Anaru Matete was born in the Poverty Bay area; the date of his birth is not known. His mother was Hinetautope, of Rongowhakaata and of Te Whānau-a-Kai and Te Whānau-a-Taupara hapū of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki; his father was Te Harawira Tekoteko of Ngā Ariki and Ngāti Wahia hapū of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki. Probably in the 1840s he married Te Rina (Mihiterina) Whiropō of Ngāti Kaipoho hapu of Rongowhakaata. They had four daughters, Hārata Hinepoka Mātānuku, Ereti Meramera, Mereana and Hinepoka Hōhipene, and a son, Te Kāuru-o-te-rangi Matuakore.
Anaru Matete may have helped William Williams establish the Church Missionary Society station at Kaupapa near Manutūkē, south-west of Tūranga (Gisborne) about 1840. He later helped move it further inland to Whakatō, and finally to Waerenga-a-hika. He was one of its first adult students, became a teacher, and then ran the boarding school. In the 1850s Matete left the school to raise cattle and grow wheat. Either he or William Williams was the district's first sheep owner, Matete having obtained a dozen or so sheep in 1850.
In the early phase of the European settlement of Poverty Bay, Māori generally accepted the religion and material advantages of the new society. They tried, however, to integrate them with traditional customs, and their adherence to these caused occasional conflict with missionaries. On one such occasion, a young widow wanted to marry Matete, but her relatives insisted she marry her late husband's brother. Williams became involved and insisted on reading the marriage banns. The offended group began to revive tattooing (which the church was opposed to) as a protest. The ensuing conflict united all those opposed to Christianity, and split the district for some six months.
When war came to Waikato in the 1860s, the Poverty Bay tribes refused to assist the King movement. On 19 April 1863 a great meeting to open the Manutūkē church was held. Kingites from Waikato and elsewhere came, and proposed that the tribes unite under the Māori King, Tāwhiao. Anaru Matete, who chaired the meeting, proposed that the people be united in Christianity. He said some talked of a Māori king or a Pākehā governor, but he would support those who were neutral.
The Poverty Bay tribes again decided on neutrality at a large runanga in 1864; but as the consequences of the Waikato war became clear, attitudes began to change. When the Pai Mārire (Hauhau) missionaries from Taranaki arrived at Gisborne in 1865, they won a large following in Poverty Bay and the East Coast. Anaru Matete and the prominent chief and carver Raharuhi Rukupō became converts. Matete said in explanation, 'We have tried your religion many years [and] it has done us no good. We have now joined the new one from Taranaki as we think it will be the means of saving us and our Country.' Early in April he proposed that a pa be built for emergencies, and Rukupō threatened war on the government.
Conflict between Hauhau and pro-government sections of Ngāti Porou gradually increased, and by early May 1865 neutrals had been forced to join the fighting. War escalated on the East Coast and false rumours of great Hauhau victories in Waiapu reached Tūranga. Matete talked of cutting off the settlers if the Hauhau leader Te Ua Haumēne ordered it. Tension increased further when, following a major Hauhau defeat at Uawa (Tolaga Bay), refugees arrived in Tūranga. Hauhau began building a pā at Waerenga-a-hika, near Tūranga, about September. At one stage Matete, who had 150 to 200 Māori troops under him, threatened to build a redoubt at Makaraka and block the road between Gisborne and Waerenga-a-hika.
The attack on Waerenga-a-hika began on 17 November. On the 19th Anaru Matete, with his reinforcements, entered the pā from the rear; they moved towards the attackers in three waves but were beaten back. On 22 November the defenders hoisted a white flag, and then delayed the surrender until Matete and about 30 others had escaped. Those captured in the pā were deported to the Chatham Islands. The defenders of the nearby Pukeamionga pā joined Anaru Matete's party, and left for Wairoa to join Te Waru Tamatea and his followers. They were routed at Ōmaruhākeke on Christmas Day 1865, and again some two weeks later at Te Kōpane.
Anaru Matete then moved inland and appealed in vain to his supporters to take up arms against the government. In 1868 he joined Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki and the Hauhau prisoners on their return from the Chatham Islands. In February 1872 he was cut off from Te Kooti at Mangaone, 23 miles from Wairoa. He made his way out to Te Reinga, where he gave himself up, and was pardoned in a general amnesty in 1883.
In the early 1870s Anaru Matete became as familiar a figure in the Native Land Court as he had earlier been in the missions and the Hauhau movement. He was one of the leading experts in defending the many Rongowhakaata and Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki cases in the court. His most notable success was in 1880 as the claimant of the Paokahu block for Rongowhakaata. He died at Whakatō on 19 September 1890, and was buried in the Hurimoana cemetery at Manutūkē.