Kaitieki o Ngati Maru, Ngati Kaipoho, Ngai Tawhiri, Ngati Ruapani ki Turanga

Whare Whakairo History

The whare whakairo named Te Hau Ki Turanga (‘the breath, or vitality, of Turanga’) is one of the most magnificently carved and well-known whare in New Zealand, and has long been the centre-piece of the Maori collection of what is now known as Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand). It represents a high point (if not a final flowering) of the great carving tradition of Turanganui-a-Kiwa, and is the finest surviving example of the skills of the many Rongowhakaata craftsmen who carved and built it in1842. On the other hand, the way in which Te Hau Ki Turanga was taken from Rongowhakaata by the government 25 years later can be seen as one of the low points in their relationship with the museum and with the Crown.

The full story of Te Hau Ki Turanga is one that can only be told by those well-versed in the  whakapapa  and  traditions  which  it  commemorates.  This  story instead  focuses largely on the Crown’s acquisition and management of the famed whare. Te Hau Ki Turanga was designed by Raharuhi Rukupo as a tribute to the memory of his elder brother, Tamati Waaka Mangere, and was built and carved by his Ngati Kaipoho hapu, a people “noted throughout New Zealand for the excellence of their carving.”  Work began at Rongowhakaata’s huge Orakaiapu pa in October 1842 and was completed the following March, with up to 18 carvers working on the whare whakairo. Almost 40 celebrated Rongowhakaata tipuna are represented in the figures carved into the posts of Te Hau Ki Turanga. In something of a break with tradition a carved ‘portrait’ of Raharuhi Rukupo also featured, even though up  to that time it was very rare for the living to be so depicted. While these original features are readily discerned today by any visitor to the whare at Te Papa, much of the rest of this Rongowhakaata taonga has been substantially altered since it was stolen from its people and wrenched from its roots in 1867.

The Taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga, March 1867

Not a great deal is recorded about Te Hau Ki Turanga after its completion and prior to the government taking it from Orakaiapu. It was used for significant hui of Turanga iwi up to the  1860s,  and  was  doubtless  also  used  for  many  more  Rongowhakaata  and Ngati Kaipoho hui that went unrecorded. By the 1860s, Orakaiapu was no longer the extensive pa it had been up to the 1840s, and in 1866 (sometime after the battle at Waerenga-a- Hika) Raharuhi and those of his hapu still residing there moved to Pakirikiri, joining others who had left earlier.

In March 1867, J. C. Richmond was in Turanga as part of a tour of the East Coast area during which he held a series of hui with local iwi to discuss the recent fighting and raupatu-related issues. Richmond’s formal position in government was Commissioner of Customs but he was also, in effect, the minister of ‘native affairs’ even though Stafford’s Ministry did not formally include such a portfolio (believing that with settler victories in the New Zealand Wars the need for it was at an end), and it was this informal portfolio which brought him to Turanga. In addition, at the time Te Hau Ki Turanga was taken he was also informally acting director of the Colonial Museum during the lengthy absence of the founding director, James Hector, on a geological tour of the West Coast of the South Island. The whare was taken by Richmond specifically for the Museum and has remained in its custody ever since.

Richmond put forward differing versions of how he acquired Te Hau Ki Turanga for the Crown but the brief facts of the case, as related by other more reliable participants, are that, the day after his big hui with Turanga iwi, he instructed Captain Fairchild (the master of the government steamer Sturt on which the Crown party was travelling) to travel up the Waipaoa River, dismantle the whare, and load it aboard the Sturt. Despite being assured by Richmond that Maori had assented to this action Fairchild encountered opposition from the few Maori then present at the scantily populated Orakaiapu kainga. Together with Biggs he arranged the payment of £100 to unknown Maori to overcome this opposition, but later admitted that he doubted that the recipients of the money were the ‘right people’ to deal with in this matter. After this payment was made, further Maori arrived and objected more strenuously to the assault on Te Hau Ki Turanga, but Biggs had departed and as Fairchild was insufficiently adept with te reo Maori to debate the matter with them he simply ignored their protests. Indeed, continued protests were forcefully overcome and Maori intimidated into permitting Fairchild to proceed. During the night, after Fairchild’s crew had ceased their work for the day, Maori arrived with a team of bullocks and a sled, apparently intending to remove what remained of the whare to the safety of the bush. Again they were forcefully opposed by Fairchild’s men, and in the  morning  his  work  was completed  and  Te  Hau  Ki Turanga  was  removed  to Wellington, where it remains to this day.

Despite protest from Rongowhakaata it was to be some years before the government investigated Richmond’s actions sufficiently to uncover the truth of what had happened at Orakaiapu  in  March  1867.  For  some  time,  it  instead  appeared  willing  to  accept Richmond’s  self-serving  and  contradictory  account  of  the acquisition  of  Te  Hau  Ki Turanga.

