Page 1: Biography
Te Rarawa and Te Aupōuri woman of mana, landowner, farmer, storekeeper
Storekeeper, landowner, farmer, community leader
This biography, written by David A. Armstrong, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.
Ngāwini and Samuel Yates ran a large farm and general store in the far north of New Zealand during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Samuel Yates was born in London, England, probably in 1829, the son of Saul Yates, a solicitor, and his wife, Sarah Isaacs. Samuel's paternal grandfather, Benjamin Eliakim Yates, had Anglicised the family name from Goetz, and was the founder and first minister of the Liverpool Jewish congregation. Samuel was educated in Liverpool and later in Paris, where he became fluent in French and is said to have made the acquaintance of Emperor Louis Napoleon.
It had always been assumed that Samuel would follow in his father's footsteps and take up the law. However, in 1852 he accompanied his father to New Zealand to join other family members, and did not pursue his legal studies. After a brief stay in Auckland, he moved north to Mangonui, where he opened a general store. In 1862 or 1863 he travelled on to Pārengarenga in the far north, initially planning to open another store for a trial period of six months, but he remained there for the rest of his life.
On 16 December 1880 Yates married Ngāwini (Annie) Murray at Mangonui. Ngāwini was born at Pukepoto, near Kaitaia, probably in 1852 or 1853. Her father was John Murray, also known as John Boradale, a shipwright and long-time European resident of Pukepoto. Her mother, Kateraina Te Kone, was descended from Tarutaru, the ancestor of Te Rarawa. Ngāwini's great grandmother was Ruakuru, the sister of Te Rarawa leader Poroa. Ngāwini, who was the eldest of 15 children, also had links with Te Aupōuri. Samuel and Ngāwini purchased and leased from Māori large tracts of land totalling as much as 150,000 acres, stretching from Te Kao to North Cape and across to the western coast, including Te Reinga. At Pāua, on the southern shores of Pārengarenga Harbour, they built an 11-roomed homestead named Paki, and a large trading establishment. Peacocks could often be seen parading through the grounds of the homestead.
When Samuel Yates had first visited Pārengarenga in the early 1860s, the surrounding country was largely covered in fern and scrub. Over time he and Ngāwini transformed a good deal of their estates into pasture, which was soon stocked with sheep, horses and 2,000 head of cattle. Some 350 kauri-gum diggers, Māori and European, also ranged over large areas of their land, and the extensive amount of gum they obtained was traded at the Pārengarenga store. During the early years stock from the station was driven overland to Auckland. Stock and gum were later shipped directly from Pārengarenga Harbour on the Glenelg from a long jetty running out over the mudflats. Samuel soon became an enormously influential figure at Pārengarenga, gaining the sobriquet 'King of the Far North'. He had been a justice of the peace since 1873.
According to some accounts, Samuel Yates was able to acquire large areas of land through his wife's tribal connections. It has also been suggested that as local Māori gum-diggers had probably run up big accounts at the Pārengarenga store during the industry's periodic slumps, he could exert pressure on them to sell or lease their land. Nevertheless, local Māori appear to have thought highly of Samuel. Many of them continued to reside on the land, at least when he and Ngāwini were alive, and they were employed on the station as shearers or musterers.
From the outset Ngāwini took an active role in the management of the station. She also found the time to raise and oversee the education of her eight children. A fine horsewoman, she often took part in the musters of cattle and sheep. As Samuel grew older she assumed a more prominent role. Samuel's health began to fail in the late 1890s, and in September 1900, sensing that his death was near, he set out for Auckland so that his body could be interred in the Jewish cemetery in Karangahape Road. He died, on 14 September, just as the Paeroa was leaving Pārengarenga Harbour. He was survived by Ngāwini, five daughters and three sons. Ngāwini saw to it that Samuel's last wish was carried out.
She then managed the station and ran the store alone, keeping records and accounts and overseeing the local kauri-gum trade. Under her management the station developed its own breed of bullock, the lineback. Ngāwini Yates was capable, generous, intelligent and very able in business affairs. She died at Pārengarenga on 29 July 1910. On her headstone she is described as 'Beloved of both Pākehā and Māori'.