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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. 1797–1878).

Ngati Kahungunu chief.

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

Very little has been recorded of the early life and lineage of Te Hapuku. He was born about 1797 in Hawke's Bay, probably at Ahuriri, the son of Te Whakahemo, and younger brother of Te Namu. In 1825, during the northern tribes' invasion, he took part in the defence of Te Papake pa, on the Ahuriri sandpit, and was taken prisoner by Iwikau Te Heuheu. On the way to Taupo he escaped and made his way to Mahia where he was given protection by Te Wera. Three years later the Hawke's Bay tribes, which had taken refuge at Mahia, were again attacked. They repelled this and, as a result, were able to return to their former homes. Towards the close of the 1830s Te Hapuku engaged in a minor war with the Hutt Valley tribes; however, hostilities ceased in September 1840 when the Ngati Kahungunu chief visited Wellington. On 23 June 1840 Bunbury called at Hawke's Bay where, at a meeting near the mouth of the Tukituki River, he secured the signatures of Te Hapuku and Waikato to the Treaty of Waitangi. In December 1850 McLean met Te Hapuku and other Hawke's Bay chiefs at Waipukurau. Te Hapuku was well disposed towards McLean's wish to buy land; and, on 4 November 1851, negotiated the sale of the first Waipukurau block for £1,800. In 1853, because of his great mana among his fellow chiefs, the Government appointed him as a magistrate to settle disputes among his countrymen. About 1855 Te Hapuku bought a small schooner in order to ship timber and native produce to Auckland and other coastal ports. He visited Auckland in August to complain to Wynyard that he had not been paid for his land. In the same year Te Hapuku received Wiremu Tamihana Te Waharoa and other leaders of the King movement at Te Hauke, and attended subsequent meetings at Taradale, when the kingship was offered to Te Kani Takarau of the east coast. At this meeting, which Iwikau and Taiaroa attended, Te Hapuku and Karaitiana Takamoana were both contenders for the kingship, but each was too jealous of his own precedence to accept the other as king. In August 1857 Te Hapuku and Tareha, or Te Moananui, had a dispute over the former's right to remove firewood from the latter's bush land at Whakatu. This erupted into open warfare and three engagements took place. Peace was restored when McLean mediated between the two chiefs and Te Hapuku agreed to return to his pa at Te Hauke. This was the last tribal war fought in Hawke's Bay. In August 1859, at Napier, McLean negotiated with Te Hapuku and the Ngati Kahungunu chiefs for a further area of 90,000 acres.

Towards the close of March 1865 Hauhau emissaries entered Hawke's Bay on a recruiting mission. Shortly after this, when news came of the murder of Volkner, Te Hapuku and other chiefs sent messages to the Governor expressing abhorrence of the crime and disavowing sympathy with Hauhau doctrines. In October 1866, Te Hapuku, Karaitiana, Kawepo, and Tareha were present at the Omarunui battle and, afterwards, pursued the enemy across the Mohaka River to the boundaries of the province.

Te Hapuku was among the first of the Hawke's Bay chiefs to realise the benefits which would accrue to the Maori from the presence of European settlers in the district. In 1844, when Colenso arrived to open the first mission in Hawke's Bay, Te Hapuku extended his protection to the venture. Four years later he intervened decisively to prevent Te Rangihaeata from obtaining muskets from the Ngati Kahungunu. In 1851, when Selwyn visited the mission, Te Hapuku placed his canoe at the Bishop's service to bring him from Whakatu.

During his later years Te Hapuku lived quietly at Te Hauke, near Te Aute College. There, in 1878, when Te Hapuku lay dying, Sir George Grey brought along his greatest rival, Te Moananui, in order that the two might make peace. Te Hapuku died on 23 May 1878 at Te Hauke. He was buried with full military honours, the New Zealand Government running a free train from Napier in order to bring Maori and European mourners to his tangi.

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

  • Tuwharetoa, Grace, J. Te H. (1959)
  • The Treaty of Waitangi, Buick, T. L. (1933)
  • The Story of Hawke's Bay, Reed, A. H. (1958)
  • Hawke's Bay Herald, 1 Jun 1878.


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