Story: Tipoki, Te Hata

Page 1: Biography

Tipoki, Te Hata


Ngati Kahungunu leader, land rights activist

This biography, written by Angela Ballara,  was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998. It was translated into te reo Māori by the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography team.

Te Hata Tipoki, sometimes known as Te Hata Kopu, was born in 1880, probably at or near Waihirere in Wairoa, northern Hawke's Bay. His father was also called Te Hata or Hata Tipoki and may have been a follower of Te Kooti Arikirangi in the wars of the 1870s. His mother, Hiria Kopu, was the daughter of a woman of supreme rank in the Wairoa district, Mere Karaka, and her husband Pitiera (Pitihera) Kopu, a man of lesser rank who qualified for tribal leadership through his marriage. During the wars of the 1860s he became an important Wairoa tribal and military leader on the side of the government. After Pitiera’s death in 1867, Mere Karaka became a follower of Te Kooti and a leader of the Wairoa Ringatu movement. This dual political heritage – of family support either for Te Kooti or for the government – allowed Te Hata Tipoki to relate to both sides in the struggles over confiscated Wairoa lands.

Te Hata Tipoki belonged to several hapu of Ngati Kahungunu of Wairoa: he usually identified with Ngai Te Apatu, the dominant hapu at Waihirere marae but was also connected to Tamaionarangi (also called Tamaionerangi), Ngati Mihi and Ngati Puku.

Little is known of Te Hata Tipoki's childhood and youth. He may have attended the native school at Waihirere in the 1880s or early 1890s. Probably not long after the turn of the century he married Makuini Whakapaki, daughter of Ohepa Kahuroa (of Te Whanau-a-Kai, a hapu of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki) and his wife Makuini Honotapu (of Ngati Hinetera of Wairoa). Between 1906 and 1919 they were to have eight children. One source suggests that there were to be 16 in total. By 1919 Te Hata Tipoki was living permanently at Mahurangi, Frasertown.

By the 1920s, though relatively young for such a position, Te Hata was taking over the leadership of his people. In 1927 he was chairman of the Wairoa branch of the Kahungunu Welfare Association, and in 1928 he was appointed to the Kahungunu Maori Council. Despite his family's Ringatu connections, Te Hata Tipoki remained a staunch Anglican; he was a lay representative at Anglican meetings of the Maori committee of the Hawke's Bay archdeaconry.

Throughout his life Te Hata Tipoki vigorously pursued justice for his people through protecting or demanding the restoration of their land rights. In 1920 he was the first of 131 signatories to a petition to Parliament for an enquiry into the ownership of four upper Wairoa land blocks, Ruakituri, Taramarama, Tukurangi and Waiau, which had originally been confiscated under the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863. In 1867 the confiscation had been withdrawn, save for a relatively small area, which included portions of the Kauhouroa block. Most of the land was purchased by the Crown in 1875. Over 500 acres at Pakowhai had been granted as a reserve to Te Hata's grandmother, Mere Karaka, and others, but because Maori land legislation had been changed subsequently, the land rights of Te Hata’s people had been rendered uncertain. The position was investigated, and the Native Land Court was empowered to decide the beneficial owners of the Pakowhai reserve.

In 1924 Te Hata Tipoki, together with other leaders, again petitioned Parliament, this time protesting at the confiscation of Kauhouroa itself. The combined pressure of the Wairoa tribal leadership resulted in all these petitions in 1927 being brought before the Sim commission into Maori land confiscation, which concluded that the Crown’s obligation to return all confiscated land in the area had not been carried out. A yearly sum of £300 was awarded in compensation, to be spent on higher education for Wairoa Maori. No payments resulted.

In September 1935 Te Hata Tipoki and other influential Wairoa leaders wrote to the prime minister, G. W. Forbes, and the minister of finance, J. G. Coates, stating that in any case £300 was inadequate, and recommending that the amount be increased to £900. They also requested that the Crown acknowledge the title of the Maori owners of Lake Waikaremoana and that decisions be made concerning the status of European squatters on inalienable Waikaremoana reserves. They hoped that the Ngamahanga block could be set up as a training station for young Maori farmers, and as a trust whose revenues would assist the tribal leadership to provide community services. No immediate action resulted, but in mid February 1938 the prime minister and native minister, Michael Joseph Savage, set up a conference on Kauhouroa and other issues at Parliament.

Sir Apirana Ngata presented the case for his Ngati Kahungunu constituents, part of which hinged on disputes between ‘loyalists’ and ‘rebels’, as the parties were dubbed. Land had been returned to both, but the Crown had not carried out all of its promises. When Te Hata Tipoki spoke he said that he made no distinction between ‘rebels’ and ‘loyalists’. While he realised that it was impractical to demand the return of the Kauhouroa block itself, by this time settled by Europeans, he was willing to accept another block in compensation. Nothing was settled in his lifetime, but in 1951 £20,000 was paid in compensation.

The carved meeting house, Takitimu, on the Waihirere marae, was another of Te Hata Tipoki’s major concerns. In 1926 he decided to replace it and spent the next 12 years raising money for the project. The government gave £500, but the house, accompanying dining hall and opening ceremony cost £15,550; funds were mainly contributed by tribal or Maori-owned organisations. The house was to be called Timi Kara and built at Te Uhi, close to the main Napier–Nuhaka highway. But controversy mounted as the carving work progressed, and by 1936 Te Hata Tipoki insisted that the house be called Takitimu, like that of his grandfather, Pitiera Kopu, and should be erected at Waihirere. This decision attracted criticism. Some felt that as a tourist attraction the house should be in a more central location. It eventually opened at Waihirere in 1938.

When Te Hata Tipoki died at Te Reinga on 8 February 1940, many believed that he had infringed against tapu by preparing a site for a new house and then abandoning it for another. He was survived by his wife, Makuini, six sons and two daughters, and was buried with Anglican rites at Frasertown. Te Hata's heir was his third son, Turi, who took his place as the leader at Waihirere and on the Maori Council.

How to cite this page:

Angela Ballara. 'Tipoki, Te Hata', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 September 2020)