Page 1: Biography
Raukawa, Te Mete
Ngāti Ranginui leader, assessor, sportsman
This biography, written by Alister Matheson, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Te Mete Raukawa of Ngāti Hangarau, a section of Ngāti Ranginui, was born at Bethlehem, Tauranga, probably in 1836 or 1837. He was the elder son of Simpson (Simson) Smith, a Scotsman who traded between Auckland and Tauranga; his mother was Raukawa Mātia of Ngāti Hangarau, a woman of rank.
Renowned as an orator with a very powerful voice – it was said that when speaking on the marae at Bethlehem he could be heard at Te Puna, almost one mile distant – Te Mete became the leading spokesman of all the Māori people of Tauranga, both Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāi Te Rangi. He often gave evidence on their behalf to the Native Land Court, and represented them on special occasions such as visits by governors and political leaders. With Hōri Ngātai, leader of Ngāi Te Rangi, he ably voiced their concerns when the native minister, John Ballance, visited Tauranga in 1885. He was appointed an assessor in 1884.
When the Māori King, Tāwhiao, established his parliament, Te Kauhanganui, at Maungākawa near Cambridge in the late 1880s, Te Mete became one of its members. In 1894 he was appointed one of the Māori King's magistrates; his functions were to uphold Te Kauhanganui's laws, to keep the peace and to settle disputes. In June 1896 his Bethlehem settlement was the first place where Tāwhiao's successor, Mahuta, stayed on his visit to the Bay of Plenty. He was accompanied by about 100 followers, and a large whare was built for their accommodation.
After Mahuta's death in 1912 Te Kauhanganui was moved to Rukumoana pā, near Morrinsville. Te Mete Raukawa and Potaua Tangitū, leader of the Pirirākau people of Te Puna, attended meetings there by riding on horseback along the ancient Wairere and Tuhi tracks over the Kaimai Range.
Te Mete was strongly opposed to the dog tax imposed by county councils in the 1890s. However, Tāwhiao began collecting his own dog taxes and in 1894 Te Kauhanganui appointed Te Mete as a registrar of Māori dogs. Later, when the Māori councils set up by the New Zealand government were empowered to collect the tax, Te Mete and Ngāti Ranginui refused to recognise the authority of the Matatua District Māori Council; they considered they should come under the jurisdiction of the Waikato council. Their offer to pay the tax to the European district councils was rejected. Five men were gaoled for non-payment of the tax in 1905.
Te Mete attended many Māori conferences in different parts of New Zealand and sometimes called such meetings at Bethlehem. However, he refused to stand for Parliament when the opportunity was offered to him in 1908. In 1909 Te Mete was the first to sign Tana Taingākawa's petition concerning violation of the Treaty of Waitangi.
In 1900 Tauranga's Catholic Māori opened a new church. The old mission church at Ōtūmoetai had been abandoned and the bell, given by Bishop J. B. F. Pompallier, had been taken to St Mary's Church in Tauranga in the 1870s. A request for its return, although supported by Archbishop Francis Redwood, was refused, and the bell remained at Tauranga. The affair became a talking point among the tribes throughout New Zealand. It was settled when a party, which almost certainly included Te Mete, raided the belfry of St Mary's Church in broad daylight and removed the bell to the new church at Te Puna, where it remained.
Te Mete was a strong supporter of the Paeroa school, near Bethlehem. He emphasised the advantages of a European education in allowing Māori children to compete equally with Europeans. He saw other advantages to be gained from Europeans, strongly supporting the building of roads and railways in the Bay of Plenty.
A very keen sportsman, Te Mete trained many horses at Bethlehem and raced them successfully at Tauranga and elsewhere. About the turn of the century he spent some time in the Rangitīkei district, where he was associated with Dan Riddiford, master of the Rangitīkei Hunt. Such was Te Mete's standing in Tauranga that when the first race meeting was held at Ōtūmoetai in 1893 he was invited to be the judge.
Te Mete Raukawa died at Bethlehem on 13 August 1926, survived by 10 of his children; his wife, Whareangiangi, daughter of Ngāi Te Rangi leader Te Kereti, had died in 1914. Because of Te Mete's close association with the King, permission was granted for the Māori King's coat of arms – the first completely carved outside of Tainui – to be placed above the door of Hangarau, the ancestral meeting house at Bethlehem, when it was rebuilt in the 1960s.