Story: Tāhiwi, Kīngi Te Ahoaho

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Tāhiwi, Kīngi Te Ahoaho

1883–1948

Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Whakaue; teacher, interpreter, translator, rugby official, musician

This biography, written by Rupene M. T. Waaka,  was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996. It was updated in April, 2000.

Kīngi Te Ahoaho Tāhiwi was born on 1 December 1883 and baptised Te Kīngi on 30 December at Rangiātea church, Ōtaki. His father, Rāwiri Rota Tāhiwi, a Native Land Court assessor, was of Ngāti Raukawa, and of the hapū Ngāti Maiōtaki. His mother, Keita Koa, was also known as Keita Koa and Keita Pera. She was Te Arawa, and had connections with Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Pūkākī, Ngāti Tahu and Ngāti Whaoa. Kīngi Tāhiwi had six full siblings and one half-sister, several of whom were also prominent leaders of his people. He was a namesake of his uncle, who was a signatory to the Treaty of Waitangi. He also used the name Kīngi Rāwiri Tāhiwi.

He started his education at the Ōtaki state school, then attended Te Aute College from 4 March 1896. On matriculating in December 1901 he joined the school staff, and was a third assistant master in 1904. He became a licensed interpreter first grade on 27 October 1905, and from 1906 to 1913 worked for the Ōtaki office of the Wellington law firm Kirk and Wilson. He was secretary of the Ōtaki Domain Board in 1912. Kīngi Tāhiwi married Jane (Jean) Esther Armstrong of Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Raukawa in Levin on 12 April 1909. They had a son, Kīngi Te Ahoaho Gilling, and a daughter, Kahurangi Hera, and brought up a niece, Mereana Tāhiwi.

Kīngi Tāhiwi's skills as an interpreter and translator formed the basis of his career. He was first appointed to the permanent staff of the Native Department as clerk and interpreter of the Waikato–Maniapoto District Native Land Court, Auckland, on 9 September 1915. He worked at the Aotea District Native Land Court, Wanganui, from 1920 to 1922, when he was appointed translator at the head office of the Native Department, Wellington. It was in this position that he became interpreter on many occasions to the prime minister and many members of Parliament. He attended national functions such as the 1934 visit to Rotorua of the duke of Gloucester, translating the duke's speech into Māori; and the opening of the Raukawa meeting house at Ōtaki in 1936, where he translated Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage's speech into Māori and the Māori speeches into English. During the Second World War he censored letters written in Māori by members of the 28th New Zealand (Māori) Battalion. He continued at head office until his death, accumulating nearly 33 years' service in the Native Department (later the Department of Māori Affairs).

A rugby enthusiast, Kīngi Tāhiwi was the secretary of the Māori Advisory Board, formed in 1922, which he represented on the management and executive committees of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union from 1927 until 1948. He refereed in the King Country, Bay of Plenty and Horowhenua, and managed the 1932, 1934, 1935 and 1936 Māori All Black teams.

Raised in a musical family who were prominent in a Māori brass band and a choral society at Ōtaki, Kīngi Tāhiwi was a tenor in St Paul's Choir. In 1937 he founded the Ngāti Pōneke Young Māori Club, subsequently becoming chairman and choirmaster. He composed songs such as 'He puru taitama', 'To ringa e hine', 'Kaore he wahine', 'Takiri atu takiri mai', and 'E whiti te marama', and composed Māori lyrics for the Brahms lullaby. Some of his music was composed on a long-necked five-string banjo, then others would adapt the music for piano. During the war the Ngāti Pōneke Young Māori Club flourished. It provided a meeting ground for Māori in the capital, and held regular concerts for American servicemen. Tāhiwi was also chairman of the Ngāti Poneke tribal and Wellington executive committees.

Kīngi Tāhiwi was a Freemason from May 1929. In 1946 he was appointed OBE in recognition of his contribution to the organisation of the Māori war effort. His wife, Jane, died on 3 January 1942, and on 15 May 1946 at Wellington he married Elsie Winifred Loader (formerly Duley). There were no children of the marriage. Kīngi Tāhiwi died in Wellington on 20 December 1948 and was interred at Rangiātea cemetery, Ōtaki. He was survived by Elsie, his daughter and his niece. His son, an officer in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, was missing presumed killed in action during the Second World War.

How to cite this page:

Rupene M. T. Waaka. 'Tāhiwi, Kīngi Te Ahoaho', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996, updated April, 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3t1/tahiwi-kingi-te-ahoaho (accessed 21 September 2020)