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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.


POMARE, Sir Maui Wiremu Pita Naera, K.B.E., C.M.G., M.D.


Maori leader, Minister of Health and Internal Affairs.

Maui Pomare was descended from Hoturoa, captain of the Tainui canoe. His grandmother was Te Rua-o-te Rangi, one of the few women to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. She married John Nicol, a sailor-trader, and Pomare's mother was born of this union. As his uncle, Wiremu Pita Pomare (Pomare means “night of coughing”) died without heirs, the chieftainship passed to Wiremu Naera. Naera's son Maui was born on 13 January 1876 at Pahou Pa, 20 miles north of New Plymouth. Years later Te Whiti, the prophet of Parihaka, prophesied that “a son who is of Waitara will pick up the crumbs of Waitara and piece them together”. Maui Pomare helped fulfil this prophecy.

In 1887 Pomare attended Christchurch Boys' High School and, later, Te Aute College, where he transferred after his mother's death in 1889. There he joined the Te Aute Students' Association where he, with others, was stimulated by a study of J. H. Pope's Te Ora-o-te Maori. Pomare and his student friends often spent their vacations travelling and speaking at pas on religion, education, and health. They felt that the Maori could best rehabilitate himself through hard work on the land by living away from their unhealthy kaingas (villages). Influenced by a sailor-cook at Te Aute, Pomare joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church and left to attend their College (Battle Creek) in Michigan, U.S.A., where he graduated M.D. in 1899. He returned to New Zealand intending to establish a college on the American pattern but, instead, accepted appointment as Health Officer for one of the 19 districts created by the Maori Councils Act 1900. Through his efforts the Tohunga Suppression Act 1907 was passed, Maori Councils were formed, and sanitation inspectors were appointed to Maori villages. In addition he advocated and, in large measure, achieved the registration of all Maori births and deaths.

In Taranaki he helped to form the Maori Union, which taught their tribes sobriety and work. Elected to the House of Representatives for Western Maori in 1911, Pomare became a member of Massey's Ministry without portfolio on 10 July 1912. He became Minister of the Cook Islands in 1916, Minister of Health in 1923, and Minister of Internal Affairs in 1928. As a member of Parliament he used his influence to secure the setting up of two Royal Commissions on Native Affairs. In 1912 the first of these gave Taranaki Maoris the opportunity to bid in open Court for their ancestral lands and, as a result, the West Coast Settlement Reserves Amendment Act of 1913 was passed. The second Royal Commission, that of 18 October 1926, agreed that £5,000 should be paid annually to compensate the tribes who had suffered injustice when Teira sold the Waitara Block. During the years of the First World War, Pomare was chairman of the Maori Regimental Committee and, by his insistence, had conscription widened to include Maoris. Through his efforts, the Maori Battalion retained its identity following heavy losses suffered at Gallipoli. As Minister of Health he was instrumental in reorganising New Zealand's mental hospitals and in segregating lepers to Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour. As Minister of the Cook Islands he brought the education system there into closer conformity with that of New Zealand and did the same for the legal system. His Cook Islands Act 1916 conformed with the general body of New Zealand law. Pomare also fought monopoly interests in the Cook Islands fruit trade and had the whole industry brought under Government control. As Minister of Internal Affairs, Pomare played a leading part in organising the Maori celebrations in connection with the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927.

After the parliamentary elections, in 1922, the defeated Ratana candidates petitioned to have Pomare's election declared invalid. The petition was heard in Tauranga on 23 March 1923, and Pomare retained his seat. From 1928 his health failed and, while bedridden, he completed in association with James Cowan the second volume of The Legends of the Maori.

In January 1903 Pomare married Miria Woodbine, daughter of James Woodbine Johnson, of Gisborne, by whom he had two sons and one daughter. For his services, Pomare received the C.M.G. in 1920, and in 1922 was created K.B.E. He died on 27 June 1930 while on a visit to Los Angeles, and his ashes, which were returned to New Zealand, now rest in Manukorihi Pa high above the Waitara River.

Enthusiastic and tireless in his mission among the Maori people, Sir Maui Pomare encouraged sanitation in native settlements. Through his efforts he brought new hope and life to many, and he lived to see the Maori people increase in numbers and in social status. In Parliament he was noted for his powers of concentration, for his ready wit, and for his forthright oratory, while his work for the lepers and the inmates of mental hospitals showed the breadth of his humanitarianism.

by Robert Ritchie Alexander, M.A., DIP.ED.(N.Z.), B.T.(CALCUTTA), PH.D.(MINNESOTA), Teachers' Training College, Christchurch.

  • Man of Two Worlds – Sir Maui Pomare, Cody, J. F.
  • (1953);Takitimu, Mitchell, J. H. (1944)
  • The Daily Democrat (Springfield, Ohio), 30 Aug 1897.


Robert Ritchie Alexander, M.A., DIP.ED.(N.Z.), B.T.(CALCUTTA), PH.D.(MINNESOTA), Teachers' Training College, Christchurch.