately evident to Cook in 1769.

“The perpetual hostility in which these poor savages who have made very village a fort must necessarily live, will account for there being so little of their land in a state of cultivation; and as mischiefs very often reciprocally produce each other, it may perhaps appear that there being so little land in cultivation will account for their living in perpetual hostility.”

While some battles were for conquest, other fighting had no meaning other than adventure and the glory of battle. 

Two such great taua passed through our region.

  • In 1819-20 a war party of Ngati Whatua and Ngapuhi from Northland were joined by Ngati Toa at Kawhia as they moved down the west coast to Wellington, and back again.
  • In 1821-22 another war party, from Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto, with other tribes joining in, moved down the east coast to the Wellington region, which had been decimated a short time before, before returning up the west coast, passing and attacking Kapiti.

This Amiowhenua (‘round the island’) expedition was probably the longest overland raid that any Maori force ever undertook, the distance travelled being around 800 miles.

Buick’s assessment was that this war party “longing for some new excite­ment, had journeyed down the East Coast for no particular  purpose except to kill, eat, or make slaves of whosoever might fall into their hands”.

Ongoing conflict and insecurity

Many of these events tell only of the exploits of the warriors.  But the victims should not be forgotten.  “The resident people were everywhere defeated, and those who were not killed, captured, or eaten, were driven into mountain fastnesses, there to miserably survive, or as miserably perish if they could not”.

The triple damage to Kapiti communities left them easy prey for conquest shortly after.

Intertribal warfare was widespread in those years, with an extraordinary number of fights.

Historian James Rutherford counted 203 battles in 1821-1825, one every 9 days.  Some 11,300 were killed in those battles, a death rate of around 10% of the population in just five years, while others were slaughtered, enslaved or driven off.

The threat from the Waikato tribes

Te Rauparaha

Ngati Toa at Kaipara and Te Atiawa in Taranaki were under frequent attack by more powerful Waikato forces.

Te Rauparaha decided then to acted on the advice of Te Wherowhero – on a hilltop at Makara on the Wellington coast he had pointed to a passing vessel and “With unrestrained excitement he called out to his comrade: Oh, Raha, do you see that people sailing on the sea?  They are a very good people; and if you conquer this land and hold intercourse with them, you will obtain guns and powder and become very great.” 

Both Ngati Toa and Te Atiawa decided to move to the south, away from the threats of Waikato, to a land where tribes had been weakened by the two great taua and were easy picking.

The people of the Kapiti coast, and of Wellington, were attacked yet again, driven off their lands.

 Descendents of that last wave of invaders, and killers, now claim wrongs by the system that put an end to that repeated sequence of invasions, and profit from yet another round of ‘final’ Treaty settlements.

The Treaty brings peace

Peace did not come until the Treaty.  There were disputes and fighting between Ngati Toa and Te Atiawa, and among other allied tribes.

The last battle of the intertribal wars Kuititanga, at Waikanae in 1839 between Raukawa and Te Atiawa.  Te Rauparaha, who was friendly with both sides, watched from the sidelines.

When the fighting along the beach was over, the victorious Te Atiawa took their prisoners to Kenakena, where they were executed and buried in a mass grave.   One estimate is of 90 dead, another of more than twice that number.

Meanwhile back in Taranaki the few remaining Te Atiawa, who were living in constant fear of a further attack from Waikato, welcomed the New Zealand Company and sold the land in 1839.  Then they could be safe under the protection of colonial forces.

The consequences of inter-tribal war

The migrations, the killing and the social disruption of those tribal wars left problems that would continue or fester for more than a generation.

After the Treaty, those Te Atiawa who returned to Taranaki from slavery in the Waikato, and those living at Waikanae, disputed the sale of the land they had left, and feuded over ownership.

Eventually a decision by Governor Brown to apply the law and allow one chief to sell his own land was to lead to war.

One hidden, and unrecognised, consequence was that the disruption and social breakdown had produced a demographic imbalance, a deficit of young girls and women, that assured a population decline for some 40 years after the Treaty. 

This is the topic of my next article.



Revising NZ History  3. Maori Population Recovery After 1840

… inter-tribal warfare took many lives and produced a shortage of young and females, assuring a population decline for further generations.

Colonisation the reason for Maori population decline?

By John Robinson

The Maori population declined considerably during the first period of colonisation: by one third between the first census count in 1847 and the end of the century.

The claim has been made that, because they were at the same time, the decline must have been a consequence of that colonisation, and that many wrongs were done that must now be apologised for, and atoned for.

That simplistic argument does not tell of the cause of that decline, of when and why it began.  There is no explanation of just how those “wrongs” may have had such a significant impact on population.

Population decline 1840s to 1880s

An analysis must start with the available data.  The graph below displays census measurements, making use of revised data provided by Nancy Pearce in a 1952 Victoria University MA thesis.

I have read that thesis carefully and agree with her adjustments.  I have also considered, and rejected, further adjustments suggested by demographer Ian Pool in his 1991 book, Te iwi Maori.  They are unclear and unjustified.

I do not include the very low and inaccurate 1896 census figure of 39,854.  This was revisited by Statistics New Zealand and the 1945 table of census counts includes an estimate of 42,113 for that year.

The rate of decline was greatest at the beginning of the period, and the decline had ended by the mid 1880s, not much more than 40 years after the Treaty of Waitangi.

Shortage of women and girls

The cause of that decline is found in the early census data, which showed a considerable shortage of young people, a lack of women (the breeding stock) and a shortage of girls to provide the mothers of the future.

Without enough women there could not be sufficient births, and without enough girls there would be a further shortage of women when that cohort came of age. 

The key to population dynamics through the next generation was already determined, and the decline was guaranteed.

I carried out some simple model experiments (reported in The corruption of New Zealand democracy, a Treaty industry overview) to test the hypothesis that the population decline was an inevitable consequence of the demographics, and not dependent on some other influence.

The first failed as a reported value of 20% young in 1847 could not lead on to the 1874 census value.  A check showed that the authors of the paper that I had relied on had made a mistake and the corrected value of 25% fitted the measured decline.

Pool’s discussion, and his comparison with United Nations research, pointed to the same conclusion.

Population recovery needed a couple of generations

The time lag is central to our understanding.  Any increase in births, and survival of female babies, will have a limited impact on numbers until girls have grown to maturity, to provide the later breeding stock.

Missionaries are key sources of early 19th century history

Recovery from the observed demographic deficit would necessarily take a couple of generations.  This is what happened, and the decline had slowed by 1886, and ended by 1891, with growth thereafter.

The same demographic deficit, the shortage of young and of females at all ages, was found in a number of regional surveys carried out by missionaries around 1840.  This allows a population estimate back to 1840.

The logic here is simple. The available evidence, comparing early missionary measures in the years around 1840 and the 1857 census, suggests that the age and gender makeup of the Maori population changed little across that period.

The rate of decline in the years following 1840 is then assumed to have been similar to that observed between the first two censuses of 1857 and 1874.  The Maori population in 1840 was about 71,600.

Inter-tribal warfare decimated female numbers

The original cause of that demographic deficit must be found in a previous period (simply put, cause precedes effect) – in the decades of savage inter-tribal warfare that preceded the Treaty, and were put an end to by colonisation.

A careful analysis of those battles, and the probable deaths, has been provided by Auckland University Professor of History, James Rutherford.

