Story: Mapu, James Waitaringa

Page 1: Biography

Mapu, James Waitaringa


Ngati Kahungunu; interpreter, sportsman, farmer, community leader

This biography, written by Patrick Parsons, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.

James (Jimmy, or Hemi) Waitaringa Mapu was born at Moteo, Hawke's Bay, on 4 March 1894. His father was Porokoru Mapu, a younger brother of Paora Kurupo, principal chief of Ngati Hinepare of Ngati Kahungunu. Porokoru was politically active in events affecting Hawke's Bay Maori, including the Kotahitanga movement of the 1890s. Jimmy's mother was Apikara Matehaere Smith of Tahaenui marae, Nuhaka, who belonged to Ngati Rakaipaaka. As a boy Jimmy was exposed to both Maori and European beliefs and each had an influence on his development. Although his father was an Anglican lay minister and his grand-uncle, Nirai Runga, the resident Anglican minister at Moteo, his mother called in the powerful tohunga Tipihau to cure him when he was ill. Jimmy usually attended school at Puketapu, but while his parents were away during the shearing season he lived at Waiohiki with his grandmother, Arareina Te Heretatua. Each day he travelled on horseback to the native school at Pakowhai.

In 1910 Jimmy Mapu enrolled at Te Aute College. After leaving school he went to work with his cousin Wiremu Kaipuke, a Dannevirke-based Native Land Court interpreter. He qualified as a licensed interpreter in October 1915 and took over the business during the First World War. At the end of 1915 he enlisted and entered military camp. In May 1916 he set sail for Europe with the 4th Maori Contingent of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion. He fought in the battle of the Somme, and was based in France for the duration of the war. In 1917 he was promoted to sergeant.

A gifted sportsman, Mapu represented New Zealand at a post-war athletics meet in Paris and won a bronze medal in the 440 yards relay. While waiting to return from Europe he played for a Maori All Black team against Wales. He pursued both activities on his return, winning Hawke's Bay titles over both 220 and 440 yards and representing the province at rugby as a winger. Later, he took up golf and won the Hawke's Bay Amateur Golf Championship. In 1938 he was to become the Maori national champion.

On 3 April 1923 at Taradale, Jimmy Mapu married Arepa (Alpha) Hineiaia Tareha, nicknamed Pussy, grand-daughter of the chief Tareha Te Moananui. Twins they were expecting miscarried after a car accident in 1931. Unable to have children, they brought up 11 children of relatives. Jimmy and Pussy became converts to the Jehovah's Witness faith and in their later years were to serve the church in Rarotonga and the United States.

After working as foreman on one of his father's labouring gangs, building stopbanks along the Tutaekuri River, and then for New Zealand Railways and at Whakatu freezing works, Jimmy Mapu became involved with Apirana Ngata's Maori dairy farming initiative. Maori tribes were encouraged to develop their land by consolidating fragmented land titles, clearing scrub and bush, and establishing dairy farms. In 1937 Mapu leased land from his wife's family at Paepaetahi, between Waiohiki and Omarunui, and embarked on a successful dairy farming career. After 10 years he diversified, leasing more land and taking on sheepfarming. He retired about 1960.

Jimmy Mapu was a member of the Moteo Marae Committee, participated in petitions to Parliament and continued to campaign actively for the return of Napier inner harbour, which had been taken from Maori title by the Napier Harbour Board Acts of the 1870s. He was secretary of the Heretaunga Tribal Executive of the Maori War Effort Organisation from 1942 to 1945, and later maintained links with Maori war veterans. In 1983, at the age of 89, he attended a reunion of the Hokowhitu a Tu Maori war veterans at Taihoa marae, Wairoa.

A man well versed in tribal history, Jimmy Mapu was aware that much was being lost with the passing of each generation. In his declining years he made a concerted effort to record his knowledge. This included the tape-recording of several rare local waiata. He died at Napier on 8 August 1985 aged 91, survived by his wife, Pussy.

How to cite this page:

Patrick Parsons. 'Mapu, James Waitaringa', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 12 August 2020)