Hauraki was the son of Kaitara, a principal leader of Ngāti Hineira and Te Uri Taniwha, of Ngāpuhi. In his youth Hauraki lived in Pukenui pā, Te Ahuahu, in the Bay of Islands district. One wife of Kaitara was Inu, of Ngāti Pou; it is possible that she was Hauraki's mother. As young men Hauraki and his brother, Te Kōpiri, fought in the battle waged by Whāingaroa to expel Ngāti Pou from Taiāmai to Whangaroa and Hokianga. Hauraki was also related to Tara of Kororāreka (Russell).
In 1817 Hauraki was living in his village, Motuiti, downstream from Kerikeri; Thomas Kendall and John King visited him there on 21 August, helping him to sow his wheat. The next year he seems to have accompanied his kinsman Te Morenga on a war expedition which penetrated the Rangitāiki Valley, inland from Te Teko, Bay of Plenty. It was probably here that Hauraki captured a Ngāti Rangiwewehi woman, Te Ao-kapurangi. He took her to the Bay of Islands and made her his wife; they had a child who suffered an accidental burning, as a result of which Hauraki took the name Te Wera (the burning).
By October 1819 Te Wera had returned to Motuiti; Samuel Marsden, chaplain of New South Wales, visited him and Te Kōpiri there on 12 October. At the end of the year Te Wera departed with Tītore and other leaders on a 16 month war expedition, during which he may have assisted Pōmare I in his capture of Te Whetū-matarau pā on the Awatere River, East Coast, and joined Peehi Tūkorehu and a party of Waikato attacking Rongowhakaata at Waipaoa, Poverty Bay. More certainly, Te Wera and others harried the inhabitants of the Māhia peninsula and Wairoa, returning to the Bay of Islands in April 1821. Te Wera brought with him 40 prisoners, among whom were Te Whareumu, a young leader of Nukutaurua on the Māhia peninsula, and his sister, whom Te Wera probably took as another wife.
In 1822 the Ngāpuhi leader Te Pae-o-te-rangi was killed by the Tūhourangi people at Rotokākahi. Two of his companions, escaping the first disaster, were killed by Ngāti Whakaue at Ōhinemutu, Rotorua. When news of these killings reached the Bay of Islands it was decided to send a grand expedition against the offending Te Arawa tribes. On the suggestion of Te Wera, a relative of the victims, this was postponed until the following year. When the war party reached Tauranga they heard that Te Arawa had prepared for their attack by withdrawing to Mokoia Island, Rotorua. The Pongakawa Valley was chosen as the best way of approach, and Te Ao-kapurangi succeeded in getting a general agreement that her relatives, who lived there, should not be attacked. When the war party reached its objective she obtained a further agreement that only Tūhourangi and Ngāti Whakaue were to be attacked, and that her own hapū should be spared. Te Wera authorised Te Ao-kapurangi and another of his wives, Tahu, to visit the island to attempt to negotiate the withdrawal of Te Ao-kapurangi's relatives. In this they failed, and Te Ao-kapurangi told the chiefs she would have to accompany them into the battle to call her people to safety. This she did, calling them into a house on the island.
In Hongi Hika's account of the battle, given to Samuel Marsden, Te Wera and Pōmare I attacked Mokoia Island ahead of the main body, and were compelled to retreat. It was only after the approach of Hongi himself that Te Ao-kapurangi was able to land to save her people. After the battle Te Wera forced peace on those Ngāpuhi who wished to continue the campaign against Te Arawa, by publicly calling to his side Te Hihiko, Te Ao-kapurangi's son by her first husband, and referring to him as 'my child'. 'Behold! O Ngāpuhi!…my back has been climbed by one who is now in your presence'. In these terms Te Wera bonded Ngāpuhi to peace.
After the Mokoia campaign Te Wera and Pōmare I separated from Hongi. Te Wera had in his party Te Whareumu, his brother-in-law, whom he had promised to restore to his people at Māhia. They travelled by way of Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki, causing panic at both places. At Wharekura, near Te Kaha, Te Wera was attacked, and his nephew, Marino, killed. Pōmare I and Te Wera parted about this time, Te Wera sailing on to Poverty Bay, where he encountered Te Kani-ā-Takirau of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Te Kani-ā-Takirau was anxious to make peace with the musket armed Ngāpuhi force as he needed assistance against Ngāti Porou, who had been responsible for the disappearance of his grandmother Hinematioro. Te Wera promised to assist Te Kani-ā-Takirau, but said that first he must carry out his promise to restore Te Whareumu to his people.
Te Wera and his people then sailed on in his great war canoe, Herua, to Māhia. Contact was made with Te Whareumu's people; in spite of their suspicions they were persuaded to meet Te Wera at Pukenui, on the Māhia peninsula. Te Whareumu persuaded his people to bestow mana on Te Wera, and certain lands on the peninsula were made over to him.
Te Wera now settled at Māhia and became its acknowledged leader. While living there he encountered Te Hauwaho of Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay), who wished to avenge the death of his brother, Hungahunga, at the hands of Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri of Heretaunga and Pātea. Te Wera also met a Wairoa leader named Te Waikōpiro, or Te Waikōpua, who wished for aid to avenge the death of his child, Whakapararākau, at the hands of the people of Wairarapa. He agreed to take up these causes.