Rutherford lists 633 battles with estimates of deaths in each.  The totals are 26,840 almost certain killed and 35,400 probable killed, with 8,200 probable captured.  To this may be added those killed, and eaten, soon after; Tamihana Te Rauparaha estimated 1,600 killed in battle and 3,500 women and children slain thereafter in his father’s wars. 

Social disruption and poor diet meant fewer births, and thus a shortages of young people.

The cause of the significant gender differences, with fewer girls than boys, fewer women than men, is female infanticide, which was widely reported at the time.

Estimating the 1800 population

An estimate of the 1800 population can be obtained by a count-back, taking account of both the decline due to a shortage of young and of females, and the deaths in battle.  I have used Rutherford’s “probable killed” (for each 5-year period), which may underestimate the total.

The resulting total population decline of around 66,000 is close to Rutherford’s estimate of 65,000, suggesting a Maori population of 137,500 in 1800.

The next graph shows the result of those calculations back in time.  This analysis suggests that inter-tribal warfare took many lives and produced a shortage of young and females, assuring a population decline for further generations.

Inter-tribal war and infanticide

This analysis is unpopular.

Demographer Pool refers to infanticide as “another pervasive myth”, which he dismisses, as the comments of “literate European visitors (who)  suffer(ed) from their social construction of reality”. 

In actual fact, there are very many reports from both Europeans and Maori, of what they saw and of discussions with Maori practitioners of infanticide.

Pool similarly dismissed the impact of war as over 100,000 persons could have been expected to have died over this 30-year period in the ‘normal’ course of events, with or without wars. 

This strange argument is nonsense, yet Pool’s ‘analysis’ has formed the basis of most subsequent research.  Note that the deaths were of women and children as well as warrior men.

Estimates in recent publications unsubstantiated

Many different, and divergent, estimates are quoted in recent publications.  There are frequent claims of a population loss of 20,000 due to the wars and, similarly, of a population of 100,000 when Cook first arrived, dropping by that 20,000 to 80,000 in 1840 – all unsupported by any analysis.

The Treaty effectively ended inter-tribal war

These estimates provide a picture of a sudden decline that started just when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, apparently driven by some (unstated) wrongs of colonisation, when in fact widespread war ended with many peace treaties among Maori tribes, who were themselves driving the change.

One recent publication, although making reference to Pool as a source, takes a different path.  In their ‘authoritative’ 2014 “The healthy country? A history of life & death in New Zealand”, Woodward and Blakely display an 1840 value of 110,000, dropping to 100,000 in 1846 (I have no idea of where that came from).

They also postulate a truly dramatic decline following the Treaty, of over 50,000 (46% of the Maori population) in 17 years.

Those two alternative pictures, which are illustrative of the plethora of claims in the literature, are shown, along with my estimates starting with 140,000 in 1800, in the graph below.

(The Woodward and Blakely claim is shown in the solid line starting in 1840.)

A logical sequence of articles

The second article of this series described the insecurity of tribal life. (Scroll down to August 14)

This third has shown how that insecurity, which exploded with the particularly savage intertribal wars of the early nineteenth century, slashed the population and assured a further population decline for following generations.

The next articles follow the lives of key actors in the drama of Maori cultural revolution, whose actions determined the course of early New Zealand history.


Revising NZ History 4 Wiremu Kingi: Waikanae to Waitara

Maori living in a time of change

By John Robinson

My first few articles on New Zealand history have dealt with the big picture – the total culture and population.  The focus now turns to the actors – the people whose ideas and actions defined early events.

Their lifetimes spanned two very different societies and social systems.

They were born into a world of violence and bloody intertribal warfare, and came to see the steady, if slow, establishment of law and order. 

They lived through a most extraordinary cultural revolution within Maori society, a complete transformation from a time when disputes over land ownership (taonga) were settled by might (with the spear, tao), to a rule of law. 

They left behind the old culture and moved towards another, very different way of life.

Two who lived in Kapiti were

  • Wiremu Kingi (William King, Te Rangitake; referred to here as Kingi) of Waikanae
  • Tamihana Te Rauparaha (son of the renowned Ngati Toa warrior) of Otaki.

Wiremu Kingi: coming south

Kingi played a key role in the rebellion that led to war in Taranaki and Waikato.  The story of Tamihana is the very opposite, a peacemaker who came to live in comfort as a country squire.

Kingi’s story is told in two parts: his coming to Waikanae and his decision to go back to Waitara, and then his refusal to accept a Commission decision that a fellow Te Atiawa chief, Teira, could sell land at Waitara even though Kingi acknowledged that the land was his.

The story starts in the second and third decades of the nineteenth century.  Intertribal warfare had driven weaker Maori tribes from their land.

Many Te Atiawa had moved from Taranaki where they had been attacked and killed by Waikato, and joined Ngati Toa (led by Te Rauparaha) in a move south, driving out tribes living in Kapiti and settling there.  Kingi was one of them.

Te Atiawa sell land for protection?

In those turbulent times, many Maori across the country were eager to sell land for guns, both to protect themselves and with which to attack others.

The incoming settlers also provided welcome protection against threatening neighbours.

In 1839, the New Zealand Company made a number of purchases.  The Te Atiawa leader Warepori, who had come to Wellington in the 1832 migration, sold all the land between Rimurapa (Sinclair Head) and Turakirae, and from the sea to the summits of the Tararua Range.

Te Atiawa did this partly from insecurity: no more of their tribe were joining them, and many Taranaki people had left.

Selling a huge area to the New Zealand Company

Ngati Toa warrior chief Te Rauparaha

That year Te Atiawa chiefs at Waikanae sent Wiremu Kingi with Colonel William Wakefield to Queen Charlotte Sound, where he signed the deed of sale of a huge area, of 20 million acres, the southern third of the North Island (including Taranaki) and a substantial northern part of the South Island.

Te Atiawa, previously driven out of Taranaki by Waikato, had become fearful of the Ngati Toa of Te Rauparaha.

According to Wakefield:

The natives here, some of the ancient possessors of Taranaki, are very desirous that I should become the purchaser of that district, in order that they may return to their native place without fear of the Waikato tribes.

The harassed Nga Motu eager to sell in Taranaki

At the same time a part of Taranaki was purchased (a second time) from a different group of Te Atiawa, Nga Motu at New Plymouth.

These were the few left in occupation after slaves had been taken to Waikato, and a group of warriors and their families had gone south.

This small remnant, perhaps one hundred, of the original natives of Taranaki led a wretched existence, often harassed by the Waikato, seeking refuge on one of the Rocky Sugarloaf Islands or dispersed into the impenetrable forests at the base of Mount Egmont, always regarded as an enslaved and powerless tribe.

They were grateful of the opportunity to sell as the new settlers promised security.

William Spain checks the validity of sales

After 1840, the new Government fulfilled the promise of the Treaty and appointed a Land Claims Commissioner, William Spain, to investigate the validity of previous sales.

The NZ Company needed land for the immigrants coming from Britain

The first sale of Taranaki (signed by Kingi) was never taken seriously, but the sale by Nga Motu was confirmed.  Spain’s 1844 decision in favour of the Company was a rare occasion, for once in favour of the Company.

The award upholding the 1839 purchase was for 60,000 acres to the New Zealand Company, with 6,000 acres to Maori (the tenths, native reserves) as well as 120 acres currently in cultivation, and 100 acres to the Wesleyan Missionary Society for mission land.

In making his judgement, Spain had recognised, and explained, the need to formulate and follow a set of guidelines so that decisions would be clear and consistent in law; that was his job.

