Page 1: Biography
Taipari, Eruini Heina
Ngāti Maru leader
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.
Eruini (Edwin) Heina Taipari was born probably in 1889 or 1890 at Thames. He was the younger son of Hauāuru Tīkapa Taipari, later baptised as Wīrope Hōtereni (Willoughby Shortland) Taipari, the chief of Ngāti Maru, who had succeeded his father, Hauāuru Taipari, later baptised as Te Hōtereni, in 1880. Eruini's mother was Tāwai Meketānara of Ngāti Awa, his father's second and concurrent wife; Wīrope's first wife, Mereana Mokomoko of Ngāti Awa, was childless. Eruini was descended from all five sons of Marutuahu, the eponymous ancestor of Ngāti Maru, so he was related to Ngāti Whanaunga and Ngāti Tamaterā; he was also connected to Ngāti Pāoa. His main hapū were Ngāti Hauāuru, Ngāti Rautao, Ngāti Hape and Ngāti Kotinga.
Te Hōtereni had kept Ngāti Maru neutral in the wars of the 1860s, thus avoiding large-scale loss of land through confiscations. He and Wīrope Hōtereni along with other Marutuahu leaders had persuaded their various hapū to accept goldmining at Kauaeranga and in the tidal mud-flats. Eruini's grandfather had refused to sell the land, but by leasing it had established the family's fortunes. On the whole Wīrope Hōtereni had kept to the policies established by Te Hōtereni.
As a result the Taipari family enjoyed a substantial income in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and were prominent political leaders and landowners at Thames. They lived at Pukerāhui in a large European-style house, which was used as an important Marutuahu meeting place. This house and much of his father's and elder brother's land were inherited by Eruini at a very young age. His father died in 1897 and his elder brother, Waata, soon after. Their deaths meant Eruini had no immediate senior male relatives to pass on family history and provide training in tribal lore. He attended St Stephen’s Native Boys’ School in Auckland, and much of his upbringing was entrusted to European friends of the family.
The Taipari family had used their wealth to provide for Marutuahu and to make generous gifts of land for churches of various denominations, a public hospital, a cemetery, a park and school. This rangatira tradition of generosity was Eruini's legacy, but also a burden, for the sources of his ancestors' income were drying up: the gold was nearly played out, and the best timber was rapidly disappearing. During his life much of his family’s land was alienated by sale and lease. He was the victim of inappropriate advice from lawyers and others, but the largest losses derived from forced sales under the pressure of crippling rates demands from local authorities.
Taipari enjoyed most sports, and as a young man played representative rugby for Thames. He raced his own horses, riding as jockey in his youth, and later became a life member of the Thames Jockey Club and involved in the administration of the sport. The Taipari family had supported the establishment of the Church Missionary Society in the district, but by the twentieth century had become Catholics. On 17 June 1911, in Thames, Eruini Taipari married Alice Josephine Stewart of Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Hokopū hapū.
Eruini Taipari is remembered for placing the carved meeting house Hotunui in the Auckland Institute and Museum. It had been a marriage gift to Mereana from Ngāti Awa, and had stood at Pārāwai, Thames, from 1878. The house had been carved by a team from Ngāti Awa led by Mereana’s brother, Wēpiha Apanui; Eruini’s grandfather, Te Hōtereni Taipari, had carved the ridge-pole. The house had been left by Wīrope Hōtereni in trust to Eruini.
By the 1920s Hotunui was falling into disrepair. On 7 March 1925 the curator of the museum, Gilbert Archey, met Eruini and his mother at Pārāwai. Some 50 elders and a large assembly of Ngāti Maru and other tribes were present; Ngāti Tamaterā sent a message saying they would accede to whatever arrangement Eruini Taipari made. George Graham, a member of the Auckland Institute, suggested that the house be deposited on loan with the trustees of the Auckland Institute so that it might be preserved for all time.
Eruini asked Judge C. E. MacCormick of the Native Land Court to advise his people; he counselled those present to accept the offer to have the house dismantled, restored to its original condition, and re-erected in the main court of the new Auckland War Memorial Museum, then under construction. MacCormick gave Eruini Taipari the credit for suggesting the museum as a new home for the house; he said that Eruini wanted to respect his father's will and save the house for the children of the Hauraki tribes, but circumstances had changed and the tribes no longer met at Pārāwai.
A chief of Ngāti Whanaunga declared that the people were all willing to fall in with Eruini's wishes and that by placing the house in the museum, Eruini was exalting the mana of Ngāti Maru. The decision caused controversy, however, as many Ngāti Maru and related peoples were opposed to the house leaving the district. At Eruini's request, probably to save further argument and to commit Ngāti Maru to the loan, the door lintel and carved figurehead were immediately taken down: they were transported to Auckland that night by ship. The dismantling of the rest of the house and the restoration work took some time and it was not until 29 November 1929 that Eruini Taipari and many of his kin attended the reopening ceremony in Auckland. He became an honorary life member of the museum.
In later years Taipari led a relatively quiet life, farming his remaining lands, racing his horses, and taking part in the social life of Thames. During the Second World War, although not an official member of any war effort organisation, he was the de facto local host at Thames, entertaining officers on leave or returned from the 28th New Zealand (Māori) Battalion. He died in Thames on 3 September 1956, survived by four daughters and two sons. His wife had died in 1950. Eruini Taipari is buried at the Tōtara Māori cemetery at Thames, near his father and grandfather.