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Story: Rotohiko Tangonui Haupapa

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Rotohiko Tangonui Haupapa


Ngāti Whakaue leader, administrator, educationalist

This biography, written by Hamuera Mitchell and Jenifer Curnow, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Rotohiko Tangonui Haupapa was born at Ōhinemutu, Rotorua, possibly in 1836, the year of the battles of Te Tūmū and Mātaipuku, and lived there for most of his life. From time to time he also lived at Te Koutu, close to Ōhinemutu, and at Mokoia Island, as well as at Maketū, in the Bay of Plenty. He was unique in his time in being able to claim descent from the six hapū of Ngāti Whakaue – Te Roro-o-te-rangi, Ngāti Tūnohopū, Te Rangi-i-waho, Ngāti Pūkākī, Ngāti Taeōtū and Ngāti Te Hurungaterangi. His seniority by descent was from Te Roro-o-te-rangi, Tūnohopū, Te Rangi-i-waho and Taeōtū. From the ancestors Tūnohopū and Te Rangi-i-waho, his descent was ure tarewa, or continuously male, enhancing his mana and authority.

He was the son of Hōri Haupapa of Ngāti Whakaue, who was said to have resembled 'a gigantic drill sergeant', and was a strong supporter of the government for 40 years. When Governor George Grey visited Rotorua in 1849 he met Hōri Haupapa, and later referred English visitors to him and his son to be guided around the lakes. By the time Hōri Haupapa died in 1879, Rotohiko was an eminent leader of his people and district.

Rotohiko's first wife was Miriata Taiamai, a woman held in high respect by both Māori and Pākehā. She was known for her kindness and hospitality to travellers at a time when there were no hotels or accommodation houses. She died, still quite young, in 1876. There were two sons of the marriage: Hiwinui, who died at a very early age; and Wharetūtaki, who married Pinenga Piripi, a member of the family of Wiremu Hikairo of Ngāti Rangiwewehi. Rotohiko's second marriage was to Te Ririu, the daughter of Hamuera Pango, a celebrated authority on Māori lore, genealogy and history. They had several children, including Nataria, who married Niramona Taiehu Mitchell.

From the early 1860s Rotohiko held a number of administrative and judicial appointments. In 1862 he became secretary and then clerk of the runanga established at Maketū under Grey's new system of local Māori self-government. At the same time he was appointed clerk and junior assessor at the Maketū Circuit Court, and clerk at the native office at Maketū. He was appointed assessor in the circuit court in 1880. He took cases for Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāti Tūnohopū through the Native Land Court.

He was also active in local affairs. The Great Committee of Rotorua (Te Komiti Nui o Rotorua) was established in 1878 as a united organisation with jurisdiction over the extensive lands of Te Arawa. It aimed to prevent individuals from entering into private negotiations for sale. This committee decided to lay out a township on the present site of Rotorua. In 1883, under the terms of the Thermal-Springs District Act 1881, the Rotorua Town Board came into existence. Rotohiko Haupapa represented Ngāti Whakaue on the three member board; the other two were H. W. Brabant and T. H. Lewis. He remained a member until his death four years later.

Rotohiko figured prominently on many other local associations, including the district licensing committee. He was steward at the Ōhinemutu races. Not long before his death he was present at the turning of the first sod when a start was made to the Auckland–Rotorua railway. This project was helped by a gift from Ngāti Whakaue of 20,000 acres of heavily timbered land at Mamaku.

Rotohiko Haupapa's outstanding contribution was to education. As fluent in English as in Māori, he was convinced of the importance of education. For a short time in 1867 there had been a school at Ōhinemutu and there was another on Pukeroa hill in the mid 1870s. The situation was highly unsatisfactory; classes were held in a raupo shed that let in the weather. Rotohiko argued strenuously for a better site. He rejected one site because neither firewood nor water was available; he urged that 200 or 300 acres should be obtained for a central school for the whole district.

In spite of Ngāti Whakaue's offers of land, the government did not act until 1880, when a native school was opened at Ōhinemutu for all children, Māori and Pākehā. At first Māori attendance was poor; little progress was made until Rotohiko donated another site of about three acres on Pukeroa hill. This land, Te Wharau a Tahora Whakarua, is still the site of the Rotorua Primary School. The school building was not completed until May 1887, and the first classes were held in June, only a few months before Rotohiko's death. Under his influence, too, Ngāti Whakaue provided endowment land for education. Located in what is now the central city area, it is a major source of income for five secondary schools. Considered the founder of Māori education in Rotorua, Rotohiko has one of the town's streets named after him, Haupapa Street.

His photograph in the Rotorua Museum shows a man of fine features, handsome and of an elegant appearance. His rosary beads, just visible around the collar of his suit, testify to his devotion to the Catholic faith. He died on 1 August 1887, and is buried with his father and his father-in-law Hāmuera Pango, on a knoll at Kauae cemetery, Ngongotahā.

How to cite this page:

Hamuera Mitchell and Jenifer Curnow. 'Rotohiko Tangonui Haupapa', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1r18/rotohiko-tangonui-haupapa (accessed 12 December 2023)