His solution was to recognise the claims of those who were in occupation, for “a period of nine or ten years”.  He had previously followed that criterion when he ruled in favour of Te Atiawa concerning Port Nicholson.

Kingi gets the governor to reverse Spain’s decision

But this decision did not please the Te Atiawa at Waikanae, who remained fearful of Ngati Toa, and thought of a return to Taranaki.

Soon after Spain’s ruling, Kingi (who had sold that same land at Cloudy Bay) wrote to Governor Fitzroy of his determination to hold on to land at Waitara, with a threat of armed action:

Waitara shall not be given up; the men to whom it belongs will hold it for themselves.

The Government had insufficient forces to uphold the law.  Indeed in those days the colonial regime only existed with the support, and general concurrence, of Maori. 

The threat was effective, and Governor Robert Fitzroy reversed Spain’s decision, refusing to confirm the award.

Governor George Grey

George Grey replaces Fitzroy

This was one of several reasons that Fitzroy was replaced as governor by George Grey.

The Secretary of State, William Gladstone, wrote to Grey of his unhappiness with the reversal of Spain’s decision, together with criticism that Fitzroy had not explained his reasons clearly.

Grey’s efforts to purchase land for dispossessed settlers were partially successful, and a total of 61,740 acres were sold in Taranaki between 1844 and 1854.  But not Waitara.

A peaceful partnership: Kingi and Hadfield

Octavius Hadfield

Kingi was converted to Christianity by the English missionary Octavius Hadfield and was initially friendly toward Europeans.

Throughout the unsettled years that followed the 1843 Wairau Affray, he supported Hadfield against the warlike proclivities of Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata, no doubt influenced by the fear of Te Atiawa for Ngati Toa.

The peacemaking efforts of Hadfield and Kingi influenced Tamihana Te Rauparaha, and Matene Te Whiwhi at nearby Otaki.

Tamihana Te Rauparaha

These two chiefs argued for a Maori king to bring settled government to Maori, before turning against that movement when some joined in the violence at Waitara that was initiated by Kingi.

For despite his backing for the colonial government, Waitara continued to dominate Kingi’s thoughts.  His decision to return was opposed by Governor Grey who hoped the earlier sale (where he supported Spain’s initial decision) could be affirmed or repeated.

After negotiations, Kingi wrote to Grey agreeing that he would settle only on the north side of the Waitara River – although they were still bent upon going to that district, yet they repudiated the idea of doing so by stealth, or before consulting with the Governor, and learning the time he would permit of their removal; adding, that the Ngatiawa tribe had always been friendly to the Europeans, and it was their desire to continue on the same amicable terms they have hitherto been.

Kingi moves north but breaks his word

Kingi first tried to sell the land at Waikanae but turned down a Government offer, which was low as much of the land was foothills of little value for farming.

Wiremu Kingi

Thus when he and his followers (a total of 587 people) moved out in 1848, Waikanae was left in possession of the remaining Te Atiawa and their friends.

Questions of tribal boundaries and land ownership in Kapiti were settled by negotiation completely different from the feuding and fighting in Taranaki. 

The discussions resulted in the later leadership of Wiremu Parata in Waikanae, while Tamihana Te Rauparaha continued as the paramount chief at Otaki.

Kingi immediately broke his word and 264 settled in Waitara, south of the river.  This added another group to the complex mix of Te Atiawa who made conflicting claims on the land.

That decision, along with Kingi’s continuing intransigence, led to rebellion and war, as outlined in the next article.


Revising NZ History 5: Wiremu Kingi at Waitara

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.



Revising NZ History 6: The Waikato King’s Land Rejection

A government land offer rejected

By John Robinson


In 1878 the New Zealand government offered to the defeated rebels of the king movement the return of all confiscated Waikato land not disposed of by the Government to Europeans.

That generous offer was refused by ‘king’ Tawhiao.

The very reason why many Waikato Maori continued without land was that decision by Tawhiao to turn down the offer, with his refusal to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. 

Misleading Te Ara and New Zealand online entries

There was no desire by government to strip them of land, or to pander to the supposed greed of settlers.

This fact must not be forgotten.  But it is lacking, expunged from modern accounts.  Here is the full account from the Government website, Te Ara Dictionary of New Zealand, “Confiscation of Māori land”.

After the Waikato war, Māori-owned land in west Waikato was confiscated. Most of the Māori population withdrew behind the ‘aukati’ or boundary line of the Pūniu River, in what became known as the King Country (because the Māori King had taken refuge there). This map shows the boundaries of the land confiscated by proclamation of Governor George Grey in December 1864. That year soldier settlers moved into abandoned Māori villages, former military posts and new militia towns which were specially established to guard the frontier.”

That account ends with all Waikato confiscated.

It leaves out two major facts.

  1. That initial confiscation was recognised as being too sweeping and commissions set up, resulting in the return of three-quarters of the confiscated land in areas outside Waikato. 
  2. An offer was made for the return of all unsold land in Waikato, as described above.

Another official website, ‘New Zealand online’, similarly fails to mention these facts.

Land confiscated in line with international law

A partial truth, such as these incomplete, brief accounts, is misleading.  It can create an impression that is far from the truth, and effectively tells a lie.

The setting must be understood if these confiscations are to be understood.  When in 1863 rebellion threatened, Governor Grey made it clear that, in accord with international law, land held by rebels would be confiscated.

Those who wage war against Her Majesty, or remain in arms, threatening the lives of Her peaceable subjects, must take the consequences of their acts, and they must understand that they will forfeit the right to the possession of their lands guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi.”

Rebellion escalated and subsequently an enormous area of the Waikato and neighbouring country was confiscated, as shown in the map.

Much confiscated land was returned

Waitara today looking south

The extent of confiscations was hotly contested, with widely differing opinions among politicians and officials.  The initial area was considered unfair and too sweeping by many.

Consequently there were a number of changes over the years, such as by the West Coast Commission that reported on settlements for Taranaki in 1884, and a majority of the land outside the Waikato was returned.

Great efforts were made in an attempt to avoid the conflict that began in 1860 at Waitara and in 1863 in the Waikato, and Governors Browne and Grey had gone many times to seek compromise.

After the fighting was over Grey and other officials went again to put a final end to conflict.

Difficulty getting cooperation from the kingites

But Tawhiao was evasive.  In December 1864, Grey issued a pardon for those who had fought against the Government in arms provided they gave up their arms and took an oath of allegiance, but the kingites refused.  They had not surrendered.

In 1867, the Government hoped that the impending visit of one of the Queen’s sons, the Duke of Edinburgh, might provide an opportunity of sufficient mana to sway Kingitanga, and Grey invited them to confirm peace with the Duke.

Some, including Rewi Maniapoto, supported the proposal, but the king, his senior adviser, Manuhiri (Ngapora), and his family decided against.

Governor Grey makes a generous offer

There seemed to be a breakthrough in 1878 when Governor Grey met twice with the kingites at Te Kopua.  Although Tawhiao started with the unrealistic demand for all the Waikato south of the Maungatawhiri River, and the withdrawal of all Europeans, Grey countered with an extremely generous offer.

Tawhiao would continue as a dominant chief, and he would be given the portions of land not disposed of by the Government to Europeans on the western sides of the Waikato and Waipa.

The expectation amongst Maori was that this would be accepted.

This was not the action of a Governor, or of a Government, determined to strip Maori of their land.  It was the very opposite.

