Auckland: Conquerors and settlers

As Auckland merges to create a supercity, the Herald looks back at how Auckland has changed over the years. Click here to view the full series.

Apihai Te Kawau and his nephew Tamahiki Te Rewiti, 1844. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library
Apihai Te Kawau and his nephew Tamahiki Te Rewiti, 1844. Photo / Alexander Turnbull Library

The people of Ngati Whatua had long been settled throughout the far north of New Zealand, in particular in the Kaipara area to the north and west of Auckland, before they moved south into the Auckland isthmus around 1740.

Rather than raid to settle scores and leave, they stayed and established political control and, from that point on, their home fires have been burning in Tamaki/Auckland. That long-term commitment to an area is called ahi kaa.

The Ngati Whatua o Orakei hapu we know today is made up of three smaller sub-groups: Te Taou, Ngaoho and Te Uringutu.

All trace ancestry back to the Te Taou chief, Tuperiri, and to the Waiohua people he wrested political control from when he invaded Tamaki Makaurau.

Before that invasion, the Auckland isthmus was ruled by an alliance of Waiohua and their paramount chief Kiwi Tamaki.

There had long been tensions along the border of tribal areas between Waiohua and Ngati Whatua.

And it was a fateful decision by Kiwi Tamaki to become involved in one small eruption of tension that quickly led to the downfall of Waiohua and the beginning of the Ngati Whatua hegemony.

Kiwi decided to assist a Ngati Whatua chief in a local dispute between two Ngati Whatua factions. He found his opportunity to intervene while attending a ceremony near Helensville. After hospitality was given, Kiwi and his warriors suddenly turned and killed many of those they feasted with.

The Te Taou chief Tuperiri escaped, along with the fighting chief Wahaakiaki, and vowed to avenge the treachery. Kiwi further steeled Ngati Whatua's resolve when he later came across Tuperiri's sister, and killed her as well.

What followed was a sustained period of warfare over a number of years. Key moments included raids through the Waitakere Ranges to Titirangi where Kiwi Tamaki was forced to withdraw to Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill.

Ngati Whatua then stormed a pa on Taurere/Taylors Hill overlooking the Tamaki River, today next to Sacred Heart College in Glendowie.

But it was in the west of Auckland, at what is now known as Big Muddy Creek near Cornwallis, that Kiwi Tamaki called all of Waiohua's allied hapu to meet Ngati Whatua.

It was there chief Wahaakiaki tricked Kiwi Tamaki into following his supposed retreat and then turned and killed him in hand to hand fighting.

At that stage Waiohua was defeated even though other battles followed, including the capture of the pa at Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill and finally the pa at Mangere. Over time, pa on the Waitemata Harbour fell to Ngati Whatua at Kohimarama, Orakei and Taurarua or Judges Bay.

One of the features of Ngati Whatua has been the blessing of a line of astute and far-sighted leaders. Tuperiri in the 1700s, his grandson Apihai Te Kawau in the 1800s, Paora Tuhaere in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and in more recent times, Sir Hugh Kawharu.

All had the ability to see a bigger picture and the patience to follow a masterplan to give their hapu a position of strength.

Tuperiri would have been an interesting man to meet. He responded with a warrior-leader's skill in invading the Tamaki area. He was selected to occupy, and to build and manage alliances with Waiohua.

He ensured his sons married women from Waiohua, thereby creating blood links that would provide enduring mana whenua over the isthmus. These alliances by marriage, common for Maori, are no different to European aristocracies ensuring they had allies to call on when needed and longevity of their bloodlines.

Ngati Whatua believe Tuperiri is buried on Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill.

The following century was generally peaceful. The nature of Auckland as a thin thoroughfare meant people from many tribes traversed through the isthmus. As its name, Tamaki Makaurau - or Tamaki of a Thousand Lovers - implies, many people liked the area with its fertile land, good climate and an abundance of seafood.

Ngati Whatua tended to be accommodating to potential rivals while still retaining control, or mana whenua, over the isthmus.

Friendly relations were governed by reciprocity which typically involved the marriage of a woman of rank or giving a "right to occupy" land, a practice known as tuku rangaitira, a form of lease that may allow another tribal group to establish a base from which to gather seafood or grow crops.

The Ngati Whatua population organised their economic activities across a network of major and subsidiary settlements located around the Manukau and Waitemata harbours. They tended to move with the seasons and the availability of food.

For example, they moved from settlements in Manukau to summer fishing and shellfish gathering at places such as Orakei, Te Rehu (Auckland Zoo), Horotiu (Queen St), Te To (Victoria Park), Okahu and Onewa.

There were also camps in the areas where Green Bay and Avondale are today which were then important points on the Whau River portage system where waka were kept to allow movement on both harbours.

Big changes began with the arrival of muskets in the 1830s. Ngati Whatua found itself squeezed between two large forces that had sourced muskets from Europe: Ngapuhi in the north and Waikato to the south.

Although prior to 1840 Ngati Whatua had very limited contact with Europeans, it was then that chief Apihai Te Kawau sent a delegation to Russell where the fledgling government was based to meet the recently arrived Governor Hobson.

Te Kawau invited Hobson to come to Tamaki Makaurau to set up his capital in the abundant and central region of what was to become Auckland. This would mean Hobson, the most powerful Pakeha in the new colony, along with the British military, would Te Kawau's ally - effectively his "Pakeha Maori".

- NZ Herald

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