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Māori newspapers and magazines – ngā niupepa me ngā moheni

by Jane McRae

From the 1840s to the early 1930s some 40 Māori-language newspapers debated ideas, reported news, advertised goods and services, and generally recorded Māori life, traditions, opinions and language use.

Role of Māori newspapers

The first newspaper in the Māori language – Ko te Karere o Nui Tireni – was published by the government from 1842. From then till the early 1930s some 40 newspapers in Māori were published by the government, philanthropists, churches and Māori. Some circulated nationally, while others had a regional readership. They were issued weekly, fortnightly or monthly over various periods of time; many stopped for lack of funds. Most had ceased by the early 20th century; one reason was the decline in the use of Māori as a first language.

Record of New Zealand history

All the Māori-language newspapers advocated for their own viewpoints, but they also carried editorials, letters, articles, national, provincial and international news, notices, advertisements and obituaries. They offer a wide-ranging and distinct account of this period of New Zealand history, recording the interaction between Māori and Pākehā in government, war, religion, education, everyday life – and newspaper publication. The papers are an especially valuable record of Māori history, covering cultural traditions, social life, political aspirations, debate over government, and tribal life. They are also an exceptional source of Māori opinion on all kinds of subjects.

Rere atu, taku manu!

The imagery and metaphors used by Māori writing for the newspapers reflect the highly poetic oral tradition. Māori newspapers were often named after birds, including the hokioi (a giant bird), pīhoihoi (pipit), korimako or kōpara (bellbird), huia, pīpīwharauroa (shining cuckoo) and mātuhi (fernbird). Māori often began letters to the newspapers with ‘O bird, greetings to you’. Editors, always in need of funds, urged potential subscribers to send in ‘seeds for our bird’.

Record of Māori language

The newspapers also preserve the language of the time, the creation of new words and expressions for introduced goods and practices, and translation to and from English. Some papers had bilingual columns, and several had translations of articles from English newspapers. Pākehā wrote to the papers in Māori and translated material for publication. In their contributions Māori translated and quoted from English literature, including newspapers, Shakespeare and the Bible.

Māori brought their oral arts into the press in the rhetoric of articles, in letters prefaced by customary greetings and concluding with songs, in farewells in obituaries, and in a predominance of metaphor. Māori made these newspapers their own, even though they began as a tool of the government with the aim of assimilation.

Government newspapers


The government newspapers, published under several titles from 1842 to 1877, pursued a single purpose. This was expressed in Ko te Karere o Nui Tireni (1842–46) as instructing Māori in the customs, laws and government of the Pākehā, and, more directly, in The Maori Messenger Ko te Karere Maori (1849–54) as civilising Māori. These ends were served by government employees as editors and advisors, including Walter Buller, James Grindell and Donald McLean.

Illustrating divisions

There were other aims too: to inform Pākehā and Māori about each others’ customs and to invite Māori opinion on the government. Te Waka Maori o Ahuriri (1863–71) was intended to generate goodwill and unity between Māori and Pākehā. But this paper and its successor, Te Waka Maori o Niu Tirani (1871–77), are witness to the divisions between the two groups, and between Māori and government – and Māori and Māori. They span the period of wars – on the East Coast and in Taranaki and Waikato – and of highly contentious issues, such as the sale of land, the jurisdiction of the Native Land Court and Māori representation in Parliament. As a result there are often forceful views in the correspondence columns of the two Waka Maori.


All the government newspapers are a rich source of social and political history. Their content is mirrored, to a greater or lesser extent, in the other Māori-language newspapers. They document explanation and discussion of laws, Native Department policy, argument over land sales and use of land (for roads, railways and telegraph), meetings between Māori and government officials (often with speeches by chiefs) and disputes between Māori and Pākehā. They traverse the social and domestic, with reports about daily life, health, education, churches and local events; and articles and information about agriculture, farming, commerce and shipping. They include a diverting array of advertisements from Māori and Pākehā.

Local and foreign content

Māori culture and tribal life is reflected in excerpts of, and debates about, history and genealogy; quotation of songs, incantations and sayings; reports on local meetings and events; and accounts of the lives of chiefs. The foreign content is diverse, including news from around the world and articles about English and European history. Christian scripture and precepts thread through editorials and articles – as well as the correspondence from Māori.

Letters from the chiefs

Early government newspapers provide valuable evidence of Māori chiefs’ opinions about colonisation. Letters written to Governor Robert Fitzroy were published in Ko te Karere o Nui Tireni in January 1844. Beginning with a short greeting of welcome to him, five Waikato signatories, headed by Te Wherowhero, and eight Ngāti Whātua chiefs led by Āpihai Te Kawau, wrote about the Treaty of Waitangi, European customs, the Crown and how land should be sold. Fitzroy’s replies followed.

