Intertribal wars between 1815 and 1840 were particularly damaging for Ngāti Whātua. They had fared well in traditional conflicts before this. In the north, for example, Te Roroa and other Ngāti Whātua tribes had defeated Ngāpuhi at Moremonui in the battle of Te Kai-a-te-karoro (food for seagulls). Ngāti Whātua of Tāmaki fought intermittent campaigns, sometimes in conjunction with Te Wai-o-Hua, against Ngāti Pāoa of Waiheke and the Coromandel. However, the introduction of muskets by European traders and settlers overturned traditional balances. Conflicts were spread more widely, and casualties were much greater.
In 1822 or 1823 Āpihai Te Kawau, the grandson of Tūperiri and chief of Ngāti Whātua in Auckland, took part in a long campaign with the Waikato tribes. They went through Rotorua to Hawke’s Bay and Wellington, returning through Taranaki and Waikato. While Āpihau Te Kawau was away fighting, Ngāpuhi, under Hongi Hika – who had acquired more muskets than other tribes – devastated much of the Auckland isthmus. The tribe destroyed the Ngāti Pāoa pā at Mauinaina, killing and dispersing many of the Auckland Ngāti Whātua. In 1826 Hongi Hika again defeated Ngāti Whātua in the battle of Te Ika-a-ranganui, near the Kaiwaka River south of Whāngārei. As tribes fled the fury of muskets during this time, much of the Kaipara and Auckland areas became abandoned wastelands.
The Treaty of Waitangi
Several Ngāti Whātua chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, including Te Tirarau, his brother Taurau, Te Roha from Te Uri-o-Hau (and Te Parawhau), Hāmiora Pakikoraha of Te Roroa, and Te Tinana, Te Rēweti and Āpihai Te Kawau of Ngāti Whātua-o-Ōrākei. Yet Ngāti Whātua lost substantial tracts of land through pre-1840 claims, dubious Crown purchases, the operations of the Native Land Court and other means.
In 1842 a group of Māori took action against a storekeeper believed to have desecrated a burial ground by taking human remains. As punishment, Te Uri-o-Hau chiefs were forced to relinquish over 2,000 hectares of land without compensation.
In Te Roroa’s tribal area the government exerted pressure, used questionable methods (including the misrepresentation of total area and boundaries), and abused various statutory powers when purchasing most of their lands during the 1870s. They also ignored oral and written agreements to provide reserves for Māori. Te Taoū suffered equally harshly. Nearly 60% of land at Kaipara Harbour passed out of Māori control before 1865. Of the remaining Kaipara lands that went before the Native Land Court before 1891, a further 55% was lost by 1908.
Over several decades human remains were wrongfully removed from Te Roroa and Te Uri-o-Hau burial grounds.