Te Teira and Wiremu Kīngi
In 1859 an opportunity to deal with the ‘Kīngi problem’ arose when the land Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke was living on in Waitara was offered for sale by Te Teira, one of the tribe’s junior chiefs. The offer was made to the government’s land purchasing officer Donald McLean. Kīngi and Te Teira had fallen out, and Te Teira’s offer was designed to hurt Kīngi. Despite the knowledge among officials that Kīngi was the paramount chief and that Te Teira had no right to sell the land, they chose to accept the offer.
Kīngi and his allies refused to leave the land in question and prevented surveyors from completing a survey of the block. The Crown issued Kīngi and Te Āti Awa with a written ultimatum. They were required to move or Crown officials would send in troops to open fire on them. Kīngi’s refusal to vacate his home in March 1860 led to the first shots of the New Zealand wars being fired by the British at Te Kohia pā, just south of Waitara.
While there was widespread Māori support for Te Āti Awa, the war was lost after a year of fighting. The Crown accused the tribe of rebelling, and punished them by confiscating their land. Consequently, in 1865 the government used the 1863 Suppression of Rebellion Act and the New Zealand Settlements Act to confiscate all of Te Āti Awa’s Taranaki land.
Despite the Te Āti Awa claim that they were simply defending house and home from an aggressive military attack, the confiscation proceeded. It created unprecedented political, social and cultural disruption, from which the tribe still suffers. The tribe’s traditional leadership was undermined and the main tribal political structures, which then included over 90 sub-tribes, collapsed to the present six of Ngāti Rāhiri, Ōtaraua, Manukorihi, Pukerangiora, Puketapu and Ngāti Te Whiti.