Grey becomes frustrated with the intransigent Tawhiao

For a year that offer sat on the table waiting a response from Tawhiao until a substantial official party, led by Governor Grey and Native Minister Sheehan, with their officials, accompanied by chiefs from across the country, came expecting the completion of the agreement.

They were taken by surprise by the negative and aggressive opening statement of Tawhiao, which indicated a complete change of mind.  This met with forthright condemnation by many of the chiefs present.

“King” Tawhiao would not swear allegiance to Queen Victoria

After more days of discussion, including one day when Tawhiao and a group of his friends sat with his back to the European visitors, Grey had enough.

Three times I have had to come to you at very considerable personal trouble and annoyance.  I have had many troubles and many discomforts to go through.  I have hurt my health by so doing. … Now, the offers which were made to you at Hikurangi were promises of gifts to be given without your undertaking to do anything in return for them.

 I shall wait until to-morrow at 10 o’clock in the morning.  If then you send to me, to tell me you accept these offers, or that you are prepared to discuss them, I will remain to discuss them.  If I do not hear from you that you will discuss them, after 10 o’clock to-morrow morning they will be withdrawn absolutely.”

No message came, and the offer lapsed.  The kingites remained outside their homelands in Maniapoto territory to the south of Waikato.

Native Minister Bryce tries to negotiate a deal in 1882

Despite the intransigence of Tawhiao, there were further offers for the return of land.  The process was repeated in 1882 when Native Minister Bryce went to Whatiwhatihoe to negotiate.

Tawhiao again demanded all the territory south of the Mangatawhiri River, and Bryce proposed to return most of the land that remained under the Waikato Confiscated Lands Act.

Acceptance of the Government was a necessary requirement.  Although the chiefs were to have authority over their own people, the Queen’s sovereignty must extend over everyone.

There were days of delay, of discussions among Tawhiao and his advisers, with Tawhiao refusing to make a clear statement that he would acknowledge the sovereignty of the Queen.  He kept insisting for more time to consider the issue, until Bryce became frustrated and withdrew.

1888: same process, same outcome

In 1888 came ‘deja vu, all over again’, with another round of debate, offer, acceptance and refusal.

The Native Minister, Mitchelson, visited Tawhiao at Whatiwhatihoe to made a new offer.  When Tawhiao indicated that the Treaty of Waitangi provided an acceptable basis for making arrangements between the races, there should have been no objection to taking the oath of alle­giance.

But Tawhiao consequently wrote to Mitchelson that he accepted all of the provisions except the oath, and another offer lapsed.

The refusal of the oath of loyalty was nothing other than treason, particularly from a man who claimed to be a rival monarch.

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.

The facts: rebellion, war, confiscation, offers

These are the facts:

  • The followers of this king were rebels. They refused to accept the legitimate government, had tried to set up a rival kingdom and to force others out of their territory.  They had fought against the Government in Taranaki, threatened Auckland, and killed settlers.
  • After war, their land was confiscated. This was legitimate under law and the rebels had been forewarned.
  • There were disagreements among British and New Zealanders (both Maori and European) with many believing that the confiscations were excessive, and that much should be returned. Action was taken to do so.
  • That action included extremely generous offers to Tawhiao and his followers, which quite properly included an end to rebellion. He refused.

Tawhiao resists cooperation while Rewi embraces it

Rewi Maniapoto

The one principle reason why Waikato Maori remained without adequate land was NOT any failure on the part of Government.

It was the refusal of Tawhiao to formally end his rebellion and accept the several offers, which were repeated despite his intransigence.

I have interrupted the sequence of articles to put the spotlight on two key issues, which arose in the fourth article.

Here we have considered the offers to return confiscated land, and their refusal.

The next article will describe how Rewi Maniapoto, believing that the 1878 offer was generous and would be accepted by Tawhiao, set off to organise a meeting to celebrate peace and the coming together of the former combatants.

He wanted to resolve there the one remaining issue of land at Waitara, where the conflict had begun.  That action was a great success.



Revising NZ History 7: Celebrating Peace – Rewi at Waitara

Warmonger becomes peacemaker

By John Robinson

Waitara today; land issues were settled in 1878

Rewi Maniapoto had been the most active warrior chief in the king movement, joining with Kingi’s rebellion at Waitara in 1860, and driving Government Agent Gorst out of the Waikato in 1863 against the wishes of the ‘king’, Tawhiao, and his family.

But he later recognised that the war was over, that they were defeated and it was time for peace.  Warmonger became peacemaker.

Thus when, in May 1878, Governor Grey came to Te Kopua and offered generous terms including the return of all confiscated land that had not been sold, Rewi was delighted – a load had been taken off his mind.

He, like most others, believed that the offer would be accepted, that it was a done deal. 

Rewi sets out to heal the wounds

Rewi Maniapoto

He immediately announced his intention to move to the next and final phase of peacemaking.  He would call a great meeting of former foes, to leave behind old quarrels and celebrate friendship and unity, and to take care of what he saw as the one remaining bone of contention, ownership of Waitara.

Rewi set off immediately to travel to Mokau, to proclaim the terms of settlement and procure their concurrence.  From Mokau he intended to proceed to Waitara, and meet William King, the leader of the rebels in the Taranaki war.

He hoped that he could be joined there by a number of chiefs from other parts of the North Island, and bury the hatchet on the spot where it was first used.

This, the great meeting of June 1878, was a festival occasion.  It was a time of meetings between former enemies, a time to heal old wounds, to enjoy peace and friendship.

A day to remember

Here is the answer to the current call for a day of remembrance of the nineteenth century wars.  Some would wish to make the choice of bloody battle.  But the fighting is over.

All New Zealanders should come together as one people and choose to celebrate the coming of peace and fellowship among previous enemies.  This meeting should be the focus of today’s ceremonial, to recall a time of reconciliation and turn away from an incessant search for grievance.

There was general celebration.  The European settlers of New Plymouth intended giving an entertainment of some kind to the Native and European visitors to their district.

Monday June 24 was proclaimed a public holiday, and the gathering was largely attended by the people of New Plymouth, with the whole day to be spent in public rejoicing in honour of the occasion.

Visitors pour into Taranaki

Governor George Grey

On Thursday June 20, the Steamer Hinemoa left Wellington with most of the official party (including Governor Sir George Grey and the Native Minister), and many chiefs from the Kapiti area and beyond.  After arrival at New Plymouth on June 21 the party proceeded in the evening by special train to Waitara.

There were about 5,000 local Maori already there, waiting anxiously for the meeting to take place.  All intermingled, greeting old friends and former enemies.

Further Maori visitors from the Southern districts, came out by train from New Plymouth on Sunday June 23, arriving about noon.  They and the Maori residents then devoted that afternoon to a formal reception of Rewi and his people.

The greetings included expressions of joy that the fighting was over and they were all meeting in peace.  The general feeling was expressed by Hoani of Ngati Ngatimaniapoto when he said “Come to Waitara, where we became a divided people, some going to the Europeans, and some remaining solely with the Maoris; come to Waitara that we may talk together.”

Former foes gather in the spirit of peace

On Monday June 24, the ordinary train arrived shortly before noon, conveying the Native visitors and a very large number of Europeans, who expected that the meeting would take place.  But the weather was stormy (“boisterous”) – “Owing to the incessant rain and the flooded state of the country people are obliged to keep in-doors”.  The proposed outdoor meeting could not take place.

Again on Tuesday June 25 the meeting was postponed, much to the disappointment of some 200 of the inhabitants of New Plymouth, who arrived by special train in the forenoon.

