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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


NENE, Tamati Waka (Waaka),

(c. 1780–1871).

Ngapuhi chief.

A new biography of Nene, Tamati Waka appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Nene was the son of Tapua, a noted warrior of the Ngati-Hao hapu of the Ngapuhi tribe of North Auckland. He was also the brother of Patuone. Although in his earlier years Nene achieved fame as a warrior under Hongi Hika in the raids which took him as far as Cook Strait, he early befriended the Pakeha and lent his support to the establishment and enforcement of law and order. His intervention to protect the missionaries made him an important figure in the history of the New Zealand missions. He was one of the first chiefs to be baptised, and took the names “Thomas Walker”.

In 1840 Nene's speech urging the Ngapuhi chiefs to sign the Treaty of Waitangi proved decisive. WhenGovernor Hobson moved the seat of government from the Bay of Islands to Auckland, the consequent decline in trade led to unrest among certain of the younger Ngapuhi chiefs. When two of these, Hone Heke and Kawiti, took up arms against the Europeans, Nene promptly offered to stand surety against further outbreak. This involved him in warfare against Heke and several engagements were fought. Nene's warriors supported Lieutenant-Colonel Hulme's men in their ill-conceived attack on Heke's position at Lake Omapere and, afterwards, without British support, he engaged Heke until Colonel Despard's troops were in a position to attack Ohaeawai. Here he sought to restrain Despard's impetuousness and advised against the “forlorn hope” in which one-sixth of the storming party were killed. At the siege of Ruapekapeka Nene and Patuone reconnoitred the pa and then, finding it unguarded, led a mixed party of warriors and Imperial troops to capture it. Heke and Kawiti promptly sued for peace and Nene interceded with Governor Grey to secure clemency on their behalf.

After Te Rauparaha's arrest, Nene and Potatau Te Wherowhero stood surety for his good behaviour and, in January 1848, they accompanied Grey to Wellington to reassure themselves that the Ngati Toa chief had indeed been released. In December 1848 Grey appointed Nene to be one of his squires at his investiture as a Knight. Nene's services were recognised by the British authorities and he was granted an annual pension of £100. With his characteristic generosity Nene devoted his first year's pension towards erecting a flour mill as a peace offering to his former enemies. When Grey returned for his second term as Governor, he brought Nene a chased silver goblet as a gift from Queen Victoria. In later years the Ngapuhi chief often attended the levees at Government House, Auckland. In the 1860s Nene held aloof from the “King” movement because he was one of the few chiefs who saw that the Maoris' only hope lay in their cooperating with the Europeans. He also realised that for many years to come the Maoris' future as a race would be a most uncertain one. Nene's stand on this prevented his Ngapuhi from joining in the costly wars which followed.

Tamati Waka Nene died on 4 August 1871 and was buried, at his own request, in the churchyard in the Bay of Islands. His wife, Ihapera, had died in 1837, leaving two daughters.

by Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo.

  • The New Zealand Wars, Cowan, J. (1955)
  • Hone Heke's Rebellion, Rutherford, J. (1947)
  • Early New Zealand, Sherrin, R. A. A., and Wallace, J. H. (1890).


Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo.