Ehara taku maunga i te maunga haere,
He maunga tu tonu.
Ko toku kingitanga no tuawhakarere,
no toku matua tipuna, no te po mai rano.

Ngati Porou has a long, proud history of maintaining our own rangatiratanga - our sovereignty. From the foundations laid by our ancestors through to our new 21st century Post Settlement Governance Entity, whether fighting in wars or leading in peace, Ngati Porou have constantly sought to maintain our own form of leadership based on our values and traditions, while maintaining strong relationships with the outside world. Every whanau and hapu has their own perspective of our leadership: the following is one telling of the story…

Ngati Porou Leadership Traditions | Te Tiriti o Waitangi | Nineteenth Century Challenges to Ngati Porou Rangatiratanga
Twentieth Century Assertions of Rangatiratanga | Ngati Porou Iwi and Hapu Government

Ngati Porou Leadership Traditions

Nga Tipuna

Ko Hikurangi te maunga.  Ko Waiapu te awa.  Ko Ngati Porou te iwi.

In accordance with the traditions and tikanga of Ngati Porou, we as People of this Land have been here since the beginning of time, or more aptly in the context of Aotearoa, since Maui fished up Te Ika a Maui (North Island).

Ngati Porou are the descendants of a number of illustrious tipuna including:

Maui-Tikitiki-a-Taranga the great fisherman, the sun catcher and entrepreneur who always pushed the boundaries and encouraging people to think beyond the realms of conventional thinking. Maui is attributed with fishing up the North Island, raising it out of the depths of the sea, for successive generations of Maori to populate and cultivate. We of Ngati Porou claim that when Maui fished up the North Island, his waka "Nukutaimemeha" was cradled on the top of our ancestral mountain –Hikurangi, where it still rests today in te roto o Hine Takawhiti.

Toi Kairakau – a contemporary of the Moriori who settled the Chatham Island, Toi is one of the Tipuna whose descendants spread across Aotearoa.

Rauru nui a Toi – who connects us to the descendants of Awanuiarangi and across to the Tai Hauauru.

Paikea Ariki Moana - ‘the whale rider’ who travelled to Aotearoa seeking refuge and new horizons in the wake of the ‘te tai whakamate a Ruatapu’

Huturangi - one of the Mareikura o Hikurangi maunga the daughter of Te Whironui and Hine-Araiara, who married Paikea and had Pouheni, who begat Tarawhakatu, who had Nanaia who in turn married Niwaniwa. They are the parents of Porourangi.

Porou Ariki Te Matatara a Whare Te Tuhi Mareikura o Rauru – or as he is more commonly known, Porourangi , is the tipuna that Ngati Porou take their name from, and he is the Tuakana (elder brother) of Tahu Potiki, from whom Ngai Tahu in the South Island take their name. Porourangi as the late Ta Apirana Ngata said is the ancestor on which the senior lines of descent from Maui and Toi and the Hawaiki ancestors converge, in his words “some of the best blood of Polynesia”

Learn more about Ngati Porou ancestors...

Te Mana Motuhake o Ngati Porou

The rangatiratanga of Ngati Porou is unique and is grounded in our tikanga and traditions. We have always claimed the right to speak for ourselves, even when we have entered into agreements with other iwi. The uniqueness of Ngati Porou rangatiratanga is expressed in the saying of the great rangatira Te Kani-a-Takirau. When he was offered the position as Maori King in the 1850s he responded:

Ehara taku maunga a Hikurangi i te haere,

He maunga tu tonu;

Ko toku kingitanga no te po mai rano

No oku tīpuna, matua!

My mountain Hikurangi does not move

It remains steadfast;

My authority comes from beyond

From my ancestors

Our rangatiratanga, our authority then, is not transferable – it can neither be taken nor given away. Our authority is also based on mana which we have inherited from our tipuna. This mana confers on us key principles that underpin our rangatiratanga.

Mana Whenua: rights to land. Land is a tipuna, accessed by whakapapa

Mana Tangata: right of rangatira and right of people to make other choices

Iwi kaenga / tangata whenua: where you choose to live and exercise your mana whenua

Turangawaewae: the whakapapa claim to engage in whanau/hapu/iwi activities

Whanau and Hapu

Although we come together as an iwi, whanau and hapu are the day-to-day operators of mana over resources and people. Partly this is the result of our particular geography, where small independent hapu communities have lived for generations making their own decisions. From time to time whanau and hapu leaders bring together their mana to make decisions as an iwi, however their individual mana always remains intact.

These principles of the mana of hapu were outlined during the negotiations over the foreshore and seabed, where rights were determined by hapu. Four principles were laid out regarding the mana of hapu:

Toitu te mana Atua: unbroken mana of hapu to their rohe moana (and whenua)

Toitu te mana whenua me te mana moana: the right of protection over land and sea

Toitu te mana tangata: rights of control over their own affairs

Toitu te Tiriti o Waitangi: partnership between hapu and crown under Te Tiriti

Mana Wahine

Ngati Porou rangatiratanga is also unique in the way we recognise mana wahine, where female leaders in Ngati Porou have equal mana to their male counterparts in the role of chief and leader. Many of our senior lines of descent bear female names, and the majority of our marae are named after women. From Ruataupare to Hinematioro and Mihikotukutuku, we have a strong tradition of women’s leadership that defies anthropological assumptions.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi

By signing Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Ngati Porou rangatira carried out an early and substantial exercise of our rangatiratanga in the post-contact period. One of the reasons for signing was the influence of the Anglican missionary William Williams, whose brother Henry Williams had translated the original version in the North. Some Ngati Porou signatories tied together the recent outbreak of peace, Christianity and the Treaty. Te Tiriti would be referenced over the following decades as a covenant, and we sought to honour it as a matter of mana.

About 40 chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840 in the North. By the end of the year, about 500 other Maori, including 13 women, had put their names to the document. Seventeen Ngati Porou rangatira signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Some Ngati Porou rangatira, such as Te Kani a Takirau of Uawa and Te Houkamau of Wharekahika, chose not sign the Treaty.

Signed on 5 to 12 May 1840, at Turanga Te Eke-tu-o-te-rangi
Signed on 16-17 May 1840, at Uawa Nopera Rangiuia
Hori Parekahika
Signed from 25 to 31 May 1840, at Whakawhitira, Waiapu Te Mimi-o-Paoa
Kakatarau
Paratene Rangiwhakatatae
Wi Takatua
Matenga Tutaepa
Te Kauru-o-te-rangi
Rangiwai Rangiwai aka Manihera Rangiuaia
Signed about 1 June 1840, at Rangitukia, Waiapu Rawiri Rangikatia
Koia-uru-te-rangi
Hori Karaka Te Awarau
Signed on 9 June 1840, at Tokomaru Te Keepa Tamitere
Tama-i-whakanehua-i-te-rangi Tokomaru aka Tamati Waka
Paratene Te Mokopuorongo
Enoka Te Potaeaute

In 1860 Ngati Porou were present at the Kohimarama conference that was held to reaffirm Te Tiriti. The conference outcomes included upholding the role of iwi in maintaining their own rangatiratanga. The rangatira at the conference were largely hopeful that the promises of the Treaty would be upheld by the Crown.

Nineteenth Century Challenges to Ngati Porou Rangatiratanga

1865: Competing visions for the iwi

By the 1850s huge waves of Pakeha immigration to towns like Auckland and New Plymouth were placing great pressure on the whenua as Pakeha leaders demanded more and more Maori land. Movements arose to resist this pressure, notably the Kingitanga in the Waikato and the Pai Marire movement led by the prophet Te Ua Haumene in Taranaki.

The settler invasion of Taranaki and then the Waikato in the early 1860s to take land and assert power was resisted by many iwi. In 1863 a group of 45 Ngati Porou went to fight against the Crown forces that invaded the Waikato. In 1864, a further 70 Ngati Porou suffered heavy casualties at the battle of Te Ranga in Tauranga Moana.

Te Ua was sending out messengers from Taranaki across the motu with his message of spiritual resistance. In Opotiki this ended with the death of the missionary-spy Carl Volkner and the eventual illegal confiscation of much of the lands of Ngati Awa and Whakatohea.

Many Ngati Porou leaders rejected this vision for armed resistance and for a unified “Maori nation” as envisaged by the Kīngitanga movement. Leaders such as Rapata Wahawaha, Hotene Porourangi, Tuta Nihohiho, Henare Potae and Mokena Kohere worried that a pan-Maori authority might lead to the weakening of our rangatiratanga and a loss of our independence.

The Pai Marire (Hauhau) missionary Patara Raukatauri arrived in Ngati Porou and many were persuaded by his message. By 1865 the majority of Ngati Porou hapu had aligned themselves with Pai Marire, and the situation was increasingly tense.

Monty Soutar believes that both sides were ‘directed to the protection of identity and autonomy’ of Ngati Porou. The difference though was that ‘one group believed security lay in Maori unity between tribes, the other in tribal unity between hapu’. The first group saw their vision being achieved through the Kingitanga and Hauhau path, the other through an alliance with the Crown. But both groups sought to maintain ‘a greater sense of tribal independence and control in the face of rapid change.’

War broke out in June 1865, spreading from northern Waiapu to Tokomaru, Uawa, and Turanganui–Waerenga-a-hika in the Gisborne region. In the end the traditionalists led by Rapata Wahawaha as commander-in-chief of Ngati Porou’s military forces defeated the Hauhau forces, who were then forced to pledge allegiance to the Crown. The conflict would continue to spread, ending with the Ngati Porou pursuit of Te Kooti Arikirangi through the Urewera in the early 1870s.

After The Wars

The wars had also been fought to protect Ngati Porou land from confiscation. At the end of the wars the government threatened to confiscate the land from Wharekahika to Reporua even though we had fought our own battles. Mokena Kohere had rejected an offer of payment to him saying ‘Mauria to moni, naku tonu taku riri, ehara i a koe i te Pakeha.’ (‘Take your money away, the fight was mine, not yours, the Pakeha.’) The government did not follow through with the confiscation because we could have offered strong military resistance, and the government had been weakened after its other invasions throughout the motu.

Ngati Porou leaders resisted the imposition of the Native Land Court in Ngati Porou, set up in the aftermath of the wars to alienate Maori from their land. Although the Court eventually came to Ngati Porou in 1875, we were relatively successful at protecting our land from the court with strong leadership prevailing.

The government did not stop pursuing our land however. Between the 1870s and 1930s we were pressured into losing large amounts of land. Between 1882 and 1992 the Crown compulsorily took Ngati Porou land for public purposes on more than more than two thousand occasions.

Twentieth Century Assertions of Rangatiratanga

New Leaders

Ngati Porou were unwilling to be passive victims of an oppressive social and political environment in the post-war era. We continued to find new and innovative ways of exercising our rangatiratanga and of asserting our own priorities. One way in particular was to engage with the Pakeha political system so that we could exercise a measure of influence over it. Both Rapata Wahawha and Mokena Kohere for example became members of the Legislative Council, the upper house of the Parliament similar to the House of Lords in England.

New leadership arose that was based on both whakapapa rights and also the skills and abilities to deal with changing circumstances. The iwi also focused strongly on education through schools such as Te Aute College. This policy of engagement produced Ta Apirana Ngata. In 1905 Ta Apirana was elected MP for Eastern Maori, and would hold the seat until 1943. From 1928-1932 he was Minister of Native Affairs. Ta Apirana utilised his position at the table in Te Ana o Te Raiona (The Den of Lions) to advance both Ngati Porou and Maori as a people, leading programmes ranging from cultural revival through to land development schemes.

Ngati Porou at War

Ngati Porou were heavily involved in the wars of the British Empire as an expression of our willingness to engage. The rangatira Tuta Nihoniho offered to send 500 men to the South African War of 1899, which was not accepted. At the outbreak of World War One Ngati Porou were immediately supportive and many signed up as soon as they could. The first Maori unit to serve was known as the Native Contingent, and suffered heavy losses at Gallipoli. After that the Maori Pioneer Battalion was formed and served in France, suffering heavy casualties even though it wasn’t strictly a fighting unit until later in its service. Ngati Porou officers who died in Europe included Lieutenant Henare Kohere and his cousin Captain Pekama Kaa, both of whom were only in their early twenties when they were killed.

