Story: Te Waharoa

Page 1: Biography

Te Waharoa


Ngati Haua leader

This biography, written by Evelyn Stokes, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

The father of Te Waharoa was Tangimoana of Ngati Haua. His mother was Te Kahurangi. The brother of Tangimoana, Taiporutu, was killed at the gateway of Te Kawau pa, near the mouth of the Tongaporutu River, in the late eighteenth century, and his young nephew was named Te Waharoa (the gateway) in commemoration of this event. While Te Waharoa was still a small child, the pa at Maungakawa, near Matamata, where he lived with his mother, was sacked by a party of Te Arawa, led by Pango of Ngati Whakaue. Pango took Te Waharoa to the Rotorua district, where he spent his childhood among Te Arawa. When he was a young man Te Waharoa returned to Ngati Haua. He participated in a number of fights when Ngati Haua were allied with Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto tribes against Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa, who were finally expelled from Kawhia in 1821.

Te Waharoa became the principal leader of Ngati Haua. He led his people in a series of fights and alliances to preserve their lands in central Waikato against occupation by neighbouring tribes. After Nga Puhi raids in the Hauraki area, culminating in an attack on Te Totara pa (near present day Thames) in 1821, Ngati Maru tribes retreated inland up the Waihou River to Te Aroha district. They also settled along the Waikato River from Kirikiriroa (Hamilton) to Maungatautari. Initially Ngati Maru were granted refuge by Waikato and Ngati Haua, but when they showed signs of settling permanently, tension began to mount. The Ngati Maru chief Takurua maintained his ground at Matamata pa, near the present town of Waharoa, until 1825. After much fighting between Ngati Haua and Ngati Maru, Te Waharoa and Takurua came to terms, and shared Matamata. Tension remained, however, and in 1827, while Te Waharoa was absent in Tauranga, Ngati Haua attacked Ngati Maru and killed Takurua. Te Waharoa, on his return, attacked Ngati Maru again, at Waiharakeke, near Te Aroha mountain. With Ngati Maru driven out of Matamata, it became the principal pa of Te Waharoa.

In the west, the area along the Waikato River known as Horotiu was the traditional home of Ngati Haua. The Maungatautari area had been largely abandoned by Ngati Raukawa, who had migrated south to join Ngati Toa during the 1820s, and Ngati Maru were occupying the region. In the late 1820s, after a series of fights in the Maungatautari district, Te Waharoa resolved to remove Ngati Maru tribes from the region, with the support of Tauranga and Ngati Maniapoto people. In 1830, after a battle called Taumatawiwi, on the northern slopes of Maungatautari, at which the occupants of Haowhenua pa were defeated, Ngati Maru returned to their traditional lands north of Te Aroha. Te Waharoa supported the occupation of Maungatautari by his relatives, Ngati Koroki, and maintained close links with them. He also maintained alliances with Ngati Maniapoto.

On the eastern boundary of Ngati Haua were the Kaimai Range and the Tauranga district, occupied by Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Ranginui. With these people Te Waharoa maintained military and economic links. Tauranga was the source of seafood for Ngati Haua. When in 1831 Tauranga people were threatened by a Nga Puhi expedition, led by Te Haramiti, Te Waharoa and Ngati Haua went to their assistance. Nga Puhi were defeated in a battle on Motiti Island. At times Te Waharoa lived in the Tauranga district, sometimes on Motuhoa and Rangiwaea islands, but mainly in his pa at Omokoroa, directly across the ranges from Matamata by the Wairere track.

