Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 10, October 1968



European wars have generally been fought for political reasons - the lust for power and conquest - or to advance religious causes, but almost invariably Maori tribal wars were undertaken for the purpose of exacting utu, of avenging some insult or injury. Probably sometimes they fought from such ulterior motives as the desire to replenish the larder, or to augment the supply of wives, but the expressed reason for fighting was to wipe off some old score, to deal out retribution for some breach of the complicated code of what did or did not constitute grounds for taking offence. The Maori memory was long and it was sometimes generations before the opportunity came for revenge. Once honour had been satisfied the victors could be generous to the vanquished - that is if any of them still survived.

At the time of European settlement the Coromandel peninsula and districts as far inland as Te Aroha were occupied by three related tribes, the parent tribe of Ngati-maru around Thames, the Ngati-Whanaunga of Coromandel, and the Ngati-tamatera of Ohinemuri. These were Tainui peoples whose ancestor, Maru-tuahu, came from Kawhia in the seventeenth century. According to Kelly, when Maru-tuahu arrived at Hauraki the land was inhabited by tangata-whenua (natives) who, however, did claim some descent from Tainui and Arawa ancestors. Their tribes were the Ngati Huarere, most prominent of the Coromandel tribes; the Nga-Marama; the Kahui-ariki; the Ngati-Hako, of Ohinemuri; and the Uri o Pou on the western side of the Gulf. When Hotunui, the father of Maru-tuahu came to Hauraki, the Uri o Pou at Whakatiwai adopted him but as he became old they treated him rather disrespectfully.

The Ngati-maru tribe arose from small beginnings. Maru-tuahu had only one companion when he came from Kawhia to Hauraki seeking his father. On arrival at Waitoetoe he met the two daughters of the chief, Ruahiori, and they both fell in love with him and started quarrelling over him. "He's mine, I saw him first", said the younger one. "Mine", said the elder, and so on until the elder said, "For both of us". So to settle the argument he married both of them. Hine-urunga, the elder girl, bore him three sons, Tama-te-po, Tama-te-ra, and Whanaunga; and by the younger, Pare-moehau, he had two, Te Ngako, and Taurukapakapa. The tribes of Ngati-tamatera, and Ngati-whanaunga derive their names from two of the sons of Hine-urunga.

When Maru-tuahu came to Whakatiwai he asked his father how the people treated him and Hotunui complained that when he sent someone to fetch fish from the nets and it was learned that it was he who had sent they said, "His shall be a fetching of fish from Otoi that he may cut a net to catch fish for himself". (Kelly) Maru-tuahu was furious and with the aid of his father-in-law's tribe practically wiped out the offending Uri o Pou. This was the beginning of a long war which ultimately resulted in the tangata-whenua tribes being ideologically or gastronomically absorbed by the followers and descendants of Maru-tuahu.


In spite of the endemic hostility between Ngati-maru and the tangata-whenua tribes some inter-marriage took place. A battle was fought over a local Helen named Waenganui, a woman of Ngati Hako and Ngati Huarere, and the wife of Tauru-kapakapa, younger son of Maru-tuahu and Pare-moehau.

When returning with some women from a flax-cutting expedition to Warahoe, Waenganui was abducted by the Ngati Huarere living at Oruarangi near the Waihou river and about a mile west of where the Paeroa-Thames railway now runs. Tauru-kapakapa went to Oruarangi and demanded the release of his wife. Instead they brought her to a place where he could see her and killed her. Her body was later cooked and portions sent to the tribes from Moehau to Ohinemuri and Tauranga.

Seeking revenge Tauru-kapakapa went to Kerepeehi to his nephew, Taharua the son of Tama-te-ra, and told him what had happened. Taharua said, "Yours shall be the flood tide, mine shall be the ebb tide; when has entered the moon to its full, then will be staked the dragnet on the mudflats". (Kelly). This was his way of saying that at full moon the people of Oruarangi were in the habit of leaving their pa and manning their canoes to go down on the ebb tide to fish. Attack them on the water.

Waenganui might not have had the standard of beauty required to launch a thousand ships, but many paddles dipped softly in the tidal waters of the Waihou as the fleet of her avengers came in on the full tide towards Oruarangi and positioned themselves to fall on the unsuspecting Huarere, which they did with devastating effect, and the remnants of the enemy were pursued as far as Hikutaia, ten miles further up the river. Thus did Tauru-kapakapa avenge the death of his wife Waenganui.

The war went on with battles being fought in many places, including Te Totara, Puriri, and Matai where the greatest carnage occurred. It was estimated that 4,000 Ngati-Huarere died there. The tangata whenua tribes were decisively and finally defeated at Mataora, between Waihi and Whangamata.

Through the intervention of Kiko, the Ngati Huarere in the Te Aroha district were spared and became vassels of Ngati-maru. They were known as Ngati Hinewai, because Hinewai the daughter of Hihi had married a chief of their tribe.

...To be continued. [See Journal 11: Pre-European Tribal Trouble (continued) - E]