Page 1: Biography
Te Rangi Paetahi, Mete Kingi
Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi leader, soldier, assessor, politician, farmer
This biography, written by Steven Oliver, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 1, 1990.
Mete Kingi Te Rangi Paetahi was of Nga Poutama and Ngati Tumango of Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi. He also had ties with Ngati Apa. He was the son of Paetahi, a Wanganui leader, who fought against Ngati Toa at the battle of Waiorua, Kapiti Island, about 1824; his mother's name was Utaora. He succeeded Hori Kingi Te Anaua in 1868 as the highest-ranking leader among the lower Wanganui tribes. Mete Kingi's wife was Rora Awheuru, daughter of Takarangi-atua. They are known to have had four sons, Hoani, Henare Takarangi, Pehira and Hohipere, and a daughter, Mary.
In the 1850s Mete Kingi was involved in attempts to bring an end to tribal warfare, arising over the issue of land sales, in several parts of the North Island. He intervened among Te Arawa in Rotorua, and in 1854 in Taranaki. When hostilities broke out in 1857 in Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay) among Ngati Kahungunu, he went there with the native secretary, Donald McLean, and assisted in persuading Te Hapuku to return to his ancestral lands. In this period he attended King movement meetings, including the great meeting at Pukawa in November 1856, and spoke against the movement. He pledged the allegiance of his people to the Queen at the Kohimarama conference in 1860. In 1858 he had been appointed an assessor under the Native Circuit Courts Act 1858 and in 1865 was made a Native Land Court assessor.
Mete Kingi opposed the Pai Marire movement in the 1860s and played a prominent part in the government's military campaigns. In 1864, when upper Wanganui Maori adopted the Pai Marire faith and, led by Matene Te Rangitauira of Taumarunui, attempted to pass down the Wanganui River to attack the town of Wanganui, Mete Kingi was with the army of pro-government lower Wanganui Maori who refused them passage. At the battle at Moutoa, an island on the Wanganui River, on 14 May he commanded the reserve and played a decisive part in the defeat of the Hauhau force. He took part in their subsequent defeat at Ohoutahi pa, below Pipiriki, in February 1865.
In January 1865 Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron marched north from Wanganui to recover the Waitotara block from the Hauhau forces. Mete Kingi was among the Wanganui leaders who appealed to Governor George Grey to negotiate a surrender of Weraroa pa, on the Waitotara River, which Cameron had bypassed as too strong and of little strategic importance. When negotiations broke down, Mete Kingi advised Grey against a frontal attack. Instead, on Mete Kingi's advice, the Maori contingent and other units captured Arei-ahi village to the rear of the pa, cutting off the food supply to Weraroa. The pa had been abandoned by its defenders. It was around this time that Mete Kingi became popularly known as 'General Mete Kingi'.
Mete Kingi's troops had remained anxious about a Hauhau descent on the lower Wanganui. He returned there after the fall of Weraroa, and on 25 July 1865 embarked upriver on the steamer Gundagai as part of the relief force sent to Pipiriki. However, the Hauhau forces dispersed before it arrived. Mete Kingi then took part in burning the deserted village of Ohinemutu, near Patea, previously a Hauhau base. On his return to Wanganui he proposed to Grey that he and his troops should avenge the killing of the missionary C. S. Völkner at Opotiki in March 1865. The expedition arrived at Opotiki in September, and Mete Kingi took part in the capture of six pa in the district. Four hundred Hauhau warriors surrendered to government forces. Returning to Wanganui, he joined Major General Trevor Chute's expedition into South Taranaki in January–February 1866, and led the Maori contingent throughout the campaign.
Mete Kingi entered the House of Representatives as the first member for Western Maori in May 1868, and held the seat until December 1870. After an interlude of peace, war had resumed on the west coast of the North Island in June 1868 when land confiscation forced Ngati Ruanui into armed resistance. Mete Kingi spoke in Parliament against a negotiated peace with Ngati Ruanui leader Titokowaru, and charged that Parliament underestimated the depredations of Titokowaru's forces in the Wanganui region: after defeating government forces at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu and Moturoa in September and November 1868, Titokowaru had devastated the countryside surrounding Wanganui. The troops defending the town included 500 members of the Maori contingent. Hostilities ceased in the Wanganui area in early 1869, after Titokowaru abandoned his stronghold at Tauranga-ika, 15 miles north of Wanganui. In Parliament Mete Kingi also seconded a motion calling for a commission on Maori affairs in July 1869, and urged that laws relating to the Maori be published in Maori.
Mete Kingi was one of three Maori leaders, along with Tamihana Te Rauparaha and Wi Tako Ngatata, who accompanied Governor G. F. Bowen on a vice-regal visit to Christchurch in January 1869. In the 1870s he turned his attention to sheepfarming; in 1877 he was given 2,000 sheep by Renata Kawepo of Napier. He also participated in intertribal meetings to discuss issues of land and political representation. In 1876 he attended an important meeting at Tuhua, on the upper Wanganui River, called over a dispute between Te Mamaku of Ngati Haua-te-rangi and the Waikato people after Te Mamaku offered to sell land. In general, Mete Kingi was in favour of the sale of land, so long as enough was retained to provide for Maori welfare. He organised conferences at Te Aomarama, Putiki and Taumarunui. In 1878, after a meeting held in April at his own meeting house, Te Paku-o-te-rangi, he and Te Keepa Te Rangihiwinui took to the government a proposal that land titles should be investigated by a Maori committee with legal standing. In March 1881, with Kawana Paipai of Ngati Ruaka, he attended a meeting at Waitangi, Bay of Islands, which discussed the Treaty of Waitangi.
Mete Kingi's last official act was to assist in dispersing the followers of Te Whiti-o-Rongomai III from Parihaka in 1881. He appealed to the Wanganui people at Parihaka to follow him home; when this was rejected he withdrew, saying that they had hardened their hearts. A young chief accompanying Mete Kingi, named Utiku Potaka, then separated out the Wanganui women and children and they were returned to their home.
Several photographs of Mete Kingi, taken during his visit to Christchurch in 1869, survive. They show a large, bearded man, with no tattooing. He died at Putiki on 22 September 1883, believed to be about 70 years of age. He was accorded a military funeral, on 1 October, with a firing party of 200 volunteers. Several thousand people attended. He is buried in the mission cemetery at Putiki.