At the outbreak of World War Two Ta Apirana grasped the opportunity for us once again to be an active part of the Empire. Ta Apirana called this engagement and sacrifice ‘The Price of Citizenship’, seeing it as a way we could uphold our rangatiratanga. The 28th (Maori) Battalion was, on Ta Apirana’s insistence, organised along iwi lines with iwi commanders where possible. The battalion fought bravely in Greece and Crete, in North Africa, and then in Italy. Second Lieutenant Te Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage at Tebaga Gap in Tunisia, and Colonel Peta Awatere was a commander of the battalion.

Learn more about the 28th Maori Battalion...

Ngati Porou would go on to serve in Jayforce (occupying Japan) and Kayforce (the Korean War of 1950-53) as well as Malaya, Vietnam and more recently serving in East Timor and Afghanistan. Our participation in World War One and World War Two, and our service in the military in general, is part of the same dynamic that drove us in 1865. In joining these conflicts we sought to honour our commitments we made such as Te Tiriti o Waitangi. We also saw these conflicts as an opportunity to protect and advance our own interests, and to uphold our own rangatiratanga.

Ngati Porou Iwi and Hapu Government

Ngati Porou have a long history of self-government since the arrival of Pakeha, consistently attempting to use the available system to maintain our own mana motuhake through a mix of both self-management (kawanatanga) and self-rule (rangatiratanga).

Early Runanga

Runanga had been a traditional form of leadership for hapu and iwi, with rangatira coming together to deliberate and decide on a course of action. In the post-contact era Runanga became a form of tribal government, operating during the 1850s as a partial response to the complex interactions with Pakeha.  As with traditional forums these bodies brought together rangatira, heads of whanau and interested parties to oversee all aspects of hapu life, from social behaviour through to political and economic affairs.

Governor George Grey tried to capture these forums for settler ends. In 1858 the Native Circuit Courts Act established local tribal councils including the positons of Assessors or Maori magistrates. As was often the case Ngati Porou adopted and then adapted these new ways of operating. Rangatira such as Mokena Kohere and Rapata Wahawaha became Assessors. From Grey’s point of view we were being brought into his world. Ngati Porou leaders however used these (paid) roles to reinforce our own position. Kohere, for example, led the resistance to the coming of the Native Land Court because he knew it would attempt to alienate us for our lands.

Tribal Councils

The Assessor system was stopped in 1884 partly for financial reasons and partly because the settler state assumed it no longer required to manipulate Maori leadership to the same degree. In 1900 the Maori Councils Act established a system of local bodies to supervise local hygiene and well-being, in effect creating iwi-led local government.

Ngati Porou were fully involved with these new bodies, and Ta Apirana and the Young Maori Party were great supporters as well as helping to draft the early rules. In 1902 Ta Apirana became the national organising inspector for the Maori Councils. These rules included ensuring a clean water supply and banning alcohol from marae. These councils struggled through lack of funding and changing government policy, but were an attempt at self-management by iwi and hapu.

Tribal Committees

Ngati Porou remained staunch advocates of tribal self-management. Ta Apirana had been the first chair of the Horouta Maori Council in the Waiapu at the turn of the century and there were constant attempts to formally revive this body ‘to make the council a living force in Maori social life’.

The Maori Social and Economic Advancement Act 1945 was an attempt to both give life to these councils and to assert control through the Department of Maori Affairs. The committees could appoint Maori Wardens to provide social control, who could fine people for drunkenness and other misbehaviour. The scheme was overseen by Maori Welfare Officers who were employed by the Department of Maori Affairs to oversee Maori well-being.

These committees were well-supported by hapu. For example membership of the Horouta District Maori Committee for Waiapu North founded in 1949 included: Hamana Mahuika, Rutene Waerehu, Te Ra Paenga, Hirini Heeki, Joe Manuel, Taare Goldsmith, Tautuhi Sadlier, Henare Kaa, Tipi Kaa, Petuere Raroa, Noema Poi and Wi Waikari. The committee did everything from work with the Department, through to fundraising (£140 for the Rahui Tennis Courts!) through to fining community members (and sometimes committee members) for drunkenness. The Committees were an opportunity for Ngati Porou to work alongside the government, but also to exercise some influence over the government’s control of our people.

