Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 11, May 1969


[See part one in Journal 10: Pre-European Tribal Trouble]


"Every summer saw quite large numbers of Maoris from the Thames Coromandel coast arrive for the annual shark-fishing. Then in more ways than one things fairly "hummed" along a very "busy Sandspit." (Deans) The waters inside Kawau Island swarmed with sharks. Early settlers thought it a poor season if they bagged less than 1,000 sharks, and once inside the estuary at the Sandspit 400 sharks were caught from eight boats in a single morning.

Once a party of Ngati-whatua from north of Auckland went to Mahurangi for the shark fishing and Tara-hawaiki, son of Tupe-riri, named a shark that he caught after the great Ngati-paoa chief, Te Haupa. This was a deadly insult (Te Haupa wasn't even a lawyer). Clearly this was a matter demanding utu, and some Ngati-paoa who were fishing nearby attacked Tara-hawaiki in his camp and killed him, just to convince him that him joke wasn't funny.

Ngati-Whatua enlisted the aid of the already antagonistic Ngapuhi, with Ngati-maru and their relatives Ngati-paoa joining up on the other side. There followed attack and counter attack, until a Ngati-maru + Ngati-paoa expedition went to the Bay of Islands and thoroughly trounced Ngapuhi on their own stamping ground in 1793. Twenty-eight years later Hongi Hika was back from England and be-thinking himself of the unfinished business with Ngati-maru. He went to Thames and sacked the Te Totara pa, killing over 1,000 of the Ngati-maru. There was also a little matter with the Waikato tribes and at Matakitaki near Pirongia he exacted a similar toll of the defenders and then, perhaps the missionaries' message was getting through, both sides had had enough of slaughter and decided to make peace. As a peacebinder Ngapuhi handed over a young woman, Matire Toha, to Waikato, She was brought forward by Turikatuku the blind wife of Hongi, and she was married to Kati, a younger cousin of Te Wherowhero 1822.

In defiance of this pact Pomare, a famous Ngapuhi chief, took a band of 220 warriors up the Piako river, and crossing over to Horotiu took his canoes up the Waipa. He was killed by a combined force of Ngati-tamaaoho, Ngati-Paoa, and Ngati-Tipa. This was some revenge for Matakitaki but Ngapuhi took no counter action as the majority considered Pomare had been in the wrong, 1826.

The defeat at Te Totara had seriously weakened Ngati-maru and due to pressure from the resurgent Ngati-haua under the brilliant and bloodthirsty Te Waharoa, they withdrew from the lands they had conquered in the Waikato, and about 1830, some of them went down the Piako as far as Te Puninga, which became a borderland between Ngati-tamatera, Ngati-paoa, and Ngati-haua. The reason why a spot in the middle of the swamp had any significance can be summed up in one word, - eels.

The Thames Valley was a grand place for eels and each tribe sought to retain as large a slice of it as possible. Highly prized were the streams in which eel weirs could be constructed. Eels were taken in sufficient numbers to provide a trading surplus keenly sought after by less fortunate neighbours, at least one chief got into trouble for selling his eels to the wrong people.


The Maori loved his land but before European settlement he made very limited use of it. He did cultivate a certain amount of land and as that became exhausted he moved on to other areas. He made good use of strategically placed eminences for his fortified pa, but lived much of the time in villages near his cultivations or near waterways or fishing grounds, going to his pa for safety on the approach of an enemy. These pa were very strong but being on high ground usually lacked a water supply and were ill equipped to stand a long seige. On the other hand the attackers did not come prepared to sit down and wait while the garrison were starved out or died of thirst. They had come in the mood to fight and wanted to get on with the job while their blood was still hot. If they could not storm the pa they tried to goad the defenders to fury so they would rush out of it. Alternately they resorted to subterfuge to get a fifth column into the pa to open the gate in the dead of night. If all these schemes failed there was another year next year.

Some use was made of tracks through the scrub, but the rivers were the arterial routes of the Maoris' world. On them plied canoes on friendly errands or war parties going to attack their neighbours, or yet other war parties from afar just passing through. In early European times the rivers were considered very important. Ngaruawahia at the junction of two rivers was expected to become the metropolis of the Waikato. Paeroa similarly placed at the junction of the Waihou and the Ohinemuri. When Josiah Clifton Firth developed his little place in the country at Matamata he made extensive use of the Waihou for getting his stores up to Okauia [Stanley Landing ? – E] landing and shipping his produce out.

In the 1840's there appeared a new man with a new philosophy, Wiremu Tamihana, Christian son of the blood-thirsty Te Waharoa. He took the initiative of bringing peace between the tribes, and the law of utu became obsolete. When peace was celebrated between Ngati-haua and Ngati-paoa they "cemented their peace making over a splendid repast at Puriri, where two hundred pigs served as peacemakers". (Rickard).

