Story: Te Wera Hauraki

Page 1: Biography

Te Wera Hauraki


Nga Puhi leader

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

Hauraki was the son of Kaitara, a principal leader of Ngati Hineira and Te Uri Taniwha, of Nga Puhi. In his youth Hauraki lived in Pukenui pa, Te Ahuahu, in the Bay of Islands district. One wife of Kaitara was Inu, of Ngati Pou; it is possible that she was Hauraki's mother. As young men Hauraki and his brother, Te Kopiri, fought in the battle waged by Whaingaroa to expel Ngati Pou from Taiamai to Whangaroa and Hokianga. Hauraki was also related to Tara of Kororareka (Russell).

In 1817 Hauraki was living in his village, Motuiti, downstream from Kerikeri; Thomas Kendall and John King visited him there on 21 August, helping him to sow his wheat. The next year he seems to have accompanied his kinsman Te Morenga on a war expedition which penetrated the Rangitaiki Valley, inland from Te Teko, Bay of Plenty. It was probably here that Hauraki captured a Ngati Rangiwewehi woman, Te Ao-kapurangi. He took her to the Bay of Islands and made her his wife; they had a child who suffered an accidental burning, as a result of which Hauraki took the name Te Wera (the burning).

By October 1819 Te Wera had returned to Motuiti; Samuel Marsden, chaplain of New South Wales, visited him and Te Kopiri there on 12 October. At the end of the year Te Wera departed with Titore and other leaders on a 16 month war expedition, during which he may have assisted Pomare I in his capture of Te Whetu-matarau pa on the Awatere River, East Coast, and joined Peehi Tukorehu and a party of Waikato attacking Rongowhakaata at Waipaoa, Poverty Bay. More certainly, Te Wera and others harried the inhabitants of the Mahia peninsula and Wairoa, returning to the Bay of Islands in April 1821. Te Wera brought with him 40 prisoners, among whom were Te Whareumu, a young leader of Nukutaurua on the Mahia peninsula, and his sister, whom Te Wera probably took as another wife.

In 1822 the Nga Puhi leader Te Pae-o-te-rangi was killed by the Tuhourangi people at Roto-kakahi. Two of his companions, escaping the first disaster, were killed by Ngati Whakaue at Ohinemutu, Rotorua. When news of these killings reached the Bay of Islands it was decided to send a grand expedition against the offending Te Arawa tribes. On the suggestion of Te Wera, a relative of the victims, this was postponed until the following year. When the war party reached Tauranga they heard that Te Arawa had prepared for their attack by withdrawing to Mokoia Island, Rotorua. The Pongakawa Valley was chosen as the best way of approach, and Te Ao-kapurangi succeeded in getting a general agreement that her relatives, who lived there, should not be attacked. When the war party reached its objective she obtained a further agreement that only Tuhourangi and Ngati Whakaue were to be attacked, and that her own hapu should be spared. Te Wera authorised Te Ao-kapurangi and another of his wives, Tahu, to visit the island to attempt to negotiate the withdrawal of Te Ao-kapurangi's relatives. In this they failed, and Te Ao-kapurangi told the chiefs she would have to accompany them into the battle to call her people to safety. This she did, calling them into a house on the island.

In Hongi Hika's account of the battle, given to Samuel Marsden, Te Wera and Pomare I attacked Mokoia Island ahead of the main body, and were compelled to retreat. It was only after the approach of Hongi himself that Te Ao-kapurangi was able to land to save her people. After the battle Te Wera forced peace on those Nga Puhi who wished to continue the campaign against Te Arawa, by publicly calling to his side Te Hihiko, Te Ao-kapurangi's son by her first husband, and referring to him as 'my child'. 'Behold! O Nga Puhi!…my back has been climbed by one who is now in your presence'. In these terms Te Wera bonded Nga Puhi to peace.

After the Mokoia campaign Te Wera and Pomare I separated from Hongi. Te Wera had in his party Te Whareumu, his brother-in-law, whom he had promised to restore to his people at Mahia. They travelled by way of Whakatane and Opotiki, causing panic at both places. At Wharekura, near Te Kaha, Te Wera was attacked, and his nephew, Marino, killed. Pomare I and Te Wera parted about this time, Te Wera sailing on to Poverty Bay, where he encountered Te Kani-a-Takirau of Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. Te Kani-a-Takirau was anxious to make peace with the musket armed Nga Puhi force as he needed assistance against Ngati Porou, who had been responsible for the disappearance of his grandmother Hinematioro. Te Wera promised to assist Te Kani-a-Takirau, but said that first he must carry out his promise to restore Te Whareumu to his people.

Te Wera and his people then sailed on in his great war canoe, Herua, to Mahia. Contact was made with Te Whareumu's people; in spite of their suspicions they were persuaded to meet Te Wera at Pukenui, on the Mahia peninsula. Te Whareumu persuaded his people to bestow mana on Te Wera, and certain lands on the peninsula were made over to him.

Te Wera now settled at Mahia and became its acknowledged leader. While living there he encountered Te Hauwaho of Heretaunga (Hawke's Bay), who wished to avenge the death of his brother, Hungahunga, at the hands of Ngati Te Upokoiri of Heretaunga and Patea. Te Wera also met a Wairoa leader named Te Waikopiro, or Te Waikopua, who wished for aid to avenge the death of his child, Whakapa-rarakau, at the hands of the people of Wairarapa. He agreed to take up these causes.