In 1962 these ‘tribal’ committees were replaced by ‘Maori’ committees under the Maori Welfare Act. These local councils were part of districts who in turn were part of the New Zealand Maori Council. Once again Ngati Porou were strong supporters of this new system and Ta Henare Ngata was the founding secretary of the NZMC.

Community Leadership

By the 1970s the Committees were struggling due to the mass migration of our people out of the rohe to the towns and cities. In the late 1970s the Department of Maori Affairs under the leadership of Kara Puketapu (Te Ati Awa) commenced the Tu Tangata programme. This aimed to give local Maori communities a say over how the department worked, including education, training, employment and reo. One of the biggest innovations of this was Matua Whangai, taking tamariki from the state and back to the iwi. It was also the beginning of the government negotiating seriously with iwi leadership. By the late 1970s the Marae Enterprises Scheme was working with marae to create local business. In Tokomaru Bay for example Ngoingoi Pehwairangi established a crafts centre under this scheme. In the 1980s similar schemes were continued as PEP and later Maori Access Scheme (MACCESS), enabling development on marae and in the community.

Women’s Leadership

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union had established Maori branches from the 1890s and had strong support from Ngati Porou. Working alongside the Young Maori Party with a strong Mihinare base, they campaigned on issues ranging from rejecting alcohol through to pay equity with men.

The Maori Women’s Welfare League - Te Ropu Wahine Maori Toko i te Ora was established in 1951 to provide national leadership for Maori women. Although viewed by the government as ‘an agent of integration’ instead the League would strive for everything from the teaching of te reo in schools through to resisting racist rugby tours. Ngati Porou women were strongly involved in the League. Within five years in the northern Waiapu alone there were four branches: Nati, Tapuhi, Te Uranga (Hinepare), and Ohaki. Ngati Porou women have also served as presidents of the movement.

The Kohanga Reo Movement has also provided another avenue for women’s leadership amongst the iwi, finding new pathways for whanau to grow. Other reo initiatives have provided similar leadership, with Kahurangi Katerina Mataira and Ngoingoi Pewhairangi providing leadership for the cultural, social and spiritual renewal of our iwi through the Te Ataarangi language programme.

Today Ngati Porou women are leading in many spheres from business to law to community development. Half of the Runanganui Trustees elected by the iwi in 2011 were women.

Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou

The mass movement of our people to the cities since the Second World War had created challenges for Ngati Porou leadership on several fronts. In the 1980s a new opportunity arose as the government looked to work with established iwi entities. This was an opportunity which, as always, iwi leadership was determined to take full advantage of. A Hui Taumata was held at Ngata Memorial College in 1985 leading to a series of consultation hui through which the iwi agreed to establish Te Runanga o Ngati Porou (TRONP). In 1987 this body was recognised under legislation, and representatives came from four rohe based on marae, hapu and tipuna.

One of the most important works of TRONP was to progress the Ngati Porou Treaty of Waitangi claim and settlement. This would not only address the Crown’s breaches of Te Tiriti, but would also lead to the establishment of a new Post Settlement Governance Entity (PSGE).

After substantial negotiations by the TRoNP subcommittee Te Haeata the PSGE was established, known as Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou (TRoNPnui). TRONPnui has 14 elected trustees, two from each of the seven rohe tīpuna. This entity was enshrined into law under the Ngati Porou Claims Settlement Act 2012. TRONPnui’s mission statement is ‘Te Whakapumau i te Mana motuhake o Ngati Porou mo nga uri whakatipu’ (to uphold the autonomy of Ngati Porou for future generations) – continuing an ancient tradition of Ngati Porou leadership.

Learn more about Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou...


Key Sources

Apirana Mahuika, ‘Leadership: Inherited and Achieved', in M. King ed., Te Ao Hurihuri

Apirana Mahuika, ‘A Ngati Porou perspective’, in Malcolm Mulholland, Veronica Tawhai eds, Weeping waters: the Treaty of Waitangi and constitutional change

Monty Soutar, ‘Ngati Porou leadership: Rapata Wahawaha and the politics of conflict’

Monty Soutar, Nga Tamatoa: The Price of Citizenship


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