During those days of waiting, exchanges between Rewi and Grey displayed their pleasure in one another’s company. 

Rewi informed the Native Minister that a party of supporters of Te Whiti were coming with over thirty drays laden with food, accompanied by followers of former rebel chieftain Titokowaru, and that Kingi and his followers were not far off on their way to Waitara – but Kingi’s health was poor and he did arrive.  Kingi’s opponent in the sale of Waitara, Teira, was there.

Early founders of the king movement, Wi Tako and Matene Te Whiwhi, who had left when support was given to rebels at Waitara, were there.  Another early proponent of a king who had turned away when fighting began, Tamihana Te Rauparaha, had died in 1876.

The kingmaker, Wiremu Tamihana, had moved away to the Thames where he spent his remaining years writing defiant letters and a petition to Parliament in an effort to justify his actions, and died in 1866.

Rewi acknowledges Karaitiana’s earlier wisdom

Karaitiana Takamoana: a wise man

Rewi was particularly eager to meet with his former foe, Karaitiana Takamoana, an early opponent of the king movement who had become a Member of the House of Representatives for Eastern Maori.

Karaitiana had said years before, you take your own course, and die in following it.  I will take my course, and die in maintaining the laws of the Government.

Rewi had come to recognise the wisdom of that advice.  The words of Karaitiana have come true; we lost all our land and the people.  When the Waitara war broke out Karaitiana came here and told Wiremu Kingi not to fight against the Europeans – that the best course for him to follow was to take his case into the Supreme Court, or entrust it to the Governor to settle.

Wiremu Kingi replied: No, I will take my own course.

Karaitiana had said: All right, you will find my words come true, and you will have to think as I do before you can settle your affairs.

When they met Rewi acknowledged Karaitiana.  You are the man who gave us good counsel in the days that are past, and brought these things before us.  We see the evil of them now.  We see the evil of rejecting your advice.  If we had acted upon your words we should not have had all the trouble that we passed through.

The response was direct.  Welcome to those who are dead and gone, and these in my presence now.  It was on account of the words you have referred to that I wished so much to see you now.

 Although you did not listen to me in the early days, my tears are shed in meeting you.  They are tears of gladness, and not of sorrow.  The Waitara was the first cause of the evil of the Waikato people.

 The King movement was also another cause of trouble, but that difficulty might have been overcome had the Waitara war not occurred.

Here was a true spirit of honest speech, forgiveness and friendship, not to be readily set aside.  The past was faced, then differences were set aside, for a future of greater unity.

The deal is agreed: a cause for great celebration

After those days of delay, the formal proceedings commenced on Thursday June 27.  At last there was an improvement in the weather, a fresh breeze blowing, and the sun struggling through the aqueous clouds.

Late in the day, the discussions arrived at the substantive issue of the future of Waitara.  Rewi said: I have only one word to explain.  I wish Sir George Grey to give me back Waitara.  That is the only matter of importance in what I have to say.

Grey asked for an evening to consider the matter, which was agreed.

The reply the following morning was simple and direct.  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.  That was considered, and accepted.

One can sense the drama played out that day, and the shared relief that at last the Rubicon was crossed.  Here was action, no longer only rhetoric.  The Maori participants had reflected on their shared responsibility, instead of remaining mired in grievance.

Tawhiao turns down an offer that would have benefited his people

Previously, clear offers had come from the Government.  On this occasion it was Maori taking the lead.  Rewi set a clear objective and Grey rose to the occasion with a counter-proposal that Rewi readily accepted.

Two men of goodwill had reached out to one another and found common ground.

But Tawhiao turns down a land offer

Sadly, as described in the previous article, Tawhiao had different intentions.

The following year he turned down the offer that had been so eagerly celebrated at Waitara, to the great astonishment and disappointment of most Maori, and to the considerable detriment of Waikato Maori who thus lost the opportunity to regain much of the land that had been confiscated after the war.


Revising NZ History 8: Tamihana Te Rauparaha

From warrior to squire

By John Robinson

Wiremu Kingi: one of the older generation of Maori leaders

Many important figures who played a part in the story of the meeting of two cultures had come to maturity within traditional Maori society.

These include Te Rauparaha (1768-1849), Te Wherowhero (1770-1860), Tamati Waka Nene (1785-1871), Wiremu Kingi (1795-1882) and Rewi Maniapoto (1807-1894).  Some led the transition while others initially held to the old ways.

Tamihana Te Rauparaha (1820-1876) of Otaki came from a new generation.

He lived in his formative years within the cultural change of the time, as so many Maori turned from the old ways to Christianity – a transformation of Maori society which both preceded and led to the Treaty of Waitangi.

Turning away from warfare and killing

Te Rauparaha one of the most feared of the warrior chiefs

He may still be referred to as a warrior in his youth, as he accompanied his father on murderous raids to the South Island.  Later Tamihana told of the great slaughter of the defeated, along with their women and children, after battle.

But he was not attracted by that life of warfare and killing.

While choosing a different path, he remained in constant contact with his father.  He would have been of considerable importance to Te Rauparaha who had lost several of his children in 1822 when treacherous Muaupoko had killed most of the visiting Ngati Toa, with Te Rauparaha escaping through the back wall of his hut.

In 1839, as a young man of 19, Tamihana was influenced by newly freed Maori who returned to the Kapiti area from the Bay of Islands.  They had been taken there as slaves and later released when their masters became Christian.

Living the Christian life

A key influence on Tamihana: Missionary Octavius Hadfield

Tamihana wanted to learn of the new culture.  Henry Williams has told how he went with his cousin Matene Te Whiwhi “at the hazard of their lives from Te Rauparaha at Otaki to Paihia, Bay of Islands, to request that a missionary might be sent to establish a mission station amongst themselves at Otaki.”

In response to that request, Reverend Octavius Hadfield came in November 1839 to begin his work at Waikanae and Otaki.  Tamihana became a Christian and was baptised in 1841.  He went as a missionary to the South Island the following year.

Historian Bill Oliver had written of the successful peacekeeping efforts of Tamihana and Matene.  In 1843, they “went to the South Island and preached Christianity to their relations there and to Ngai Tahu, their former enemies.  When asked by Ngai Tahu chiefs if his father was going to come to attack them, Tamihana Te Rauparaha would reply, ‘He indeed will not come; for I have indeed come hither to you to bring an end to war-fare, and to bind firmly peace by virtue of the words of the Gospel of the Lord.’  The next year he accompanied Bishop G. A. Selwyn on his first overland trek in the South Island, which began with the first church service in South Canterbury, at Te Wai-a-te-ruati.  In these ways Tamihana helped to bring the fighting to an end, and to bring Christianity to the southern parts of New Zealand.”

When war was threatening in Wellington in 1845, Tamihana was sent by his father to the Hutt Valley in an effort to make sure that Maori left the land which was in dispute with settlers, as Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata had agreed.

At the same time Matene is said to have kept Governor Grey informed about ammunition stores in the Porirua district, and to have passed on rumours of a supposed plan to attack Wellington.

In his later years Te Rauparaha becomes a peacemaker

Tamihana attended St John’s College in Auckland and was there in 1846 when his father was arrested on the orders of Governor Grey.  He visited his father on board the Calliope and quotes his father as saying, “Oh son! both you and Matene, go to your people! and say: repay only with goodness on my account; do not incur ill-will with the Europeans on my account – for only by Goodwill is the salvation of Man, Woman and Child.”

