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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.


WAHANUI, Huatare

Also known as Reihana Te Huatare, and Reihana Whakahoehoe (c. 1827–97).

Ngati Maniapoto chief.

A new biography of Wahanui Huatare appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Wahanui was born about 1827 and was the son of Wahanui Huatare, a highborn chief of the Ngati Maniapoto tribe. He was originally intended for the ministry and was educated at the Wesleyan College at Three Kings, Auckland, where he showed a remarkable aptitude for his studies. In the 1850s he aided the Government and organised a mail service between Te Awamutu and Napier. The social grievances of the Maori people led him to turn against Pakeha institutions, and he joined the “King” movement where his gifts as an orator soon made him a leading figure in the “King's” counsels. At Whataroa, beyond Hangatiki, Wahanui organised his own tribal administration on European lines, and this, according to Gorst, provided the best system of Maori law enforcement in New Zealand.

During the Waikato War Wahanui fought against the Government. He was in every engagement, including Orakau, and was wounded at Hairini. After Orakau he returned to Hangatiki. In the late 1860s he again allowed the Government mails to pass through his territories, although he resisted all other advances. In this period he became host to Tawhiao and also to the exiled Waikato tribe, and he earned the reputation of being the power behind the “King's” throne. After 1872 he also granted sanctuary to Te Kooti and his followers.

On 11 July 1881 Wahanui was the principal speaker at Alexandra (Pirongia) when Tawhiao made his submission to Major William Mair. In 1883 he led the party which rescued Hursthouse's surveyors who had been seized by Te Mahuki, the Maori prophet. Later in the year he assisted Government surveyors in the King Country, but he resisted all inducements to sell his lands. He also visited Wellington at this time to discuss land questions and, on this occasion, demanded that the King Country tribes should be permitted to fix their own territorial boundaries and suppress liquor and immorality within them. On 1 November 1884 Wahanui appeared before the Bar of the House of Representatives, where, once more, he eloquently pleaded the King Country tribes' case. In the following year he attended the ceremony at which Stout turned the first sod on the Main Trunk railway. In 1886 he consented to stand for the Western Maori seat in the House of Representatives, but withdrew his candidature before polling day. In return for his agreement to allow the Government to build the Main Trunk railway through the King Country, Wahanui received a house at Pirongia, a free pass on the New Zealand Railways, and an annual pension of £100. To some extent his acceptance of these gifts caused him to lose favour with his own people. In his latter days he lived at Whataroa, and died there on 5 December 1897, leaving no issue.

Wahanui was a man of herculean physique and stood 6 ft 8 in. in height. He was lightly tattooed and bore himself with dignity. Kerry-Nicholls, who knew him well, remarked that, had he lived in England, Wahanui would have been a nobleman of pronounced Tory principles.

by Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo.

  • Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1953, H. 25, “Liquor in the King Country”, McLintock, A. H.
  • The King Country, Kerry-Nicholls, J. H. (1884)
  • The Maori King, Gorst, J. E. (1959)
  • New Zealand Herald, 7 Dec 1897 (Obit).


Walter Hugh Ross, Journalist, Taupo.