Māori letters to government papers

From the outset Māori (and Pākehā) wrote to the government press. They wrote, for example, about the bills and laws before Parliament, the workings of the courts, sale of land, trade and commerce, and peaceful and military engagement between tribes, settlers and government. They also wrote about tribal matters. They used the papers pragmatically – to advertise land, stock or produce for sale, or to find work. In many of their contributions, Māori chose their own expressive style to inform and make a point – for instance, giving a terse, rhythmic history of some land with relevant genealogy and geographic boundaries, then warning (Pākehā and Māori) about dishonest sale and that the land would not be given up. In their use of the press Māori too had a desire to instruct.

Philanthropist and church newspapers

Philanthropist newspapers

Promotion of temperance, the European way of life and Christianity, as well as concern for the social and political plight of Māori, led to the establishment of other newspapers. Charles Davis (editor of several papers) produced three of brief duration entitled Te Waka o te Iwi (1857), Te Whetu o te Tau (1858) and Ko Aotearoa or The Maori Recorder (1861–62). Davis also encouraged the idea of a press for Māori, who responded affirmatively to this – and his papers – as evident in their letters to the first two newspapers and in the tribal support listed in the first issue of the last.

Te Karere o Poneke

Walter Buller wanted to inform and instruct Māori when he produced Te Karere o Poneke (1857–58), and also to elicit their opinions, in which he succeeded. Despite an assimilationist aspect to its reporting, the paper published considerable correspondence from Māori on matters of the day, both for and against the paper’s viewpoint.

Signs of the times

Notices and advertisements in the newspapers illustrate the 19th-century society. In Te Korimako, for instance, there is notice of straying animals, permission for kauri-gum digging on land, boundaries of ancestral lands and the Maketū Committee’s objection to the dog tax. Advertisers include licensed interpreters, traders with Māori endorsers, Raureti Mokonuiārangi advising back issues of Te Korimako for sale ‘bound like the Bible’1, and John White asking for Māori to write down their traditions, £5 for 300 pages.

Te Korimako

An American philanthropist and advocate of temperance, W. P. Snow, financed Te Korimako (1882–88). Moralistic in tone, it advised Māori on what they should believe, and how they should behave, live and work. It is also valuable journalism, giving insight into local and overseas news, tribal meetings, land claims and sales, and commerce, as well as Māori traditions and the personal lives described in obituaries. Not deterred by the proselytising of Te Korimako, or the other philanthropist newspapers, Māori pursued their time-honoured habit of public debate and sent in correspondence, leaving a legacy of their various perspectives on the prescriptive colonisers.

Church newspapers

Māori-language newspapers are also a source of church history in New Zealand. The first sponsored by a church was the Wesleyan Te Haeata (1859-62), edited by the Reverend Thomas Buddle. Highly didactic – often using Māori proverbs and metaphors in support of its lessons – much of the paper was given over to exhorting Māori to keep the faith, abandon their customary beliefs, and live and be educated as the Pākehā. The reporting on local and overseas news and political matters – the King Movement, war in Taranaki and trouble in Waikato – is conservative, and contributions from Māori are primarily in support of the church and faith.

Broadly read

The wide circulation of Te Toa Takitini, and its role as more than a church newspaper, is suggested by the fact that Apirana Ngata sought comment on the first drafts of his collection of songs (which became the four-volume Ngā mōteatea) by publishing them as supplements to the newspaper from September 1924 to January 1925.

East Coast church newspapers

A very significant press, lasting some 30 years, arose on the East Coast with the Church of England, which published He Kupu Whakamarama (1899), Te Pipiwharauroa (1899–1913), Te Kopara (1913–21), and Te Toa Takitini (1921–32). Noted tribal elders and ministers were editors, including the Reverends Frederick Bennett and Rēweti T. Kōhere. Their erudition, in Christian and Māori teachings, brought a singular character to these publications. The papers combine reporting on church organisation, the faith, education, local issues and world news with a substantial corpus of Māori tradition – songs, genealogies, tribal histories and proverbs.

Rātana and Presbyterian newspapers

Other faith-based papers in Māori include the later Te Whetu Marama o te Kotahitanga (1924), in which the religious interests of the Rātana Church share space with its politics, and the Presbyterian Waka Karaitiana (1933–96), covering church news, the faith and social and political matters.

