In 1839 the New Zealand Company, set up to organise emigration from England, bought land in the Wellington Harbour area for settlement. (The validity of this purchase was later disputed.) The following year, English immigrants began arriving by the shipload, and the demand for land and pressure on the areas occupied by Māori pā and settlements steadily increased. The New Zealand Company had sold sections already occupied by Māori to the new settlers. To resolve this issue, Lieutenant Colonel William Anson McCleverty was appointed to obtain deeds from the tribes concerned, exchanging their settlements and cultivations for land elsewhere.
The McCleverty awards of 1847 were the final allocation of lands for Māori in the Wellington Harbour area. Pā such as Te Aro, Pipitea and Kaiwharawhara became less desirable as their food-growing areas were replaced by less productive and more remote land, mostly outside the town of Wellington. The pressure on the Te Aro people was such that by 1881, a census showed only 28 Māori still living at Te Aro, and nine at Pipitea.
With the threat of European settlers also encroaching on ancestral lands in Taranaki, return migrations took place. About 600 Te Āti Awa went back to Taranaki in 1848. More Māori returned to Taranaki as a consequence of the land wars there in the 1860s. The Te Āti Awa sub-tribe Te Matehou, of Pipitea pā, moved to join their kin at Waiwhetū. Ngāti Tama also moved away, with those in Ōhariu migrating to Whakapuaka near Nelson. Those left to keep the fires burning in Wellington after about 1890 belonged predominantly to the Te Āti Awa sub-tribes of Ngāti Te Whiti, Te Matehou, Ngāti Tawhirikura and Ngāti Puketapu. This remains the situation today.
The disappearance of pā sites
The pressures of European settlement led to the disappearance of many traditional pā. By the 1890s sites at both Te Aro and Pipitea were unoccupied; Pito-one (Petone) pā was abandoned soon afterwards, although the Te Puni street cemetery remains in use. The pā at Ngāūranga also declined and did not survive into the 20th century.
Waiwhetū pā was the last Māori-owned settlement in the 1920s in the Lower Hutt region. However, it was eventually overtaken by river works and developments. Its site is now marked by the cemetery, Ōwhiti, near the mouth of the Waiwhetū Stream. Only the seasonal pā at Orongorongo and Parangārehu remained in use.
Te Āti Awa in Wellington retained strong ties with their Taranaki relatives. Between the two world wars Taranaki Māori began migrating to Wellington once again, often looking for work. The growing numbers of Te Āti Awa in the Hutt Valley led to the opening in 1933 of the meeting house Te Tatau o Te Pō. During and after the Second World War even larger numbers of Māori, not all Te Āti Awa, were attracted to Wellington by employment opportunities.
The Wellington Tenths
In 1839 the New Zealand Company purchased land around Wellington Harbour from some of the Māori who had customary rights there. The purchase deed provided for one-tenth of the land purchased to be reserved for the signatory chiefs and their families. This provision gave rise to the expression ‘tenths’, to refer to the land reserved for Māori in and around Wellington.
In 1960 the Waiwhetū marae at Lower Hutt was opened. And in 1977 the Wellington Tenths Trust was established to represent the beneficiaries of the Wellington land reserves (‘tenths’). These beneficiaries are the descendants of Te Āti Awa and other Taranaki people who were living in the Wellington Harbour area at the time of the disputed New Zealand Company purchase in 1839. The trust pursued claims with the Waitangi Tribunal to gain compensation for the losses suffered since 1839.
Te Āti Awa of Wellington shared in the treaty settlement signed on 19 August 2008 with Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika. The financial component of this settlement, valued at $25 million, included the option to buy and lease back Crown properties in Wellington City, including Archives New Zealand, the National Library of New Zealand, the High Court and Wellington Girls’ College. Several sites of traditional, historical, cultural and spiritual association with Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika, including Matiu/Somes Island, Mokopuna Island and Mākaro/Ward Island in Wellington Harbour, were vested in those tribes.