Tamihana took this message to Otaki, where Ngati Raukawa were planning to take revenge for the arrest of Te Rauparaha by joining with Te Rangihaeata to attack Wellington.  They were dissuaded from war by Te Rauparaha’s words.

There is evidence here of a change in the attitude of Te Rauparaha, who was certainly presented with a different path forward by his son, who was throughout a peacemaker, both loyal to the government and a friend to his father.

Te Rauparaha was discharged under a guarantee of good conduct given by Te Wherowhero and Tamati Waka Nene (former enemies who had become friends and supporters of the government).  He lived for six months with Te Wherowhero in the Waikato before returning to spend his last years with his son at Otaki.

Tamihana the country squire

Tamihana Te Rauparaha the country squire

As the leading figure in Ngati Toa at Otaki, Tamihana prospered and lived as a country squire in the lifestyle of an English gentleman as a successful sheep farmer.  He was a man of considerable wealth and was able to travel widely.

On 19 December 1850 Tamihana left for England, on the Wesleyan Missionary Society vessel John Wesley.  On 30 June 1852 Tamihana was presented to Queen Victoria.  He returned impressed with the power and prestige of the British monarchy.

Tamihana was worried that law and order was absent from a number of Maori areas, where feuds raged.  The authority of chiefs was no longer respected and the government left many Maori communities to look after their own affairs.

Supporting the concept of a Maori king

Tamihana sought a solution and became henceforth a strong advocate for a Maori king as a means to unity, law and security among the tribes.  In 1853, Tamihana and Matene undertook a series of journeys in the central North Island, urging upon the tribes the idea of a Maori king.

The movement was controversial with many Maori opposed, but eventually Te Wherowhero, by then an old and ailing man, was chosen as king in the Waikato.  Then in 1860, despite the pacifist wishes of their ‘king’, some followers of the movement went to Taranaki to fight with the rebellion of Wiremu Kingi.

Although they had been among the founders of the king movement, Tamihana and Matene were distressed with what had become of the movement, which they had envisaged as a peaceful effort to bring law and order to Maori communities and as a bastion against further sales of Maori land.

Rejecting the aggression of the king movement

Tawhiao, the second Maori king would not cooperate with the government

They were fearful of the intentions of the king movement following their turn away from the peaceful approach of Te Wherowhero, and they broke with the movement.

At the great Kohimarama meeting of chiefs Tamihana made his feelings clear“I disapprove of this King. … Waikato has set up a King.  They fixed on Te Wherowhero as their King because he had the reputation of being well disposed towards the Pakeha.  My opinion is, now that that King is dead they will turn to evil and make war with the Pakehas.  But, hearken you!  Should I hear that any of my Pakehas have fallen I shall come forward and assist them.

Later that year, during a meeting at Hadfield’s mission in Otaki, Tamihana and Matene strenuously opposed the raising of the King’s flag.  They opposed the influence of the king movement at Otaki and in the Wairarapa, and advocated the recognition of the Wellington area as a peace zone when war broke out.

Tamihana: farmer and government supporter

Tamihana continued as a wealthy farmer and friend of government until his death in 1879.  In 1864 he held the position of senior assessor with an annual income of ₤100 and in 1869 he accompanied Governor Bowen on a tour of the South Island.

A similar pattern was played out in nearby Waikanae, with Wi Parata Te Kakakura (mid 1830s to 1906) playing the part of tribal leader and squire.  His mother, Metapere Waipunahau, was a woman of high status; his grandfather and his great-uncle were leading rangatira amongst the Te Atiawa and Ngati Toa.

After the departure of the Ati Awa contingent led by Wiremu Kingi for Waitara in 1848, Parata became the dominant chief in the Waikanae area.  He was elected to Parliament in 1871, for two terms, and appointed to the Executive Council.  He was the largest landowner in the area, running 1,600 sheep in 1875.

These two examples show that a dominant chief could continue with control of tribal assets and eventually become wealthy in his own right, and influential in the new society.

Revising NZ History 8: What happened at Rangiaowhia in 1864?

Claims have been made that atrocities were committed by British soldiers at Rangiaowhia, most recently by historian Vincent O’Malley. John Robinson says he can dispel these alleged myths, based on the evidence of people who were there.

British forces arrive in the area

By John Robinson

General Cameron

Towards the end of the war of rebellion in the Waikato, in 1864, the kingite forces constructed a well-fortified pa at Paterangi.

It would have taken a considerable effort, with great loss of life on both sides, to defeat that stronghold.

So the British Army ignored it and walked past.

General Cameron outflanked the kingites’ heavy defences and the Government forces moved on to capture the food supplies of the garrison, the fields of wheat, maize and potatoes, and peach groves at Rangiaowhia.


O’Malley claims atrocities were committed

Vincent O’Malley ‘makes false claims’

In a recent account of the rebellion, The Great War for New Zealand, Waikato 1800-2000 Vincent O’Malley dwells on the subsequent controversy, with the claim that Rangiaowhia was a peaceful, undefended village.  He then illustrates his narrative with a suggestive picture of Maori whares being torched by soldiers in the fictional movie Utu.

This creates the impression of a murderous attack by the British on an unarmed women and children; in his Introduction O’Malley refers to “British atrocities committed against women and children at Rangiaowhia, Orakau and elsewhere.”

O’Malley expanded the story further in an article in the Listener where he described “a George Grey-inspired attack that killed up to 100 Maori men, women and children to crush a non-existent uprising”.  His source of this new information of “an almost incomprehensible act of savagery” is “Maori oral histories”.

Others went further, that “the British locked over 100 Maori men, women and children in the church and burnt them to death.”  This story was repeated by Dame Susan Devoy during her address at a dawn Waitangi Day ceremony at Mt Maunganui, and became widely reported.

These claims are not found in the accounts of the time. 

No evidence to support the atrocities story

Andrea Reischek

When staying in the King Country in 1882, Andreas Reischek was told of their annoyance when they waited for three of four days for an expected attack only to hear of the capture of Rangiawhia (his spelling) when “a few of them had been killed”.

When he made a separate peace in 1865, Wiremu Tamihana voiced a great anger at what he thought had happened, but with no claim of a large number of dead or the burning of people trapped within a church.

Similarly there is no mention of the large death toll or of the burning of a church in the comprehensive account of those wars by James Cowan.  Indeed both churches were standing after the fighting was over.

The evidence of people who were there

In The Defenders of New Zealand (1887, pages 175-179) Gudgeon provides a more complete report, including an eyewitness account by a Maori lad who was in the whare, saw the first shots fired and then was allowed to leave before it caught fire.

By relying on people who were there, Gudgeon is able to tell us that the village was in fact defended by armed warriors, that the British tried to move them out without any deaths, and that the fighting was started by Maori who shot and killed officers who were simply asking them to leave. 

Recent rediscovery of accounts of two participants, a member of Cameron’s force and a Maori named Potatau who was a lad at the centre of the action give us now a more accurate picture of the true story than even celebrated historian James Cowan was able to achieve.

 It is of critical importance that the truth so revealed be told.

On the night of 20th February at 11 o’clock, the mixed force of colonial cavalry, regular infantry, artillery and Forest Rangers paraded.  Horses feet were muffled and their gear wrapped in cloth.  Passing successfully close by the rebel defences in the darkness, the cavalry reached the village soon after dawn.

 With many Maori civilians, men and women, running away, Captain Wilson commanding the advance guard called to the women in Maori to sit down to avoid the risk of being shot. ‘They obeyed, and we passed them; then they got up and ran on.’