Te Wera, Te Whareumu and Ngāpuhi sailed south with Te Hauwaho and Te Waikōpiro. At Ahuriri some Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri women were killed. The combined war party went on to Te Awanga and Cape Kidnappers, where they attacked the people of Kurupō Te Moananui. Some members of the expedition wished to attack the Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti leader Te Pareihe, but were opposed at Waimārama by Ngāti Kahungunu of the Wairoa region. Te Wera and his forces then camped at Tānenui-a-rangi pā, on the south bank of the Ngaruroro River.
Te Pareihe, together with Tiakitai of Ngāti Kurukuru, from Waimārama, then approached Tānenui-a-rangi with their forces. They were suddenly surrounded by Te Wera's men. In spite of the tense situation peace was made and the two parties merged. Together they captured Te Roto-a-Tara pā, then occupied by Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri and their Taupō allies. Part of the force remained in the pā with the many prisoners; the others assisted Tiakitai and Te Waikōpiro to avenge themselves against their enemies in Wairarapa.
On their return to Te Roto-a-Tara, the two parties were reunited. Hearing of the approach of Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri by way of Tikokino, they advanced to meet them, defeating them and their Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa allies at the battle of Te Whiti-o-Tū. The tohunga of Te Pareihe had a dream presaging the invasion of Heretaunga by Waikato and other peoples, so Te Wera took his people to Nukutaurua. He unsuccessfully tried to persuade Ngāti Kahungunu to accompany him; he was, however, followed by Te Pareihe and Ngāti Te Whatuiāpiti, plus many hapū from Heretaunga to Wairarapa. A Waikato war party led by Te Paewaka arrived shortly afterwards and overwhelmed Te Pakake, the Ngāti Kahungunu island pā, at Ahuriri (Napier).
As Waikato withdrew from their victory they met a huge war party led by Mananui Te Heuheu Tūkino II of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, which included elements of several other peoples, coming to attack Te Pareihe and Te Wera because of their victory at Te Whiti-o-Tū. This expedition moved northwards, following the trail left by Te Pareihe; they encountered Te Wera and Te Pareihe living at Ōkūrārenga pā at Nukutaurua. The siege of the pā continued for several weeks. The defenders became desperately short of food and were reduced to cooking the greasy clay to be found in the pā; the pā's name was then changed to Kaiuku (eating clay). A message for help had been sent north to the Poverty Bay area, and the besiegers were suddenly attacked by a force of Rongowhakaata and Ngāti Porou. Mananui's war party defeated this force, but eventually made peace with the defenders of Kaiuku and withdrew.
While he was living at Nukutaurua, Te Wera had word that some of his people had been slain by Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki. He took a party in three canoes to Poverty Bay, where he was joined by Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, although their leader, Te Kani-ā-Takirau, remained at home to organise the growing of food for the joint expedition. Te Wera's party sailed on to Tokomaru Bay, where they successfully besieged Ngāti Porou in their pā, Tuatini.
In early 1824 Te Wera may have assisted Pōmare I to take Titirangi pā in the valley of Waiau, inland Wairoa, killing the important chief Te Whenuariri. When Te Momo-a-Irawaru of Ngāti Te Koherā, a division of Ngāti Raukawa, along with Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri, took possession of Te Roto-a-Tara area once again, Te Wera and Te Pareihe set out against them, taking their canoes up the Tukituki River. They killed Te Momo while he was outside his pā, Kahotea, and then dragged their canoes through the swamp into the lake. They successfully stormed Te Roto-a-Tara pā, taking many important prisoners, including the young Ngāti Te Ūpokoiri leader Kawepō.
In the late 1820s, in an attempt to avenge the loss of Te Momo-a-Irawaru, Te Whatanui was to lead Ngāti Raukawa, and their Rangitāne allies Ngāti Mutuahi and Ngāti Pakapaka, through the Manawatū Gorge; this party succeeded in killing, among others, Paeroa and Kutia, two women of exalted rank. Te Wera was one of those leaders who, later, combined their forces to punish them at a battle called Te Ruru, near present day Dannevirke.
For many years after these tumultuous events Te Wera continued to live and rule at Māhia. About 1832 he was planning to join the Bay of Islands leader Tītore in his campaign at Tauranga. He was involved in other wars, notably his attack on Toka-a-Kuku pā about the year 1836, undertaken against Te Whānau-a-Apanui and others to avenge his nephew, Marino. More important than his prowess as a war leader, however, was his wisdom, kindness and generosity to his adopted people of Māhia, and to the thousands from Heretaunga and Wairarapa who took refuge on the peninsula. In 1838 Te Wera was still living and ruling at Māhia; the people of Tokomaru Bay wanted CMS missionary William Williams to induce him to make peace with them, ending a state of war of several years' duration.
Te Wera Hauraki died during 1839. In some accounts of his life he is said to have returned to the Bay of Islands in his last year; Takaanui Tarakawa said he died of old age, and that all the tribes of the East Coast assembled to lament over him. 'Great was his name, and far spreading his fame…. Never was he accused of evil deeds, nor did he ever abandon those who placed themselves under his guidance and beneficent rule…. If a messenger came asking his assistance, he carefully inquired into the cause…if Te Wera saw it was a just cause he would consent to conduct the war in order that it might be quickly closed'. He may have been buried on Te Ahuahu hill, in the Bay of Islands.