Te Wera, Te Whareumu and Nga Puhi sailed south with Te Hauwaho and Te Waikopiro. At Ahuriri some Ngati Te Upokoiri women were killed. The combined war party went on to Te Awanga and Cape Kidnappers, where they attacked the people of Kurupo Te Moananui. Some members of the expedition wished to attack the Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti leader Te Pareihe, but were opposed at Waimarama by Ngati Kahungunu of the Wairoa region. Te Wera and his forces then camped at Tanenui-a-rangi pa, on the south bank of the Ngaruroro River.

Te Pareihe, together with Tiakitai of Ngati Kurukuru, from Waimarama, then approached Tanenui-a-rangi with their forces. They were suddenly surrounded by Te Wera's men. In spite of the tense situation peace was made and the two parties merged. Together they captured Te Roto-a-Tara pa, then occupied by Ngati Te Upokoiri and their Taupo allies. Part of the force remained in the pa with the many prisoners; the others assisted Tiakitai and Te Waikopiro to avenge themselves against their enemies in Wairarapa.

On their return to Te Roto-a-Tara, the two parties were reunited. Hearing of the approach of Ngati Te Upokoiri by way of Tikokino, they advanced to meet them, defeating them and their Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Tuwharetoa allies at the battle of Te Whiti-o-Tu. The tohunga of Te Pareihe had a dream presaging the invasion of Heretaunga by Waikato and other peoples, so Te Wera took his people to Nukutaurua. He unsuccessfully tried to persuade Ngati Kahungunu to accompany him; he was, however, followed by Te Pareihe and Ngati Te Whatu-i-apiti, plus many hapu from Heretaunga to Wairarapa. A Waikato war party led by Te Paewaka arrived shortly afterwards and overwhelmed Te Pakake, the Ngati Kahungunu island pa, at Ahuriri (Napier).

As Waikato withdrew from their victory they met a huge war party led by Mananui Te Heuheu Tukino II of Ngati Tuwharetoa, which included elements of several other peoples, coming to attack Te Pareihe and Te Wera because of their victory at Te Whiti-o-Tu. This expedition moved northwards, following the trail left by Te Pareihe; they encountered Te Wera and Te Pareihe living at Okurarenga pa at Nukutaurua. The siege of the pa continued for several weeks. The defenders became desperately short of food and were reduced to cooking the greasy clay to be found in the pa; the pa's name was then changed to Kai-uku (eating clay). A message for help had been sent north to the Poverty Bay area, and the besiegers were suddenly attacked by a force of Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou. Mananui's war party defeated this force, but eventually made peace with the defenders of Kai-uku and withdrew.

While he was living at Nukutaurua, Te Wera had word that some of his people had been slain by Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki. He took a party in three canoes to Poverty Bay, where he was joined by Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, although their leader, Te Kani-a-Takirau, remained at home to organise the growing of food for the joint expedition. Te Wera's party sailed on to Tokomaru Bay, where they successfully besieged Ngati Porou in their pa, Tuatini.

In early 1824 Te Wera may have assisted Pomare I to take Titirangi pa in the valley of Waiau, inland Wairoa, killing the important chief Te Whenuariri. When Te Momo-a-Irawaru of Ngati Te Kohera, a division of Ngati Raukawa, along with Ngati Te Upokoiri, took possession of Te Roto-a-Tara area once again, Te Wera and Te Pareihe set out against them, taking their canoes up the Tukituki River. They killed Te Momo while he was outside his pa, Kahotea, and then dragged their canoes through the swamp into the lake. They successfully stormed Te Roto-a-Tara pa, taking many important prisoners, including the young Ngati Te Upokoiri leader Kawepo.

In the late 1820s, in an attempt to avenge the loss of Te Momo-a-Irawaru, Te Whatanui was to lead Ngati Raukawa, and their Rangitane allies Ngati Mutuahi and Ngati Pakapaka, through the Manawatu Gorge; this party succeeded in killing, among others, Paeroa and Kutia, two women of exalted rank. Te Wera was one of those leaders who, later, combined their forces to punish them at a battle called Te Ruru, near present day Dannevirke.

For many years after these tumultuous events Te Wera continued to live and rule at Mahia. About 1832 he was planning to join the Bay of Islands leader Titore in his campaign at Tauranga. He was involved in other wars, notably his attack on Toka-a-Kuku pa about the year 1836, undertaken against Te Whanau-a-Apanui and others to avenge his nephew, Marino. More important than his prowess as a war leader, however, was his wisdom, kindness and generosity to his adopted people of Mahia, and to the thousands from Heretaunga and Wairarapa who took refuge on the peninsula. In 1838 Te Wera was still living and ruling at Mahia; the people of Tokomaru Bay wanted CMS missionary William Williams to induce him to make peace with them, ending a state of war of several years' duration.

Te Wera Hauraki died during 1839. In some accounts of his life he is said to have returned to the Bay of Islands in his last year; Takaanui Tarakawa said he died of old age, and that all the tribes of the East Coast assembled to lament over him. 'Great was his name, and far spreading his fame…. Never was he accused of evil deeds, nor did he ever abandon those who placed themselves under his guidance and beneficent rule…. If a messenger came asking his assistance, he carefully inquired into the cause…if Te Wera saw it was a just cause he would consent to conduct the war in order that it might be quickly closed'. He may have been buried on Te Ahuahu hill, in the Bay of Islands.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Te Wera Hauraki', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 April 2020)