Page 1: Biography
Taipua Te Puna-i-rangiriri, Hoani
Ngati Raukawa leader, politician, horse-racing steward, farmer
This biography, written by Angela Ballara, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Hoani Taipua Te Puna-i-rangiriri was born at Rangiuru pa, near the mouth of the Otaki River, probably in 1839 or 1840. He belonged to Ngati Pare, and was kin to Ngati Huia, both hapu of Ngati Raukawa; he was also kin to Ngati Toa. His people had been established in the area following their migration from Maungatautari in the 1820s. His father, Karaitiana Te Whakaupa Te Puna-i-rangiriri, and his mother, Ria Haukoraki, were cousins. His family was of chiefly status, although overshadowed by their Te Ao kin.
By 1846 the CMS missionary Octavius Hadfield had persuaded the people of Rangiuru to move to Pukekaraka pa, just north of the site of the town of Otaki. Taipua was baptised Hoani (or Honi) as a child. He may have been a pupil of Henare Wiremu Taratoa at one of the elementary schools set up by Hadfield; he was later educated by Hadfield at the Otaki mission school. As a youth Taipua helped to cultivate wheat and potatoes at Waerenga and on other Ngati Pare lands.
Probably on 18 October 1858 Taipua married his Ngati Raukawa cousin Hiria Areta Te Mahauariki Kiharoa (also known as Amokura) of Ngati Pare and Ngati Turanga. She was the daughter of Wiperehama Te Mahauariki and Ripeka-takotowai. Hoani and Hiria were to have at least four, and possibly eight, children. One son, Taitumu, died young. Two of their surviving sons were Pitiera and Te Otene Umukaihau. A daughter, Areta, married Natanahira Parata, the son of Wi Parata, MHR for Western Maori from 1871 to 1875.
Before and during the wars of the 1860s Taipua assisted in running the mail service from Wellington to Auckland. He had a lifelong interest in horse-racing in the Otaki district, and by 1868 was chairman of race meetings, declared to be under the patronage of the Maori King. Races were run on a straight 'there-and-back' course, and horses owned by the different Maori tribes would compete with each other and with European-owned horses. The European-backed Otaki Racing Club was formed in 1879 with Taipua one of only three Maori stewards. About 1886 the Otaki-Maori Racing Club was established; Taipua was one of its initiators and remained president until his death. Membership was officially restricted to Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Toa and Te Ati Awa, although some Europeans were permitted to join.
From the 1870s Taipua, like many of his generation and standing, attended sittings of the Native Land Court, battling to have his rights, and those of Ngati Pare and Ngati Raukawa, recognised. He won the Taumanuka block for all Ngati Raukawa, and succeeded to the interests of his relatives and elders in the various subdivisions of Ngakaroro, in Waopukatea No 1 and Manawatu–Kukutauaki. In 1881, with Te Puke Te Ao (also known as Hema), he successfully claimed the Moutere block. This was a piece of land originally intended as part of a gift to the Church Missionary Society, but mistakenly left out of the survey. Taipua sought the title so that the intention of his elders could be carried out. He successfully claimed other blocks, and eventually established a sheep station on one, running about 1,000 sheep by 1886. He also successfully claimed various sections in the Otaki township, where he usually lived in a large wooden house built for him about 1877.
Taipua developed his debating skills by acting as agent for his people. In a dispute over ownership of an Otaki section, when Walter Buller claimed to represent him and his wife, Taipua retorted sharply that he was lawyer enough to present his own case and had not employed Buller. In 1874 he was appointed an assessor under the Native Land Act 1873, and subsequently under the Native Land Court Act 1880. When Te Puke Te Ao, MHR for Western Maori from 1884, died suddenly in October 1886, Ngati Raukawa put up Taipua as their candidate. He won the election against four others, including the King movement candidate, Wiremu Te Wheoro.
In the House Taipua announced that he had been elected on a platform of opposition to the policies of the previous Stout–Vogel administration, and specifically to oppose John Ballance's Native Land Administration Act 1886. This act provided for the establishment of committees to deal with Maori land, elected from among the owners of each block. Taipua complained that if the majority decided issues, the minority would have no voice at all. It was felt that the cost of administration would swallow up the revenue of the land, and Maori owners would be robbed of their independence. In 1887 he presented petitions asking for the repeal of the act.
Although Taipua declared support for the Atkinson administration, and sometimes praised Edwin Mitchelson, the minister for native affairs, he freely expressed his opposition to the government's policies. He often voted against the government and refused to confine himself to Maori affairs. The effectiveness of his arguments was, however, hampered in debate by his lack of English. Unless supported by fellow Maori members Hirini Taiwhanga and James Carroll, or one of the few Pakeha who could understand his speeches, very often his points were lost. He frequently complained of the delays in translating bills and Hansard into Maori. Often the day for debating an issue had arrived before he had been able to grasp the direction of the planned legislation.
Taipua raised many issues in the House. He made many requests, embarrassing to the government, that European members of the Native Affairs Committee should declare their interests in acquiring Maori land. He stated that all previous legislation relating to Maori land had brought trouble on his people, and demanded expanded Maori representation. In 1888 he described the Native Land Bill as the worst that had come before Parliament, pointing out that the cost of getting title to their lands was so high that it would be cheaper for Maori to buy the land outright. He described forced 99-year leases of Maori land as tantamount to confiscation.
In 1890 he was re-elected with a large majority. His vigorous opposition to policies harmful to Maori continued. In 1892 he compared the Native Land (Validation of Titles) Act to the whirlpool Te Waha o Te Parata, which nearly swallowed Te Arawa canoe on its way from Hawaiki: by the ninth clause of the act, by which all imperfect European titles to Maori land were to be arbitrarily validated, every Maori grievance would be swept into its jaws. Some of his speeches were published in the Maori press.
Taipua resigned from Parliament in 1893, and was succeeded by Ropata Te Ao, the third Ngati Raukawa candidate in succession to win the seat. Taipua was influential outside Parliament. He attended political meetings up and down the country, gave evidence to the 1891 Native Land Laws Commission, and supported the Kotahitanga parliaments, although he did not play a large role in them.
In 1883 Gottfried Lindauer had painted Taipua's portrait in Cambridge. A photograph of Taipua shows a strong face with a heavy beard and moustache. His wife, Hiria, died on 19 July 1891. Hoani Taipua Te Puna-i-rangiriri died during the night of 29–30 September 1896 at Aorangi, near Feilding. An estimated 2,000 people attended his tangihanga. He was buried in the cemetery of the Maori Anglican church, Rangiatea, at Otaki.