Soon the troops were everywhere in the village.  There was some skirmishing as Maoris began firing from their huts at the cavalrymen.  ‘One or two of [the] snipers were women.’  ‘The Forest Rangers found the Roman Catholic church … crammed with armed Maoris, who showed a white flag and were not pressed further.’   ‘The English church, too, was filled with Maoris, and some shots came from the windows.’

‘It did not take long for the cavalry to clear the enemy out of Rangiaohia, our infantry being far in the rear.  Having accomplished our work, we had turned about and were taking prisoners as we came along, when Captain Wilson’s attention was drawn to a whare, near which a struggle was going on between Corporal Little, of ours, and a huge Maori. … I heard some days afterwards that the big Maori, whom I mentioned before as having been taken prisoner, had said that his life was saved by a man who wore a silver band round his cap, meaning Captain Wilson.

Potatau’s eye witness account

Meantime, the boy, Potatau, leaving the house where he had spent the night, saw some troopers passing nearby.  He takes up the story: ‘I at once ran to my father’s house.  I had not been long there when my grandfather [Hoani] came to the same house. … so that he might die with us – Ihaia, Rawiri and his son. 

At this time myself and my mother went outside the house, and sat at the door of the house.  I heard my father say to my grandfather:  ‘Let us lay down our guns and give ourselves up as prisoners.’ … My grandfather would not agree.  At this time the soldiers came to us, and asked my mother in Maori: ‘Are there any Maoris in the house?’  She replied: ‘No, there are no Maoris in the house.’  My father at once said: ‘Yes, there are Maoris here.’ 

The European who spoke Maori came to the door of the house, and caught hold of my father, and handed him over to the soldiers.’

It is pretty evident that the ‘big Maori’ who was captured was Potatau’s father.  As Captain Wilson came up immediately afterwards it is easy to see that Potatau attributed his father’s capture to him rather than the corporal.

At this point, Captain Wilson ordered Sergeant McHale, the sole Australian volunteer in the cavalry, to enter the hut and take the occupants prisoner.

Potatau again: ‘The European went inside of the house.  My grandfather shot him and killed him. Some of the others dragged the body in the house.  At this time my mother and self arose and went through the soldiers and between the troopers.  They did not interfere with us, but allowed us to pass.  We went to the house of Thomas Power, who had a Maori woman to wife.  After we left we heard the soldiers firing. … [After] the firing had ceased, we at once left the place and ran off to the bush, and made for Rangitoto.’

The action at Rangiaowhia

‘Captain Wilson called out  ‘What are you shooting the Maoris for?’ and jumping from his horse was into the hut in a moment. The door was so low he had to stoop to get inside. The place was full of smoke, and as Captain Wilson entered he found under him McHale’s body, his feet towards the door, and face down.

The captain could not see anyone else for the darkness and smoke, consequently he soon backed out, calling out that McHale had been shot, which the men no sooner heard than with their carbines they commenced to riddle the house, which was built of slabs.

The firing soon brought together the whole of the cavalry, and after a while some of the 65th and Forest Rangers, also the general and staff, came up.  It was after General Cameron’s arrival that Colonel Nixon was shot from the door of the whare.

Then, as the Maoris did not surrender when challenged for the second time, the infantry fired the house.  I saw one Maori walk out of the blazing hut, his blanket singed on his back.  Poor fellow! he fell within ten paces of the door whence he and his compatriots had so wantonly shot our colonel and many other good men.

There was nothing now to prevent us from recovering McHale’s body, but its condition was such that we could hardly distinguish it from the Maoris around him.’

The death of Potatau’s grandfather and others

Of the one who walked out of the blazing hut, Cowan has to say: ‘A tall old man, clothed in a white blanket … emerged from the doorway of the burning house.  His upstretched arms showed that he had no weapon.  ‘Spare him, spare him!’ shouted the nearest officers. But next moment there was a thunder of shots. … the old hero  … swayed slowly and fell dead to the ground.  The episode enraged the chivalrous officers who had entreated quarter for him.’

The irony of all this is that the ‘old hero’ must have been Potatau’s grandfather who had fired the shots which killed McHale and started the whole fracas.  Almost the last survivor, he had realized that the game was up and walked out to meet his fate.

Had he heeded his son’s advice at the start to give themselves up none of it would have happened.  As it was, nearly all the casualties at Rangiaowhia occurred  there.

Two more men came forth from the whare and were shot dead while firing at the troops then the burning building collapsed.  Besides the charred body of McHale, seven bodies were found in the ruins.

Fighting in and around the Catholic Church

St Pauls Rangiaowhia today

In the final incident ‘at the Catholic church some of Hoani Papita’s men made a short stand.  Twenty or thirty of them rushed into the church and fired through the windows, and it was thought at first that they intended standing a siege there, but they discovered that the weatherboards were not bullet-proof.  The rangers and some Regulars attacked, and the church-walls were soon perforated with bullets.

At last the defenders dashed out through the door on the northern side, and fled into the swamps.’

The church remained standing. 

Even prominent rebel leader Wiremu Tamihana acknowledged this, saying: ‘There was only one house burnt; that was the house where the Maoris died.  I went there and saw it.’

Five of Cameron’s men including Colonel Nixon were killed at the ill-fated whare or died later of wounds.  Ten Maoris died there including the chiefs Ihaia and Hoani who made the fateful decision not to surrender at the start as his son had advised him.

Just two Maoris were killed in the entire remainder of the action.  ‘About thirty prisoners, some wounded, were taken.


History as propaganda

The case of Vincent O’Malley

By John Robinson  

Recently several of us took the train to Wellington to hear a talk at the National Library by Vincent O’Malley about his recent book, The Great War for New Zealand, Waikato 1800-2000.

O’Malley does not take on the role of an independent scholar; indeed, he is firmly in the rebel camp.

He is an avowed supporter of the king movement and the dedication of his book is to “those who founded and fought to defend the Kingitanga”.

His presentation began with a slide of his friendly meeting with the current ‘king’.


Advocating the Maori ‘king’s’ legitimacy

Vincent O’Malley makes false claims

The claim for the legitimacy of this ‘king’ and for a separate kingdom had been already made in the introduction to O’Malley, with the insistence that “The Crown invaded the Waikato”.

There was little of fact in O’Malley’s talk, rather an insistence that the version he represented should be taught at all schools (with a decision imposed rather than left to teachers).

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage was hosting a talk of propaganda in favour of a separate monarchy, of rebellion and active opposition to the unified national state, in support of a ‘king’ who has called for race-based separation of government.

Questioning O’Malley’s conclusions

Te Wherowhero at the time he became”king”

During the question time, I disagreed with his claim that “the Crown was overwhelmingly hostile to Maori”; they had agreed to protect those Maori who were under threat and in 1857 Governor Grey had promised to provide all that Waikato desired, which had been warmly welcomed by Te Wherowhero (soon to be the first ‘king’).

I pointed out the considerable disagreements among Waikato Maori, in opposition to O’Malley’s unified picture.

To this O’Malley claimed, wrongly, that any opposition to the king movement was not home-grown, but had been stimulated by Governor Browne.

Differences over confiscated land issues

Tawhaio rejected the return of much of the confiscated land

When Roger Childs asked for comment about Tawhiao’s refusal to accept the return of confiscated land, O’Malley said the offer was only for 20,000 acres.  I disagreed, pointing that the offer had been for all confiscated land not already sold, which had delighted Rewi Maniapoto.

