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Rotohiko Tangonui Haupapa

by Hamuera Mitchell, Jenifer Curnow


Rotohiko Tangonui Haupapa was born at Ohinemutu, Rotorua, possibly in 1836, the year of the battles of Te Tumu and Mataipuku, and lived there for most of his life. From time to time he also lived at Te Koutu, close to Ohinemutu, and at Mokoia Island, as well as at Maketu, in the Bay of Plenty. He was unique in his time in being able to claim descent from the six hapu of Ngati Whakaue – Te Roro-o-te-rangi, Ngati Tunohopu, Te Rangi-i-waho, Ngati Pukaki, Ngati Taeotu and Ngati Te Hurunga-te-rangi. His seniority by descent was from Te Roro-o-te-rangi, Tunohopu, Te Rangi-i-waho and Taeotu. From the ancestors Tunohopu and Te Rangi-i-waho, his descent was ure tarewa, or continuously male, enhancing his mana and authority.

He was the son of Hori Haupapa of Ngati 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 Hori Haupapa, and later referred English visitors to him and his son to be guided around the lakes. By the time Hori 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 Maori and Pakeha. 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 Wharetutaki, who married Pinenga Piripi, a member of the family of Wiremu Hikairo of Ngati Rangiwewehi. Rotohiko's second marriage was to Te Ririu, the daughter of Hamuera Pango, a celebrated authority on Maori 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 Maketu under Grey's new system of local Maori self-government. At the same time he was appointed clerk and junior assessor at the Maketu Circuit Court, and clerk at the native office at Maketu. He was appointed assessor in the circuit court in 1880. He took cases for Ngati Whakaue and Ngati Tunohopu 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 Ngati 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 Ohinemutu 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 Ngati 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 Maori, he was convinced of the importance of education. For a short time in 1867 there had been a school at Ohinemutu 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 Ngati Whakaue's offers of land, the government did not act until 1880, when a native school was opened at Ohinemutu for all children, Maori and Pakeha. At first Maori 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, Ngati 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 Maori 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 Hamuera Pango, on a knoll at Kauae cemetery, Ngongotaha.

Links and sources


    Stafford, D. M. The founding years in Rotorua. Rotorua, 1986

    Stafford, D. M. Te Arawa. Wellington, 1967

    Tapsell, E. A history of Rotorua. Rotorua, 1972

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, (accessed 7 August 2020)