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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.



(c. 1783–1863).

Ngai Tahu chief.

A new biography of Taiaroa, Te Matenga appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Taiaroa belonged to the Ruahiihiki hapu of Ngai Tahu and to the Ngati Moki hapu of Ngati Mamoe and was lesser chief to Tuhawai, ki. He showed remarkable skill in warfare and, in his day, was considered to be one of the most able Maori war leaders. In 1831 he led a srong relieving force into Kaiapohia pa which was besieged by Te Rauparaha. Three years later he pursued the Ngati Toa from Kaiapohia to Tory Channel and, afterwards, to Waitohi (Picton) where he fought a three-day battle against Te Rauparaha. He was present at the massacre of Te Puoho's taua at Tuturau (near Mataura) in 1836. It is said that on this occasion Taiaroa wished to spare the Ngati Matunga members of the defeated party, but that his wish was overruled by Tuhawaiki.

In 1839 Taiaroa sold to Johnny Jones a large tract of land at Waikouaiti and, later in the year, he sailed north in an unsuccessful attempt to provoke Te Rauparaha into war. Early in June 1840 Major Bunbury visited Ruapuke Island and secured Taiaroa's signature to the Treaty of Waitangi at the same time as he secured Tuhawaiki's. After the Wairau Affray, Taiaroa visited Te Rauparaha at Taupo pa and ended the hostility between them. For a time it seemed possible that these two would combine their forces against the Europeans. On 20 June 1844 Taiaroa, Tuhawaiki, and Karetai sold the Otago Block to Tuckett and in 1848, Taiaroa sold all his claims to land in Canterbury and Otago to the New Zealand Government for £2,000. In 1857 he was present, on the invitation of Te Heuheu Iwikau, at the “King” meeting at Pukawa; and in the 1860s he undertook negotiations between the New Zealand Government and Tawhiao.

Taiaroa married Kororaina, the daughter of Makore Ngatata. In 1859 he was baptised in the Methodist fait. He died at Otakou on 4 February 1863.

Taiaroa did not create a very favourable impression upon those Europeans who have left records of their meetings with him. D'UrvilleMonro, and E. J. Wakefield found him unpleasant, while Tuckett described him as being tyrannous and avaricious with “a repulsive Jewish physiognomy”. In Taiaroa's favour, however, it must be mentioned that these people met him in his later years when his long association with the whalers at the Otakou station was beginning to show its effects. This, together with his wellknown antipathy to the Pakeha, almost certainly influenced their judgment.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • The History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • Lore and History of the South Island Maori, Taylor, W. A. (1950).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.