Pūrakau Maika was the son of Maika Pūrakau, a pro-King movement chief of Hurunuiorangi pā at the junction of the Tauheru and Ruamāhanga rivers. His father was of Ngāti Hikarāhui hapū, which combined lines of descent from Ngāti Kahungunu, Te Aitanga-a-Whata, Rangitāne and Ngāi Tahu of southern Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa. Maika Pūrakau was the elder brother of Kaipaoe III, the mother of the half-brothers Hoani Parāone Tūnuiārangi and Taiāwhio Te Tau. Pūrakau Maika's mother was Makuhea, also known as Hoana, a daughter of Poihipi and Taukuta of Ngāti Tangatakau. Pūrakau Maika was also of Ngāti Rākairangi.
Pūrākau Maika's date of birth is likely to have been before 1870. He had at least two sisters, Hīria and Pane. No details of his upbringing and education are recorded, save that he did not attend secondary school. He was married to Terina Pūrākau Maika.
Although a man of rank and connections, Pūrākau Maika held no great authority in Wairarapa in his early life. In 1891, with other Ngāti Rakairangi chiefs, including Piripi Te Maari-o-te-rangi and Tūnuiārangi, he was listed as owning a part of the Wairarapa lakes. In 1894 he became associated with Tamahau Mahupuku's grand and successful plan to bring Te Kotahitanga, the movement for a separate Māori parliament, to Pāpāwai. Pūrakau was in overall charge of a group of young men, 32 of whom were training to play in Tamahau's band, while another group of 10 were being trained as carpenters to erect the buildings and accommodation needed for the Kotahitanga parliament. Pūrakau was their elder, responsible for their general welfare.
Tamahau Mahupuku also conceived the idea of a Wairarapa Māori newspaper to be the vehicle of Te Kotahitanga. The idea was presented in 1894 to the parliamentary session of Te Kotahitanga at Pakirikiri, near Gisborne, by Tūnuiārangi, Te Whatahoro Jury and Te Teira Tiakitai. Little but verbal support resulted, and the Wairarapa leaders realised they would have to achieve their ambition on their own. In 1895 Te Whatahoro took Kiingi Tuahine Mate Rangi-taka-i-waho, who had been educated at Te Aute College, to Wellington and found him work with an English-language newspaper. Despite falling ill, Kiingi worked there for nearly six months, and when the Wairarapa leaders bought a printing press in Wellington in 1896, he had sufficient skills to teach others. The press was set up at Pāpāwai, and Pūrakau Maika was put in charge of the young men training to be its staff.
When their training was complete, Pūrakau Maika moved his staff and the printing press to a site near the Greytown North Post Office. The first issue of Te Puke ki Hikurangi was published on 21 December 1897. Pūrakau Maika was its editor, heading a team of seven: Kiingi Rangi-taka-i-waho was sub-editor and translator; Tawhiro Renata, who was to stay with the paper until 1906, was foreman; and there was a manager, three compositors and a mechanic, dignified with the title of chief engineer. All worked without wages; the money from subscriptions paid for paper, dies and machine maintenance.
For the first three years Pūrakau played a prominent role as editor. His name studded every edition as correspondents addressed him personally through the paper's columns, and replies were signed with his name. Pūrakau probably did a fair amount of his own reporting; accounts of hui and tangihanga read as though he himself were present. The first issues of the paper showed the lack of expertise of its staff in layout and composition, but as time went on they gained in professionalism. The issues of 1898 were devoted entirely to the Kotahitanga parliament, which Pūrakau attended. He printed an English version of its amendments to Premier Richard Seddon's proposed 1898 native lands legislation.
After the 1898 session the printing press and the staff of Te Puke ki Hikurangi were brought back to Pāpāwai marae, and kept more closely under the control of Tamahau Mahupuku. From October 1898 the paper was published by Tawhiro Renata. A change of editorial policy became apparent from 1899: Pūrakau Maika no longer signed letters personally, correspondence was addressed to and answered by 'the editor' or 'Te Puke', and his name disappeared from the paper's official address. No issues were published in 1900, and it is not known if Pūrakau continued to edit the paper between 1901 and 1906. At least some articles signed 'Te Puke ki Hikurangi' during this period were written by Tamahau's niece, Niniwa-i-te-rangi, effectively the paper's proprietor for two years after Tamahau Mahupuku's death in 1904.
From 1906 Te Puke ki Hikurangi ceased publication until July 1911 when it was resurrected. This time Pūrakau Maika was firmly in the saddle, although he published a photo of Tamahau Mahupuku, his mentor, in every issue from 16 October. The paper was printed and published by H. Tuhoukairangi, one of Pūrakau's young kinsmen, at their registered office in Carterton; Pūrakau was the proprietor and editor. Although he asked correspondents to address their letters for publication to him personally, after the first issue he adopted the convention of the anonymous editor.
The paper provided a picture of the political and religious life of Māori, not only in Wairarapa but also nationally, available in few other sources. Six months after the revival of Te Puke ki Hikurangi, Pūrakau, together with James Carroll, Te Whatahoro Jury, his younger brother Taare (Charles) Jury and Irāia Te Whāiti, became a director of the company producing Te Māreikura, another Wairarapa Māori-language newspaper. Edited by Whenua H. Manihera, its first issue had appeared in August 1911. Although Pūrakau assured his readers that he had not abandoned Te Puke ki Hikurangi, two competing newspapers were too much for the market. Both papers failed in 1913, the older paper surviving the newcomer by six months.
Outside his newspaper activities, Pūrakau had been gaining prominence as a Wairarapa leader. During the 1897 session of the Kotahitanga parliament at Pāpāwai he was elected to a committee of seven chosen to discuss issues raised by Hōne Heke Ngāpua, MHR for Northern Māori. He was also present during the 1898 session and took part in a lengthy debate with Paratene Ngata over the question of Māori mana as affected by native land legislation. Between 1 and 9 April 1898 Pūrakau organised one of a series of annual hui between the different Christian sects sponsored by the Mormon church. Anglicans, Catholics, Mormons and Ringatūi met together at a Wairarapa Mormon church. They were visited by Hirini Whaanga and seven missionaries from Utah, USA. In July 1899 Pūrakau was chosen to escort the young Apirana Ngata around Wairarapa, on his mission as travelling secretary of the Te Aute College Students' Association.
Pūrakau was on the committee of the Wairarapa Mounted Rifle Volunteers, and in 1902 he was secretary of Wī Pere's electoral campaign in Wairarapa. In 1903 he was appointed by the Rongokako Māori Council to the post of chairman of the Hurunuiorangi marae committee. Occasionally he represented Wairarapa at Māori events in other parts of the country, and his name appeared in lists of invited guests at many hui and tangihanga.
It is probable that Purukau's influence waned after the failure of the newspapers. At least from 1912 he was a member of the Rongokako Māori Council and the Tāne-nui-a-rangi Committee, responsible for the organisation of hui whakapapa (grand meetings to discuss and record genealogies). One was held at his home marae, Te Puanani, in Carterton, in 1913. But his name fades from the public record. He was last mentioned in Te Kōpara, another Māori newspaper, in 1917, as one of the Wairarapa leaders inviting guests to Te Puanani to the opening of the house, Nukutaimemeha, which was to take place in March 1918. The date and place of his death have not been found, but Terina died at Gladstone on 14 May 1944. At that time there were no surviving children.