In the late seventies of last century [ie 1800s – E] the Maoris, like most other people, were hard up. New Zealand was entering a period of depression after the temporary boom brought about by extensive borrowing under Vogel's Public Works Policy. Depression conditions played into the hands of such financiers as Whitaker and Russell, who were in a position to capitalize on the desire of the Maoris to raise money by selling what was practically their only asset, the land. This they were able to do under Section 61 of the Native Lands Act of 1873, which provided for sale of Maori land held in Memorial of Ownership, such sales to be supported by a Transfer executed by owners and approved by the Native Land Court.

The proceedings of the Native Land Court, as recorded in Hauraki Minute Books make fascinating reading, and give an insight into the infinite resource of the Civil Commissioner, Mr. James Mackay, in resolving the conflicting claims of tribes and individuals to the land to be sold. At this stage the claim of a tribe to land did not indicate an intention of living on it but a desire to get their full share of the money from the sale of it.

For a tribe to establish a claim to land it was not even necessary to prove that they had actually resided on it in the past. In claiming the Te Puninga No.1. for Ngati-paoa, Wini Kerei Te Whetuiti said, "This land belongs to us, the Ngati-paoa. It belonged in former times to our ancestor. The block is mostly swamp. They caught eels on it. The only thing they ever got on the land was the eels. We have been in possession of this land from the time of our ancestors until now."

Hori Ngakapu, claiming land in one of the Whangamata blocks, said:

"I belong to Ngati-whanaunga, I know the land on the map. I have a claim on it. It belonged to my ancestor, Tearoa. This is bush land. My ancestor used to catch rats and gather berries on it. It was I who proposed the survey". No one opposed the survey.

Ngati-tumutumu who lived near Te Aroha claimed a block of land, not because they had lived on it but because in the fighting against Haua their people had been the only ones killed on it. When their claim was being considered a question arose as to whether the Ngati-tumutumu had received money at Pukeraku. It was considered right that they should have done so as it was their land. It came out that the men had refused the money but the women had received it, and the men had participated in it. Some claims were disallowed, Parakore had a great many children and one, Mahanga, was excluded from a share in the inheritance for marrying a strange woman.

About a dozen different tribes claimed a share in the Goldfields Block at Ohinemuri, and the way their claims were apportioned is shown on the Maori land plan, 3416. Most of the tribes claiming were sub-tribes of Ngati-tamatera, but the Ngati-Porou who had come on a visit and just settled down and stayed, received land at Mataora as a gift. After the Tarawera eruption in 1886, Ngati Tuhourangi whose land had been wasted in the disaster area, were given sanctuary on a block of land in the Aroha Survey District.


Tainui, Leslie Kelly; Waharoa, J. A. Wilson; Tamihana, the King Maker, L. S. Rickard; Maori Affairs Department, Hamilton, Hauraki Minute Books 8,9, and 10, Lands and Survey Department, Hamilton, M.L.s 3416 and 3477-82; Sandspit Memories, William Deans. (Unpublished).


The Ngatipaoa fleet had come to exact retribution for the insult to the chief, Hoera, who vas roughly handled by a native policeman when his person was under the sacred ban of tapu. The canoes were from Pukorokoro (Miranda) led by Aperahama Pakai, Taupo (Sandspit), Waiari, Wharekawa, and Te Umu-puia (Te Wairoa). The crews were of the Tau-iwi, Pukahorohoro, Ngati-Tai hapus and some Ngati Whanaunga directed by Hori Ngakapa in his great war canoe Te Waikahaere. They numbered close on 300, and when they were assembled at Waiheke I. [Island – E] other canoes joined then. The Ngatipaoa hapus were led by Te Puhata, and Haora Tipa commended [commanded ? – E] the "Maramarua", a decorated canoe manned by 50 paddlers.

Sir George Grey had been warned and when the Maoris arrived they were faced by the four guns of the 58th Regiment, the Royal New Zealand Fencibles. (veterans who had become military settlers) who lined Constitution Hill and the Parnell slopes commanding the bay, while the "Fly" anchored with her guns trained on the beached canoes.

After some heated argument the Maoris obeyed the Governor's ultimatum. The tide had gone out and the canoes were high and dry. Mr. George Graham writes 'that this incident is spoken of among the Ngatipaoa as "Te Toanga-roa" ("The Long Hauling"), in reference to the dragging of the canoes from high water mark to low water over the mudflats of Mechanics Bay. Later the chiefs made formal submission to the Governor and presented him with several greenstone meres.

(Ref: The N.Z. Wars, James Cowan, Vol. l, App. P.449 Norton Watson.)