Kōrero: Waikato region

Whārangi 13. Te Kīngitanga, 1880 onwards

Ngā whakaahua

The long struggle of the Kīngitanga (King movement) for recognition has been vital to Waikato Māori. King Tāwhiao declared peace to government representatives at Alexandra (Pirongia) in July 1881, and returned with his people to Waikato in 1889. They and subsequent generations never ceased to demand acknowledgement that the land confiscations were unjust. Kīngitanga deputations visited England in 1884 and 1914 to seek the support of the British Crown, without success.

The Kauhanganui

A Kīngitanga parliament, the Kauhanganui, was established at Maungakawa about 1890. Its location near Cambridge – where the Native Land Court had for the previous decade been changing collective Māori title to eastern Waikato land to individual titles, so it could be more easily divided and sold to Pākehā – was symbolic. The Kauhanganui was a rallying point for the Kīngitanga tribes. It had a council of 12 tribal representatives (called the Tekau-mā-rua), and its 1894 constitution set up courts and police in place of Pākehā institutions. A printing press was used to produce the newspaper Te Paki o Te Matariki. The Kauhanganui shifted around the region in the following years.

Te Pou o Mangatāwhiri

To raise money for the establishment of Tūrangawaewae marae, Te Puea Hērangi formed a group called Te Pou o Mangatāwhiri, which travelled around the North Island in the 1920s giving performances of waiata and haka. Its name referred to the northern Waikato boundary, the Mangatāwhiri River, which British troops crossed to invade the region. In the 2000s another Tainui kapa haka (traditional Māori performing arts) group kept this meaningful name alive.


Tāwhiao’s successors, kings Mahuta and Te Rata, lived at Waahi , near Huntly, from the 1890s. In the early 1920s Te Rata’s cousin, Te Puea Hērangi, began her efforts to re-establish Ngāruawāhia as the centre of the Kīngitanga. In 1921 she and her supporters moved there and founded a community around Tūrangawaewae marae. She worked with politicians such as Āpirana Ngata to develop remaining Māori-owned lands and rebuild the Kīngitanga’s economic power. She also became well-known to Pākehā as ‘Princess Te Puea’.

Limited settlement

A 1927 government inquiry, the Sim Commission, declared the confiscations of Waikato lands unjust. Negotiations from the 1930s brought limited compensation in 1946, which was administered by the Tainui Maori Trust Board. Kīngitanga leaders were not satisfied, believing that the government’s payment of a token annual sum was simply an admission of their guilt, and that as land was taken, so it should be returned.

Raglan golf course protest

Continuing encroachment on Māori land rankled. The hīkoi (land march) of 1975 brought this to the notice of all New Zealanders, as did a dramatic sit-in protest at Raglan in 1978. Māori land there had been taken for a military airfield in 1941 but was later used for a golf course. When there were plans to extend the golf course into tapu areas in the mid-1970s, Eva Rickard led opposition. The land was finally returned to Māori in 1987.

Settlement act

Other land protests of the 1970s and the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975 created a political climate in which the Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act 1995 could be passed. Signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II in the presence of the Māori queen, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, the settlement included some land, $170 million in compensation and a formal apology for devastation caused by the war and confiscations.

The 21st century

In the 2000s the Kīngitanga includes traditional practices and a modern corporate structure. The poukai, an annual series of visits by the king to Kīngitanga marae in and beyond the Waikato region, dates back to the reign of King Tāwhiao. So does the Tariao faith, combining Pai Mārire karakia and Kīngitanga ritual, used in many ceremonies.

The annual Koroneihana (coronation) hui, another long-standing tradition, brings together tribes from around the country for several days of celebrations and sporting events at Tūrangawaewae.

Assets from the 1995 settlement are managed by a company, Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Incorporated. The Kauhanganui is sole trustee, and its 193 members represent 65 marae.

Economic recovery

The 1995 settlement increased Māori commercial and political influence in Waikato. In Hamilton, for example, Tainui Group Holdings became owner of some central-city sites, major shareholder in two hotels – the Novotel Hamilton Tainui and the Ibis Hamilton Tainui – and co-developer of The Base, a huge retail centre at Te Rapa.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Nancy Swarbrick, 'Waikato region - Te Kīngitanga, 1880 onwards', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/waikato-region/page-13 (accessed 21 October 2019)

Story by Nancy Swarbrick, published 31 May 2010, updated 9 Jul 2015