    • Te Korimako 52, 17 May 1886, p.11. Back

Māori-owned newspapers

A recurring subject in Māori letters to newspapers is the aspiration to participate in government – or separate from it. This is most apparent in the papers Māori produced themselves. Regional in origin, these shared at least one aim – to have their views heard by government, Pākehā and, to use a favourite phrase of the time, ‘the four corners of the world’.

Te Hokioi

The first was Te Hokioi o Niu Tireni e Rere atu na (January–May 1863). It was to be a voice for the Kīngitanga (Māori King movement) and Māori – and a far-reaching voice. As the first editorial noted, the advantage of the press was that it could carry their opinions to the peoples of the world. Produced at Ngāruawāhia and edited by Wiremu Pātara Te Tuhi, the paper was printed on a press that had been donated by the Emperor of Austria to two Waikato chiefs visiting Vienna in 1859. Its criticism of the government spurred the establishment of Te Pihoihoi Mokemoke i runga i te Tuanui (February–March 1863), published in Te Awamutu by Resident Magistrate John Gorst.

The rancorous exchanges between these papers ended in March 1863, when Ngāti Maniapoto chief Rewi Maniapoto led a party to seize the government press. Both sides recognised the potential power of the Māori-language newspapers.

Te Wananga

The next paper arose in Hawke’s Bay. Te Wananga (1874–78) was published under the leadership of Hēnare Tomoana and Karaitiana Takamoana, with finance from Henry Russell. The first editorial stated that it was to be a press for the whole land and all the tribes, to bring them together in one mind. Impetus for the paper was stirred by the locally based repudiation movement, led by Hēnare Matua, which rejected the selling and leasing of land to the Crown and individuals and advocated Māori self-government. But a raft of grievances were debated in the paper, including recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi, abolishing the Native Land Court, increasing Māori representation in Parliament and extending the vote for Māori. It is not surprising that there were bitter exchanges with the government’s Te Waka Maori o Niu Tirani.

As their many letters attest, Māori welcomed the paper with exuberance, perhaps because one expression of its purpose was to bring to light the pains that oppressed them. Their apposite and outspoken correspondence about politics, by no means always of one accord, recalls the speechmaking at tribal meetings. Much of it fits with the suggestion that ‘Maori political writing in newspapers is largely ... a chiefly discourse’.1

While at core its reporting was political, readers also found in Te Wananga national and overseas news, items from other papers, letters and obituaries, reports on tribal meetings, and accounts of traditions. There was also detailed description of Māori activities – marriages, new meeting houses, celebratory feasts, sports events and horse-racing.


While the editors of the newspapers were usually men, Te Puke ki Hikurangi had Niniwa-i-te-rangi, a woman of mana of Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitāne, as an editor and contributor. A supporter of other newspapers as well, she translated articles from English newspapers and assisted with the production process.

Kotahitanga newspapers

Two Kotahitanga papers sought unity as a political strategy. Huia Tangata Kotahi (1893–95), produced at Hastings and edited by Ihāia Hūtana, announced itself as a press for all the tribes of both islands and spoke of unity as necessary to their survival. Its successor, Te Puke ki Hikurangi (1897–1900, 1901–6 and 1911–13), had the same intent. Proposed by Tamahau Mahupuku, it was published at Papawai and Greytown, with Pūrākau Maika as editor.

Both papers were directly associated with the Kotahitanga movement and Māori Parliament, and record their origins, meetings and proceedings. However, they also include news ranging from the international to the local and matters of historical and contemporary tribal interest.

Similar in intention, but more individual, was the Kīngitanga’s second paper, Te Paki o Matariki, first published in 1892. The ornate coat of arms as masthead and the English subtitle on some issues spoke to its viewpoint: ‘The Independent Royal Maori Power of Aotearoa’. It was a paper for the affairs of the movement, but it also engaged with national matters of political importance to Māori. Issues were in Māori, or both Māori and English. Over time it became less of a newspaper and more of a circular for the King movement.

When Te Puke ki Hikurangi ceased publication in 1913, it marked the end of a Māori-led press of major newspapers, which has never been replicated. These papers, along with all the others in Māori, are an extraordinary witness to New Zealand’s history.

    • Lyndsay Head, ‘Kupu pai, kupu kino: Good and bad words in Maori political writing’.’ In Rere atu, taku manu! Discovering history, language and politics in the Māori-language newspapers, edited by Jenifer Curnow, Ngapare Hopa and Jane McRae. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2002, p. 139. Back

Māori magazines

First Māori magazines

Māori magazines started in the 1950s. Since this was a time of language loss, they are predominantly in English. Most, however, also have generous content in Māori; some are entirely in Māori. The magazines are richly representative, and illustrative, of Māori society. They all incorporate the historical and modern, the tribal, social and political, and capture opinions in the journalism and letters. They have a strong emphasis on people, making them very human and engaging, with humour never far away.

