Ngāti Porou’s population grew rapidly from the early 1900s to the end of the Second World War in 1945. After this, the people began leaving their ancestral regions in large numbers. This was a result of several factors including changing farming practices, dwindling land resources, and the relocation policies of government aimed at both supplying the employment market and enabling families to find better educational opportunities.
‘Kei te aha country’
Koro Dewes, a Ngāti Porou elder, demonstrated the tribe’s particular character at a gathering at Hinerupe marae in 1995. Lining up for the customary greetings, one of the visitors reached Koro and opened with the usual ‘Kei te pēhea koe?’ (How are you?). Instantly Koro responded, not without a hint of disdain in his tone, ‘Eta, you’re in “Kei te aha country” now!’ ‘Kei te aha’ is known as the most distinctive greeting of Ngāti Porou.
In 2013 the tribe numbered almost 72,000 members and was the second largest in the country. About one-sixth remained within the tribal territory and Gisborne city, while the vast majority lived in Auckland, Wellington and other urban centres.
In the 21st century Ngāti Porou’s main challenges are maintaining contact with the large tribal membership, keeping the home fires burning (ahi kā), and maintaining a secure and vibrant cultural base. Ngāti Porou’s historic Treaty claims settlement, signed on 22 December 2010 and valued at $110 million, comprised $90 million in financial and commercial redress and $20 million in cultural redress. In recognition of Ngāti Porou’s proud record of military service overseas, officer entry scholarships and other training programmes were established for people of Ngāti Porou descent.
The tribal authority Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou was established in 1987 to provide a strong political collective voice for the tribe and its sub-tribes, especially in negotiations with the Crown. The ultimate aim is to strengthen the tribe’s economic, social and cultural base. The Rūnanga has as the most noble of its objectives:
Ko te whakapūmau i te mana motuhake o Ngāti Porou i roto i tōna mana atua, mana tangata, mana whenua.
To retain forever the sovereignty of Ngāti Porou within its spiritual, human, and territorial sanctity.