Story: Haerehuka

Page 1: Biography


fl. 1835–1865

Ngati Whakaue leader, warrior, orator

This biography, written by Steven Oliver, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1990.

Haerehuka, also known as Huka, was a chief of Ngati Whakaue, of Te Arawa, and lived at Ohinemutu. His mother's name is not recorded. His father was Taiki Haerehuka. He was a descendant of Taua. Taua's wife was abducted to Taupo by Ngati Tuwharetoa and Taua took a war party in pursuit. At the rapids of Haerehuka, in the Waikato River, near Orakei Korako, Taua encouraged his followers after a defeat by pointing out a rock which at times was covered by water, but reappeared unconquered. Taua recovered his wife, and he and his descendants took the name Haerehuka.

Haerehuka excelled as an orator and a poet. He was also one of a number of Maori leaders who received goods from the trader Phillip Tapsell at Maketu, on the Bay of Plenty coast, in exchange for flax fibre. When payment for the first lot of goods was received, Tapsell supplied more goods, against the next lot of flax. According to one account Haerehuka failed to pay for goods he had received and Tapsell refused to give him more until six muskets were paid for. Haerehuka threatened to stop the flax-scraping and the supply of fibre to Tapsell. Other accounts state that Haerehuka was furious with his tribe for dividing up trade goods in his absence and leaving none for him, and for the desecration of a burial place. Whatever the cause, in 1835 Haerehuka brought war on his own people, war that was to last for nearly 10 years.

On Christmas Day 1835 Haerehuka went to the Ngati Rangiwewehi village at Parahaki, by Rotorua, where Te Hunga of Ngati Haua was visiting his daughter. Te Hunga was a relative of the powerful Ngati Haua leader Te Waharoa of Matamata. In the act of greeting Te Hunga, Haerehuka struck him dead with a tomahawk blow to the side of the head. Some accounts state that it was not Haerehuka himself who struck the fatal blow. Haerehuka and his supporters removed Te Hunga's body to Te Waerenga, on the north side of Rotorua. When Haerehuka returned to Ohinemutu, some of his people were angry with him, but others took part in eating the body of Te Hunga, to show their support for Haerehuka. War between Ngati Whakaue and Ngati Haua was inevitable, which was what Haerehuka had intended.

In the days after the killing the Rotorua district was in an uproar, as food was gathered and defences strengthened. Te Waharoa gathered an army of Ngati Haua, Ngati Maniapoto and Waikato warriors and went to Tauranga to join his Ngai Te Rangi allies. Te Arawa gathered at Maketu but Te Waharoa, by skilful manoeuvring, convinced them that Rotorua was to be the point of attack. Te Arawa went to Rotorua leaving only a small garrison at the pa at Maketu. This was attacked and overwhelmed by Te Waharoa's army on 28 March 1836. It is said that Haerehuka's mother and two sisters were killed there.

On 5 May Te Arawa attacked and captured the Ngai Te Rangi pa of Te Tumu. Haerehuka may have been at the battle of Te Tumu, and was probably at the following battle of Mataipuku, near Ohinemutu, in August, when Te Waharoa invaded the Rotorua district. This battle was inconclusive, and Te Waharoa returned to Matamata after destroying the mission station at Te Koutu. Fighting continued between Te Arawa and Ngai Te Rangi throughout the late 1830s and into the 1840s.

Peace was made in September 1845 when 400 Te Arawa Maori, including Haerehuka, visited Ngai Te Rangi at Tauranga. A large stone was brought from Maunganui and set up on the spot where peace was concluded. The ownership of Motiti Island was left unresolved by the peace agreement. Haerehuka claimed in 1852 that his forefathers were the first to set foot on the island. He supported his cousin, Te Amohau, against another Te Arawa leader, Tohi Te Ururangi, who desecrated the graves of Te Amohau's ancestors on the island. The island was also claimed and later occupied by Hori Tupaea of Ngai Te Rangi. Few Te Arawa supported Tohi Te Ururangi, however, and war was avoided.

After peace was made Haerehuka probably returned to live at Ohinemutu. According to the Tauranga missionary, A. N. Brown, in 1848 he was at Otumoetai pa in Tauranga attempting to buy guns and powder for an attack on Epeha, near Lake Taupo. Other leaders used their influence to prevent this. Brown stated that Haerehuka 'would again if it were in his power, embroil the Natives in warfare'. In 1853 Haerehuka, who was connected by marriage to Ngati Rangitihi of Tarawera, was involved in their dispute with Tuhourangi over the ownership of O-tu-kapua-rangi and Te Tarata, the pink and white terraces at Rotomahana. He narrowly escaped death in a battle at Tawanui, and was briefly taken prisoner by Tuhourangi.

In the wars of the 1860s Haerehuka followed the majority of Te Arawa in supporting the government. In March 1865 he was among the Maketu chiefs who petitioned the government for troops to be sent to protect their women and children, should Te Arawa warriors be ordered away from their home area.

The names of the wife or wives of Haerehuka are not recorded. He had at least three children, including a son, Te Kanapu, and daughters Rakitu and Pipi (also known as Te Arani) Haerehuka. The death of Haerehuka and his place of burial are not recorded.

How to cite this page:

Steven Oliver. 'Haerehuka', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 July 2020)