In 2013, 125,000 people identified themselves as Ngāpuhi. There are 55 marae in the Hokianga, the Bay of Islands and Whangārei (not including those of related tribes in Whangārei, the Kaipara and Muriwhenua), and 150 sub-tribes.
Drawing on imagery of the Hokianga Harbour in the west and the Taumārere River in the east, this tribal saying describes how the destinies of all Ngāpuhi sub-tribes are irrevocably intertwined. The ‘puna’ represent springs of people flowing to support each other in times of need:
Ka mimiti ngā puna o Hokianga
Ka totō ngā puna o Taumārere.
Ka mimiti ngā puna o Taumārere,
Ka totō ngā puna o Hokianga.
Should the springs of Hokianga run dry,
The springs of Taumārere will flow.
Should the springs of Taumārere run dry,
The springs of Hokianga will flow.
Because of huge land losses, the social, cultural, economic and political marginalisation of Māori society, and mass migration to the cities from 1950 onwards, only 25,000 Ngāpuhi remained in Northland in 2013. Over 50,000 people of Ngāpuhi descent lived in the Auckland region. A further 21,000 lived in Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
Led by the Kaikohe-based organisation Te Rūnanga ā-Iwi o Ngāpuhi, the tribe is now organised into large geographic divisions:
- Ngāpuhi ki te Hauāuru (South of Kaikohe)
- Taiāmai ki te marangai (Te Waimate, Waitangi, Northern Bay of Islands)
- Ngāpuhi Hokianga ki te raki (Upper Hokianga Harbour)
- Ngā Ngaru o Hokianga (Lower Hokianga Harbour)
- Te Rūnanga o Taumārere ki Rākaumangamanga (Kawakawa, Southern Bay of Islands)
- Te Rōpū takiwā o Mangakāhia (Mangakāhia, Whangārei)
- Te Takiwā ō Ngāpuhi ki Whangārei (Whangārei)
In recognition of the large numbers of Ngāpuhi now living in urban centres, Te Rūnanga ā-Iwi o Ngāpuhi also includes two urban groupings: Te Taura here ki Manurewa (South Auckland) and Te Taura here o Ngāpuhi ki Waitākere (North and West Auckland).
The goal of the rūnanga is ‘Kia tū tika ai te whare tapu o Ngāpuhi’ – to ensure ‘the sacred house of Ngāpuhi will always stand firm’. The rūnanga works to integrate Ngāpuhi hapū, marae and communities so that all descendants will benefit.
In 1992 the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act addressed the right of Māori to have a stake in the commercial fishing industry under the Treaty of Waitangi. It also acknowledged customary non-commercial fishing rights in individual tribal areas.
Of central importance to the rūnanga is ensuring the equitable distribution of benefits from the 1992 settlement, preserving Ngāpuhi history, and undertaking initiatives in resource management and education.
In 2016 a Ngāpuhi Engagement Group comprising representatives of iwi and Crown was working towards the settlement of Ngāpuhi’s historic treaty claims.