National MP Paul Goldsmith might not be Māori, but his heritage shows he has a lot of whānau on the East Cape - his ancestor regarded as becoming the "father of more children than any other early trader".

Goldsmith's great-great-grandfather, Charles George Goldsmith, arrived in the area from Liverpool in the 1840s, and had four wives - two Māori (Ngāti Porou), and two Pākehā - fathering 16 children.

This wide heritage may have been where the confusion lay on Tuesday, when recently-appointed National Party deputy leader Nikki Kaye said the Epsom-based MP was "obviously of Ngāti Porou", when defending the diversity of their shadow cabinet.

Goldsmith quickly corrected the mix-up.

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"I make it quite clear, I am not Māori myself," he said.

"The Goldsmith family have many connections to Ngāti Porou. My great-great-grandfather had European wives and Māori wives so I've got lots of relatives across the Ngāti Porou but I don't claim to be Māori myself."

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But this did nothing to quell the controversy, Northland-based New Zealand First MP Shane Jones later yelling "Ngāti Epsom" across the House at Goldsmith, alluding to the contrast with his local, predominantly-Pākehā, electorate.

Speaking to the Herald on Wednesday, Goldsmith said he had never shied away from his history - in fact he referred to his ancestor, the first in his family to settle in the country, in his maiden parliamentary speech back in 2011.

"He was a typical big-hearted pioneer, and a trader, and over the 50 years or so he lived in New Zealand he had four wives—two Ngāti Porou and two Pākehā—and 16 children," he said at the time.

"That is the sort of spirit that built this nation."

Goldsmith, who was born and raised in Auckland, told the Herald he had a "lot of East Coast connections" through his ancestor.

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"Almost anybody from the East Cape has some kind of connection, it is very broad."

That broad connection, thanks to his ancestor, include many Ngāti Porou whanaunga, who range from economics Rhodes scholars, iwi and business leaders, and even a famous film director.

National Party MP Paul Goldsmith is not Māori, but his great-great-grandather is well-known in Māoridom, having had two Ngāti Porou wives. Photo / Nick Winter
National Party MP Paul Goldsmith is not Māori, but his great-great-grandather is well-known in Māoridom, having had two Ngāti Porou wives. Photo / Nick Winter

Victor Goldsmith, CEO of Te Runanganui o Te Aupouri, told the Herald he shared the same ancestor as the National MP, but through the line of Charles Goldsmith's second wife, Makere.

"He was well respected by Māori - he even had the wives to prove it," Victor Goldsmith said.

"He was even referred to as 'Hori Korimete', Hori being Māori for his middle name George."

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According to the book Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z., by Joseph Mackay, Charles Goldsmith was born in Liverpool in 1822.

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He had served on a trading vessel on the east coast of South America before he appeared in the Waiapu district in the early 1840s.

He was a whaler, and kept a store at Waipiro Bay, before moving to Tūranganui-a-Kiwa - then known as Poverty Bay, and opening another store at Kairoro.

It was there that tragedy struck, when in 1868 while he was in Turanganui, two of his children, who were at the store, were slain as part of the Matawhero massacre on orders of Te Kooti, and his store burnt down.

He was later in charge of Kaiti native school, and some years later, kept an hotel at Muriwai. He even became a licensed interpreter.

Newly-selected National Party leader Todd Muller and deputy Nikki Kaye (right) have come under fire for a lack of diversity in their shadow cabinet. Photo / Mark Tantrum
Newly-selected National Party leader Todd Muller and deputy Nikki Kaye (right) have come under fire for a lack of diversity in their shadow cabinet. Photo / Mark Tantrum

Along with being renowned for his adept trading skills, Charles Goldsmith also gained quite a reputation for his "many wives", earning the nickname "Brigham Young", after the famous Mormon polygamist, Victor Goldsmith said.

"He wasn't Mormon though, just had a lot of wives."

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His first wife was Harete, and second wife Makere, a sister of Harete, which was custom at the time if one passed away.

Less is known about the final two wives, but both were Pākehā, the second of whom was a native of Wales and with whom Charles Goldsmith had twelve children.

He died on September, 20, 1894.

The gravestone of Charles George Goldsmith in Makaraka Cemetery, Gisborne. Photo / Supplied
The gravestone of Charles George Goldsmith in Makaraka Cemetery, Gisborne. Photo / Supplied

Victor Goldsmith said it was very common at the time for European settlers to take on Māori wives - and vice versa - a time of great inter-cultural mingling.

"Most people on the East Coast don't have Māori names, it was just how people assimilated.

"It's what Tā Apirana Ngata described as 'hybrid vigour'."

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Victor Goldsmith said it was not surprising Paul Goldsmith ended up a National MP in Epsom, and as the party's finance spokesperson.

Goldsmith Senior was an astute trader and asset manager, and many of his descendants were in the business and economic fields.

On the Ngāti Porou side, Glenn Goldsmith became the iwi's first Rhodes Scholar, studying economics. Another whanaunga, Rob McLeod, chaired the New Zealand Business Roundtable.

There was also a creative side, with Once Were Warriors director Lee Tamahori a descendant. Victor Goldsmith's brother Peter was also a Māori All Black for a number of years.

"It is a very strong line, and widely known name in Ngāti Porou, Goldsmith."

Victor Goldsmith said he'd spoken to Paul Goldsmith about their connection over the years.

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"He's proud of it, and he did the right thing [on Tuesday] clearing it up. He might not be Māori, but he is more than welcome back to the East Coast, any time."