Richmond’s version was not, however, the only account circulating after 1867, but it was the only one heeded by the government. In August 1868, Tareha (an Ahuriri rangatira and then a Maori Member of the House of Representatives) spoke to the Wellington Philosophical Society about Te Hau Ki Turanga, explaining its significance and that of the tipuna represented in it (he, with his Kahungunu ancestry, would have shared several of those tipuna). Referring to the removal of the whare from Turanga, he said, ‘This is considered an important and valuable property among the Maori; but misfortunes visited the land, troubles were cast upon us, the tribes were scattered, and the result is that the house now stands here…. In consequence of all this, and through other troubles and dissension, the house has become your property.’

Given the mechanics of how the whare came to be in the Colonial Museum, this is a rather philosophical explanation, but then Tareha was addressing a philosophical society. His euphemistic and polite account might also be linked to a desire to be courteous towards his hosts, or, given his role as a prominent supporter of the Crown during the turbulent 1860s, a wish to downplay the Crown’s dubious methods in acquiring Te Hau Ki Turanga. Richmond later asserted that Tareha had a closer involvement than indicated by the above, claiming in Parliament that Raharuhi had said to Richmond, at the time the whare was taken, that Te Hau Ki Turanga was already “dead” to him as he had recently “given it in writing” to Tareha. This claim (not raised again during the Crown’s numerous defences of its actions in connection with Te Hau Ki Turanga) is not supported by Tareha’s comments and is scarcely consistent with the protests from Rongowhakaata which began only a few months after the removal of the whare to Wellington. Returning to Tareha, whatever the reason for his statement it can certainly not be said to be due to ignorance of the events of March 1867; as a Maori Member of the House of Representatives he would doubtless have been made aware of the petition referring to Te Hau Ki Turanga.  This  was  submitted  to  the  House  of  Representatives  by  Raharuhi Rukupo and seven others of Rongowhakaata in July 1867, only a few months after the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga, and the inquiry into the petition referred to Tareha several times.

A Turanga correspondent for an Auckland newspaper, the Southern Cross, also made public the taking of the whare a month before the petition was filed. The press account stated that Te Hau Ki Turanga had been, “taken away without the owners being consulted on the subject any more than that one old man was pressed into giving his unwilling consent.” The paper was also critical of the government for aggravating land disputes by giving Maori the impression that, “the whole aim of our institutions is to get all the plunder we can lay hold of.”

This account was strongly condemned by the paper’s Auckland rival, the New Zealand Herald, which generally held to a pro-government line. The following day it refuted the Southern Cross’s story, but its own version confused the issue further and is largely contradicted by other evidence. The Herald’s source was “an old and respected resident” – apparently  – who asserted that the “proper owners had actually made [Te Hau Ki Turanga] over to the government as a gift.” The item went on to note that, despite this gift, the government had, allegedly through Read, paid £100 to the “proper owners”, identified here as Raharuhi Rukupo and “Te Matiki Tumuoko.”  The rival paper responded the very next day, repeating that, “the owners have never been paid,” and now claiming that the “old man” who it earlier said had been “pressed into giving his consent” was indeed Raharuhi Rukupo, although there is no other evidence to substantiate this. The Cross also asserted that, “the house belonged to the whole of the Turanga natives, and that no sale could have been valid without the whole of those people consenting to it.”  The owners had apparently been offered “several hundred pounds” for Te Hau Ki Turanga a few years earlier and had refused to sell.

Most other evidence (related below), particularly first-hand testimony from those involved, suggests the coverage of both newspapers contained errors. It is clear from the 1867 petition headed by Raharuhi Rukupo that he did not receive the £100, which was paid by Biggs (not Read) for Te Hau Ki Turanga. Indeed, the identity of the recipients is unknown, but they appear to have simply been selected from amongst the few Maori who were at Orakaiapu when government men began dismantling Te Hau Ki Turanga. The recipients (who numbered either two or ten depending on whose account is relied on) vanished with their cash before Rongowhakaata representatives arrived to dispute the government’s actions. The notion that the whare was gifted was, as noted above, raised again by Richmond himself, but is clearly contradicted not only by the express opposition of Rongowhakaata to the taking but by the need to make the payment of £100 to some unknown Maori at Orakaiapu. Finally, the Cross’s assertion that Te Hau Ki Turanga belonged to all Turanga Maori must be rejected; the whare was built by Ngati Kaipoho carvers working under their rangatira Raharuhi Rukupo and while Te Hau Ki Turanga may have been used for many important hui attended by Turanganui iwi, it could not be said to be owned by any but Rongowhakaata or, more specifically, Ngati Kaipoho.