New world of writing

Te Ao Hou (meaning ‘the new world’) played a valuable role in supporting Māori writers, especially through its literary competitions. The early work of writers such as Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace can be found there, and there was a special issue for Māori writers published in 1959.

Government magazines

Te Ao Hou

The first Māori magazine was Te Ao Hou, a quarterly published by the Department of Maori Affairs from 1952 to 1975. It had several Māori and Pākehā scholars as editors and contributors, and included a great variety of articles about Māori life and people. It also published material from the oral tradition and fiction by emerging Māori writers, and was attractively illustrated with line drawings and a photo-gallery of Māori.

Te Kaea and Tu Tangata

Other Department publications include Te Kaea (1979–81) and Tu Tangata (1981–87), which were similarly broad in coverage. Articles about politics sit alongside those about local people and the lives of individuals. The publications included creative writing, book reviews and reports on the language and arts.

Kōkiri Paetae (1996–2007), a well-illustrated publication from Te Puni Kōkiri – the Ministry of Māori Development, informs readers about the ministry’s work but is primarily dedicated to those who exemplify its subtitle: ‘A celebration of Māori achievement.’

Toi Te Kupu and He Muka

Two titles in Māori support the revitalisation of the language. The colourful Toi Te Kupu (1993–), published by the Ministry of Education for students of te reo Māori, has a lively selection of articles of popular and general interest. He Muka (1998–), the newsletter of Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission), describes their and others’ projects for the survival of the language.

Māori readership, Māori success

Māori magazines were published primarily, but not exclusively, with a Māori readership in mind. One reason for creating their own publications was, as editors Kara Puketapu in Te Kaea and Derek Fox in Mana wrote, that the mainstream media failed to report fully on Māori people, their activities and views. Kōkiri Paetae suggested another omission on the part of the media – their dwelling on Māori failure. Instead it emphasised the ‘good news of successful Māori initiatives around New Zealand’.1

Tribal magazines

One collection of independent magazines is tribal. Newsprint examples include Ngāti Maniapoto’s Kia Hiwa Ra (1991–98), the eponymous Kahungunu (1991–95), Pu Kaea (1992–95; 2006–) from Mataatua, and the East Coast’s Turanganui a Kiwa Pipiwharauroa (1994–97). Ngāi Tahu’s Te Karaka (1995–) began as a glossy magazine; like others it has become an online publication.

In these publications the tribal or regional affiliation and activities are balanced by attention to political issues of concern to all Māori. Social, sporting and cultural events are recorded, and there are reports on health, finance, education, business, farming and fishing. There is creative writing and articles about the arts and the language. There are accounts of tribal history, genealogies, songs and biographies of chiefs. All are copiously illustrated with drawings and many photos of people.

Pan-tribal magazines

At a national level, Mana (1993–2017) brought a new style and a broader audience – it was ‘the Maori news magazine for all New Zealanders’. A glossy, it spanned the contemporary landscape of Māori life in terms of politics, media, business, sport, education, social life and the arts and literature, while not neglecting the historical and traditions.

Te Maori News

Te Maori News (1996–97), at first local to Auckland but later circulating nationally, reported on education, commerce, industry, health, government and Māori businesses. It included informative advertising about educational and training opportunities, and also covered cultural activities and the performing arts.

Newspaper tūpuna

The East Coast’s Turanganui-a-Kiwa Pipiwharauroa takes its name from an ancestor, the Māori-language newspaper Te Pipiwharauroa He Kupu Whakamarama (1899–1913), which was published by H. W. Williams at the Te Rau Printing Works in Gisborne. The contemporary paper acknowledges this genealogical connection by incorporating facsimile pages from the older publication in some issues.

Tu Mai

In the illustrated Tu Mai (1999– ; from 2010 an online magazine), with its subtitle ‘an indigenous New Zealand perspective’, subscribers can read about politics, Treaty of Waitangi settlements, health, business, agriculture, industry, local news, the arts and performers, and successful Māori in many professions.

All these Māori magazines share spirited reporting on contemporary Māori life, people of all ages, historical heritage, and Māori opinion, which is rare in national periodicals.

    • Kōkiri Paetae, September 1996, p. 1. Back

External links and sources

More suggestions and sources

How to cite this page: Jane McRae, 'Māori newspapers and magazines – ngā niupepa me ngā moheni', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 June 2024)

Story by Jane McRae, published 22 October 2014