Story: Tuhaere, Paora

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Tuhaere, Paora


Ngati Whatua leader

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

Paora Tuhaere is thought to have been born about 1825. His parents were Atareta Tuha, the sister of Apihai Te Kawau, and Whanararei, from Te Taou hapu of Ngati Whatua. Te Taou cultivated land at Horotiu, which is now lower Queen Street, in the heart of Auckland city, but Tuhaere lived three miles away at the settlement of Okahu, at Orakei. He was not a warrior like his father, but was the chosen leader of Ngati Whatua after the death of Apihai Te Kawau. In 1841 he accompanied Te Kawau when the latter welcomed European settlers to Auckland. Thirty years later he attempted to maintain tribal ownership of the last Orakei land, and from the 1870s was a leading man in the movement known as Te Kotahitanga (unity of purpose), which aimed to achieve greater Maori control of Maori affairs. He sought these goals while following the Ngati Whatua policy of allegiance to the Crown and friendship to the government.

Tuhaere became a Christian early in his life and took Paora (Paul) as his baptismal name. He was active as an Anglican lay preacher in hapu and intertribal gatherings of an evangelical nature, and worked for peace. In 1844, with other Ngati Whatua, he visited Whangarei and made peace with Te Parawhau people whom Te Kawau had attacked nearly 20 years earlier. In the same year he took part in the great Maori gathering at Remuera, Auckland, which gained concessions from the governor, Robert FitzRoy, by reasoned representations rather than by force. During the northern war he worked as a mediator to prevent an attack on Auckland.

In the 1840s Tuhaere, with other Ngati Whatua leaders, became involved in the sale of land for the growing town of Auckland. In 1841 he was associated with the sale of land between Orakei and Manukau, and in 1848 with the sale of two further blocks, both on the Waitemata Harbour. In 1854 he sold the Pukapuka No 2 Tamaki block for £500; 10 per cent of the money from the resale of the land was to go to the establishment of Maori schools and hospitals, and for the building of mills. He sold the Onewherowhero Waitemata block in 1856 for £25. But Maori opposition to land sales was increasing. By the end of the decade the King movement had called for a ban on all further sale of Maori land, and Ngati Whatua, though not active King movement supporters, were more committed to holding their remaining land.

In July 1860 Tuhaere participated in a government conference of over 200 Maori leaders held at Kohimarama, near Orakei. The governor, Thomas Gore Browne, anxious to secure Maori endorsement of government policy over the Taranaki war and towards the King movement, emphasised the benefits gained through the Treaty of Waitangi. Tuhaere was among those who responded: 'The Treaty is right, but it came in the time of ignorance and was not understood. The assent of Ngapuhi was given in ignorance otherwise why did they not consider that they had acknowledged the Queen instead of turning round and stirring with their own chief [Hone Heke]?' Tuhaere went on to cast doubt on the understanding shown by Maori who had signed the treaty in places other than Waitangi. In his opinion all Maori leaders should have conferred on the original agreement. 'But this [conference] is more like it; this is the real treaty upon which the sovereignty of the Queen will hang because here are assembled Chiefs from every quarter'.

In the Kohimarama covenant participants pledged to do nothing inconsistent with Queen Victoria's authority. Tuhaere criticised the King movement as 'an unwarranted presumption', 'an upstart movement', but like other Maori leaders he hesitated to condemn it outright. Believing that Maori mana had to be maintained he probably regarded the movement as not incompatible with Crown authority.

In 1863, at the height of tension in Auckland just before the Waikato war, Tuhaere purchased the schooner Victoria for £1,400; he intended to develop a Maori trade with Rarotonga and other islands in the south Pacific. Tuhaere and 20 of his people sailed for Rarotonga on 26 February. There he was received as a rangatira and returned to New Zealand in April with a cargo of fruit and arrowroot. The Victoria also brought a visitor from Rarotonga, Kainuku Tamako. Since then contact with the Cook Islands, reinforced by ancestral links, has been sustained by Ngati Whatua through periodic visits and by marriages.

After the death of Te Kawau in 1868 Tuhaere became the acknowledged leader of Ngati Whatua. Unlike Te Kawau's son, Te Hira Te Kawau, he had an excellent understanding of government administration and the application of the law. He was confident in his dealings with Pakeha. Tuhaere had been made an assessor for the Auckland district, and in 1867 was appointed to the Auckland provincial executive as adviser to the superintendent on Maori affairs. He became a trustee of the Orakei marae when the Crown vested the land at Orakei in 13 trustees in 1869. Ngati Whatua were continuing to lead a communal life there, and Tuhaere wished to maintain tribal ownership and to prevent the individualisation of title. He succeeded in having passed, in 1882, the Orakei Native Reserve Act, which would have allowed the trustees to subdivide and lease tribal land to provide for Ngati Whatua housing and development programmes. His plans for continued communal landholding were obstructed, however. In 1886 the Crown took for defence purposes land at Bastion Point that Tuhaere had intended for residential subdivision. The 1882 act did not prevent the individualisation of the Orakei block and after Tuhaere's death the land was partitioned among the trustees and their heirs.

From the 1870s Tuhaere attended and often instigated intertribal meetings which aimed to represent the concerns of the Maori people to government and to secure some control over Maori affairs. He was aware of the need for Maori unity, and in 1869 he appealed unsuccessfully to the government to reconvene the Kohimarama conference. Ten years later, disturbed by government policies, he called a large conference at Orakei and kept discussion centred on the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi, to 'see whether the stipulations…are still in force or not'. Further meetings were held in 1880 and 1881; support grew for a Maori parliament which would replace the Native Land Court and through which Maori people would rule themselves. The proposal, promoted by Tuhaere, was widely accepted by Maori. However, though a number of parliaments met through the 1890s they were not given the authority they sought from the government and lapsed around 1900.

As a leading member of Te Kotahitanga, Tuhaere was elected in 1888 to a national committee to represent Maori interests to the government. Tuhaere wished to hold the government to the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi and to use remaining Maori land as an economic base for the Maori people. At the same time he accepted that the Maori were living under the rule of the European government and would not gain from confrontation with it. He worked to reconcile the King movement with the government after the wars of the 1860s. At the King movement conference at Whatiwhatihoe in 1882 Tuhaere encouraged Tawhiao, the Maori King, to give up his isolation. The King embarked soon after on a tour of the North Island and appealed to Britain to grant the Maori security of land ownership and self rule. Tuhaere would have accompanied Tawhiao when he and his followers took a petition to England in 1884, but was too ill to travel.

Tuhaere married twice. His first wife was Tupanapana, a grand-daughter of Nga Puhi leader Te Wharerahi; he was survived by his second wife, Harata, and a daughter, Mere. He died at Orakei on 12 March 1892. His funeral was attended by over 200 people. Tawhiao addressed the gathering and referred to Tuhaere as 'one of the last of the old ones', and said that he himself would have to take his place. Tuhaere was buried at Orakei and a monument was built to commemorate him. Although he still held a considerable interest in the Orakei land Tuhaere left no will because he wanted the land to belong to the tribe. He left two written accounts: 'History of the Ngati Whatua tribes' (held in the Auckland Institute and Museum), and 'An historical narrative concerning the conquest of Kaipara and Tamaki by Ngati-Whatua' (published in the Journal of the Polynesian Society in 1923).

How to cite this page:

Steven Oliver. 'Tuhaere, Paora', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 January 2020)