When CMS missionaries made exploratory journeys in the Thames, Tauranga and Rotorua districts between 1831 and 1833, Te Waharoa expressed to them his desire to have an Anglican missionary resident at Matamata. In early 1834 a mission station was established at Puriri, near the mouth of the Waihou River. In April 1835 A. N. Brown arrived to take up residence at Matamata, and was joined by J. A. Wilson in July. The two missionaries negotiated with Te Waharoa for a mission site outside Matamata pa. Wilson recorded in his journal: 'The old chief seemed unsatisfied with the offered payment, which consisted of blankets, shirts, spades, iron pots, axes, adzes, etc., and he made some shrewd remarks on the durability of the land contrasted with that of the payment. "These," he said, "will soon be broken, worn out, and gone, but the ground will endure forever to supply our children and theirs." '

A school was quickly established at the mission station, and among the first students was Tarapipipi, son of Te Waharoa. Te Waharoa was quick to perceive the potential use of the literacy skills the missionaries taught, as a means of diplomacy to preserve the peace with Ngati Maru. His son and A. N. Brown wrote letters on his behalf, and on 19 September 1835 a party of Ngati Maru from the Thames district was welcomed to Matamata at a peacemaking feast.

To the south-east relations with Te Arawa tribes were peaceful enough until the murder of Te Hunga, a relative of Te Waharoa, probably by Haerehuka of Ngati Whakaue on Christmas Day 1835. This sparked off a series of skirmishes, culminating in an attack on Te Arawa at Maketu by combined Ngati Haua, Ngati Koroki, Ngati Maniapoto and Tauranga people on 28 March 1836, and the destruction of Phillip Tapsell's trading station. Te Arawa retaliated on 5 May by destroying Ngai Te Rangi's pa at Te Tumu, and killing two Tauranga chiefs, Kiharoa and Hikareia. Despite efforts by missionaries to intercede, a constant state of warfare was maintained over the next few months. In August Te Waharoa and Ngati Haua attacked Ngati Whakaue at Ohinemutu, and destroyed Thomas Chapman's CMS mission station at Te Koutu. The CMS mission station at Matamata was abandoned in October 1836 as a result of this warfare.

During the fighting Te Waharoa undertook responsibility for the safety of the missionaries and ensured that mission property was restored to them. In January 1838 Brown took over the Tauranga mission at Te Papa and resumed his contact with Ngati Haua. On a visit to Tauranga in 1837 Brown had been to see Te Waharoa, who was living at Motuhoa Island. He reported that Te Waharoa 'complained that his sons would not listen to him as they used to do formerly – but were always urging him to make peace & he attributed their change of conduct to the Karakia & our Sacred Books.' Te Waharoa became ill, probably with erysipelas, in 1838 while living at Omokoroa. Brown visited him on 2 August during the tangi for Rangi Te Wiwini, his principal wife, who had died of the same disease. A few days later Te Waharoa was carried inland to Matamata where he died early in September 1838.

Recording the death of Te Waharoa in his journal, Brown remarked: 'Waharoa was a remarkable character, fierce, bloody, cruel, vindictive, cunning, brave, and yet, from whatever motive, the friend of the Mission.' Judge J. A. Wilson, the son of Brown's CMS colleague, wrote in the early 1860s that Te Waharoa 'was not an ordinary New Zealander. Possessed in war of courage, enterprise and tact, he made his enemies fear him; whilst sometimes to his allies his crafty policy was scarcely a whit less dangerous. He subsidized the Ngatimaniapoto and Waikato-nui tribes, and influenced his Ngaiterangi friends, and by singular address established and preserved a bond of union – no easy task at any time – between four powerful sections of the Maori race.'

These Pakeha assessments acknowledge the leadership in battle and courage in diplomacy of Te Waharoa. As a chief of Ngati Haua, Te Waharoa not only retained his tribal territories against threats from neighbouring tribes but also consolidated their mana in the Waikato region. He strengthened his military and diplomatic alliances against the disruptions of musket warfare, a new Pakeha religion, and the economic changes wrought by traders. Te Arahi, the eldest son of Te Waharoa and Rangi Te Wiwini, succeeded to the leadership of Ngati Haua, but was soon supplanted by his younger brother, Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi.

How to cite this page:

Evelyn Stokes. 'Te Waharoa', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 February 2020)