O’Malley waved that away with the claim that the sources of my information (which he did not know) were all wrong, and moved to the next question.

I have been left with an impression of arrogance, and a fixation on one narrative.  O’Malley will readily dismiss any difficult facts, without having any knowledge of the source of the information. 

This is a familiar pattern.  O’Malley has made a number of wild claims that lack substance.

Unsubstantiated claims of atrocities

He supported Otorohanga College students “shock at the burning to death of residents of a Waikato village”, with the claim that I argue in my book that the evidence that people were deliberately torched to death is clear and unambiguous.”

He has painted a picture of “an almost incomprehensible act of savagery” in an article in the Listener, claiming “a George Grey-inspired attack that killed up to 100 Maori men, women and children to crush a non-existent uprising”.

His source of this claim of almost one hundred dead is vague, “Maori oral histories”, without any firm foundation in fact.

What did happen at Rangiaowhia in 1864

The skirmish at Rangiaowhia

All this is nonsense; information of what actually occurred is well known, and given in a Kapiti Independent article, “What happened at Rangiaowhia”.  (Scroll down to  November 7.)

This was one of the most sensible actions in the war.

In 1864, the British Army ignored a well-fortified pa at Paterangi, outflanked the kingites’ heavy defences and moved on to capture the food supplies of the garrison at Rangiaowhia.

There was some resistance by armed warriors, resulting in the deaths of five British troops and ten Maori; the fighting that resulted in the burning of one hut started when Maori shot and killed British officers who were asking them to move away.

‘Proclaimed advocacy and propaganda’

O’Malley’s work is proclaimed advocacy, propaganda.

Yet he demands that his version be presented in all New Zealand schools, the choice to be taken from the teachers by some central edict.

Official support for his spin must concern us all.


Getting The Truth On The New Zealand Wars

19th century history in the spotlight

By Roger Childs

Fighting at Rangiaowhia in 1864

Otorohanga College students Leah Bell and Waimarama Anderson came up with the idea of a day of remembrance for the New Zealand Wars.

This was taken up and the first commemoration occurred on October 28.

The girls felt that the public needed to have a better understanding of the conflicts of the 19th century and that all students should learn about them as part of the school curriculum.

In fact the wars have featured in history courses since the 1960s and 1970s, and most Social Studies teachers today cover the Treaty of Waitangi and interactions between Maori, the Crown and settlers that occurred before and after. However, obviously Leah and Waimarama wanted more.

In 2016 two books were published covering this key period in New Zealand history:

  • The Kingite Rebellion by John Robinson
  • The Great War of New Zealand Waikato 1800 – 2000 by Vincent O’Malley

The big book gets the accolades

O’Malley’s book at 690 pages is a big one and it is expensive at $80.00. The New Zealand Herald called it their “book of the year”.

It has been widely reviewed and well known historians have sung its praises.

The Waikato War was the most decisive in New Zealand’s history, but has long been overshadowed by bigger wars overseas. Now, in a fine new book, Vincent O’Malley gives the traumatic conflict its due. James Belich, Beit Professor of Imperial and Commonwealth History, University of Oxford

Vincent O’Malley has produced a hugely impressive work of history and a powerful story that should be read by all who care about New Zealand. Jock Phillips, former General Editor of Te Ara –

Vincent O’Malley

The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

The Maori “king” is delighted with it and it has been well received by iwi around the nation. Not surprisingly, the two Otorohanga students have received a copy.

Sadly, the book, which is generally well-researched, shows a clear pro-Maori bias. For example, to support his contention of “atrocities” at Rangiaowhia in 1864 his source is “Maori oral histories”. He ignores eye witness accounts from both sides.

O’Malley nails his colours to the mast in the initial book dedication.

In memory of the victims of the Waikato War and those who founded and fought to defend the Kīngitanga.

Much the better book

The Kingite Rebellion is definitely the superior book, as John Robinson bases his research around eye witness records, and government documents.

He has no axe to grind and provides excellent background on the outbreak of the Taranaki War in 1860. Key points are made related to mistakes made by the authorities, notably Governor Fitzroy’s foolish decision to overturn a legal ruling by Land Commissioner William Spain related to Maori land claims.

This reversal, which had ruled out absentee owners making claims, allowed Wiremu Kingi, who was living in Kapiti, and the Waikato tribes, to meddle in Taranaki land issues.

Other historians have emphasised that the attempted sale of land in Waitara by its owner Chief Te Tiera Manuka, was the catalyst for war.

However, Robinson details the in-fighting among iwi prior to this “transaction”, which created  a volatile situation in the “province”, and the development of pro-sales and anti-sales factions.

Avoiding black and white

Author John Robinson

A major strength of Robinson’s book, is his emphasis on seeing the unfolding opposition of some Maori groups to the Crown, as being a changing scene. There are no simple explanations and there was plenty of shifting ground.

He avoids simplistic generalisations, unlike O’Malley who stated in a talk on his book:

  • Settlers … were not prepared to play second fiddle to a bunch of natives.
  • the Pakeha wanted unbridled power.
  • The settler government was hostile to Maori interests.
  • The Waikato War was a deliberate war of conquest.

Robinson quotes the protagonists – chiefs, politicians, missionaries, officials and other observers – at length, to show that the development of the Kingite movement was complicated and had many opponents, even in the Waikato.

Also some of the early proponents, such as Tamihana Te Rauparaha and Matene Te Wheiwhei, quickly abandoned the cause when they saw it being taken over by iwi bent on going to war.

Te Wherowhero wanted peace

Another critical point that Robinson emphasises, is that the first Maori “king”, the elderly Waikato chief, Te Wherowhero, wanted peace with the Crown and the European settlers, from the start.

He also shows that the often maligned Governor George Grey spent much time and energy trying to persuade “king” Tawhaio that a Maori monarch, with claims to sovereignty, could not exist alongside the British sovereign, Queen Victoria.

The majority of Maori in the country acknowledged her as their overall ruler, and over 200 Maori chiefs pledged loyalty to the government, at the Kohimarama Conference in 1860.

Rebels and peacemakers

Robinson emphasizes that the defiance and threats of the Kingite groups was a rebellion against the Crown, which had sovereignty of the nation granted in the Treaty of Waitangi.

Rewi Maniapoto

Claims by many historians, including O’Malley, that the Waikato was invaded in 1863 are ridiculous. Governments don’t invade their own territory.

The Kingite Rebellion also makes it clear that the king movement only ever had the support of a minority of iwi, and in the end even some of its staunchest supporters, such as Rewi Maniapoto of Orakau fame, gladly accepted peace.

Robinson is of the view that if there is to be a day to remember the so-called New Zealand Wars, it should be when Rewi and Governor Grey met near Waitara in June 1878 to declare peace.

Most Maori chiefs, including devoted supporters of Tawhaio, thought the “king” would also agree to formally making peace with the Crown, but he refused. There were a number of later offers to the Waikato leader to return much of the confiscated land, but he would not accept.

Getting to the truth

O’Malley’s book has been favourably received and reviewed up and down the country, but one wonders how many reviewers actually waded through the nearly 700 pages.

His approach is clearly pro-kingitanga, whereas Robinson is intent on teasing out the realities and the changing allegiances, without taking sides.

The Kingite Rebellion should be widely read and reviewed. If it has any weaknesses, it is the lack of maps and an index.

(It is published by Tross Publishing and can be purchased at Paper Plus.)