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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


TE WAHAROA, Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipi

(c. 1802–66).

Chief of Ngati Haua.

A new biography of Te Waharoa, Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Tarapipi was born c. 1802 on the Horotiu plains, near Hamilton. He was the son of Te Waharoa and of Te Wiwine. While still a young man he took part in his father's campaign against the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty tribes and, in 1822, he fought Te Rauparaha's Ngati Toa at Motunui. By 1826 he was acknowledged to be a chief in his own right and had his headquarters at Matamata. In 1839, after his father's death, he superseded his elder brother to become chief of Ngati Haua. On 23 June of the same year Tarapipi was baptised and took the names Wiremu Tamihana (William Thompson).

As neither Tamihana nor his father had signed the Treaty of Waitangi, they did not consider themselves bound by its land-sales provisions. After 1853 McLean's land-purchase policy led to many abuses and caused much unrest among the tribes. In 1857, therefore, Tamihana visited Auckland to lay the Maoris' case before Governor Gore Browne and, also, to ask that a European Magistrate be sent to keep order in the Waikato. He was unable to meet the Governor and returned home with the conviction that the Maoris must act for themselves if they were to suppress lawlessness and create unity among the tribes. He became interested in the “King” movement and his support of Te Wherowhero at a crucial stage enabled the latter to secure the kingship.

When Teira precipitated war with Wiremu Kingi Te Rangitake, by selling the Waitara block to the Government, Tamihana counselled patience; however, Rewi Maniapoto defied the “King's” Council and led a Waikato war party to Kingi's aid. In the middle of this crisis Potatau Te Wherowhero died and Tamihana intervened in the resulting family squabble to secure the succession of Tawhiao. The Governor and Bishop Selwyn urged Tamihana to mediate in the Waitara dispute. With Te Oriori and Te Heuheu (Iwikau) he journeyed to Waitara where he arranged a truce and persuaded Kingi to submit the question to the General Assembly. As Kingi, however, refused to plead his case in Auckland, General Pratt renewed hostilities. Tamihana then ended his attempt to mediate and returned to the Waikato. The Governor issued an ultimatum which demanded that the Maoris should renounce their “King” and make their submission to the Crown. Tamihana replied that the idea of a “King” was sacred to the Maoris; and, as the Governor chose to regard this as open defiance, both sides prepared for war. The missionaries tried to persuade Tamihana to meet the Governor, but his people refused to let him go.

In 1861 Sir George Grey assumed office and introduced a new plan of government for the Maori districts. This paralleled a similar system, centred on the “King”, which the Maoris had evolved for themselves. As both sides were agreed on the form that the institutions should take, the principal issue hinged upon the Governor's recognition of the “King” and flag – with the underlying problem that such recognition would imply his acceptance of the “kingite” thesis that the Maoris possessed separate nationality. In December 1861 the “King” chiefs met Grey at Tupari, near the mouth of the Waikato River, and the Governor agreed to give de facto recognition to the title “King”. The chiefs felt, however, that the concession was dictated more by expediency than by conviction. Shortly afterwards, when Grey ordered troops to resume building the strategic road from Drury to the Waikato, the Maoris decided that their pessimistic view was confirmed. As Naera, a chief whom Tamihana respected greatly, was aiding the troops, he warned the Waikatos not to interfere.

In October 1862, at a tribal meeting at Peria, near Matamata, Tamihana again tried to persuade Kingi and Rewi to submit the Waitara title to an investigation; and, on their refusal, he advised Gorst, the Civil Commissioner in the Waikato, to leave the district. Close upon this the Imperial troops crossed the Mangatawhiri River (near Mercer) and the “kingites” were forced to take defensive action. Tamihana took the field, but, after the battle at Rangiriri, he realised the cause was lost. He wished to surrender, but was dissuaded from doing so. On 27 May 1865, following the Hauhau outrages which culminated in Volkner's murder at Opotiki, Tamihana surrendered and went to Wellington to plead for the return of his confiscated lands. Although treated with great deference by the Government he returned home unsuccessful and broken in health. But he continued to petition the Government until his death at Peria, on 27 December 1866. On his deathbed he enjoined his people to stand by the Government and the law.

Tamihana inherited all his father's vigorous traits. He was courageous, determined, and diplomatic; and after he was converted to Christianity he decided never to fight again. Although he was distrusted by the Government, Tamihana was a man of impeccable principles. Gorst, his sympathetic opponent in Waikato politics, considered Tamihana one of the most able debaters and keenest thinkers he had ever met. The justice he sought came at length in 1946 when the Government granted the Waikato tribes £6,000 annually for 50 years and, thereafter, £5,000 annually in perpetuity.

by Robert Ritchie Alexander, M.A., DIP.ED.(N.Z.), B.T.(CALCUTTA), PH.D.(MINNESOTA), Teachers' Training College, Christchurch.

  • The Origin of the Maori Wars, Sinclair, K. (1957)
  • The Maori King, Gorst, J. E. (1959)
  • Tamihana The Kingmaker, Rickard, L. S. (1963).


Robert Ritchie Alexander, M.A., DIP.ED.(N.Z.), B.T.(CALCUTTA), PH.D.(MINNESOTA), Teachers' Training College, Christchurch.