The First Petition, July 1867

While the Herald’s account of the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga may have reflected Richmond’s version of events he did not formally put his views in writing until August 1867, when he responded to Raharuhi’s petition before the Public Petitions Committee. The petition itself offers an alternative, and first-hand, account of the acquisition of the whare in March 1867. Raharuhi and the other petitioners noted that Te Hau Ki Turanga was their “taonga nui” (rather poorly translated in the published version as “very valuable”) and had been, “taken away, without pretext, by the government: we did not consent to its removal.”  The petition continued, “This is a true account of what took place in reference to the removal of that house: at the time of Mr Richmond’s visit here, he asked me to give up the house; I did not consent, but told him, ‘No, it is for the whole people to consider’. He then asked me if the house belonged to them all. I answered, ‘No, the house is mine, but the work was done by all of us’. To this Mr Richmond replied, ‘That is all; I will cease to urge you’.

The steamer left with Mr Richmond. After having been away a short time, the steamer came back again to take away the house; Captain Biggs came to fetch away the house. He desired me to give it up for the Governor, to be taken to Wellington. I told him I did not agree to it. He said other things, which I have not forgotten. He then went to take down the house, and carried it off but I did not give my sanction to it. This is all I have to say about it. We pray you to consider this our trouble.’

This petition was presented to the committee by George Graham (brother to William, who was closely involved with Turanga iwi during the late 1860s), who added that he had received a private letter informing him that, “the natives protested against having the house removed.” This letter had accompanied the petition and, with respect to Te Hau Ki Turanga, noted that, “There are contradictory reports in the Bay regarding it, but the natives all and some of the Europeans assert that the government never came to terms with them, but gave two natives £100 for it, and that was not until after it was on board the steamer, Captain Fairchild of the Sturt told me himself that the natives were protesting the whole time they were taking it away and speaking of how well they managed it, he said he kept arguing with them while his men were carrying the boards away.”

Graham also produced a further letter, supplied to him by Carleton (another parliamentarian involved with Maori issues), which also recorded Maori opposition to the taking  of  Te Hau Ki Turanga  before  recommending  that  the  taonga  be  returned  to Turanga, “for I believe that the natives would receive it as [a] peace offering, and would return the £100.”

The assertion that the whare had been gifted to Tareha appears to have then been put to Graham by the committee (probably through Ormond, a member of the committee who appeared to have been in touch with Richmond), and Graham closed by saying he was, “not aware that the House had been made over by the tribe to any other party.” Ormond, then  requested that McLean be called  to  its  next  meeting  to advise  them as  to  the supposed gifting. He also raised the raupatu issue at this point, adding that, “he was himself cognisant of the fact that the land on which the House stood had been the property of persons lately in rebellion had been assumed by Mr McLean” (crossing out in original). Unfortunately McLean could shed little light on the matter and his evidence appeared to be hearsay for, as he admitted, he had “no official connection” with Turanga at the time of the removal of Te Hau Ki Turanga. What he claimed to know was that Raharuhi had “offered” the whare to Tareha but that Mokena Kohere of Ngati Porou had objected, as “he and the government had the best right to it.” Tareha apparently then “relinquished his claim to it.”

Richmond, and subsequently the Public Petitions Committee, rejected the petitioners’ claims, but right from the beginning he and the government appeared to be on shaky ground. The justifications and obfuscations were neither logical nor consistent. In his first defence of his actions to Parliament, Richmond emphasised the protective nature of the Museum’s custody and the report of the Public Petitions Committee claimed that, under the Museum’s care, Te Hau Ki Turanga would at least be “preserved from premature destruction, to which it seems to have been fast advancing when discovered [sic!] by the Hon. Mr J. C. Richmond.” Richmond himself had written to the Committee claiming that when he ‘found’ the whare it was “a wreck” hidden away beneath a half-rotten pile of raupo, adding that, “I observed with regret that it was utterly neglected, the porch denuded of its smaller carvings, the roof defective in many places, the carved slabs which formed the sides rotten where they were slightly fixed in the ground.”

Strangely enough, there is no mention in subsequent museum reports of any extensive decay in this part of the structure of Te Hau Ki Turanga, nor of repairs to the “rotten” carved side panels. Indeed, the man in charge of dismantling it and taking it from Orakaiapu in 1867 later stated, in response to a question as to the allegedly “partially destroyed” state of the whare, that “it was complete,” and that great pains were taken to ensure it was not damaged during its dismantling.  As for the raupo under which the whare was said to have been hidden, rather than reflecting neglect it appears more probable either that new raupo roofing was being prepared or that Rongowhakaata had deliberately obscured the whare during recent turbulent times in order to reduce the chances of the Crown’s Ngati Porou troops pillaging or damaging it. In addition, Raharuhi and others had moved from Orakaiapu to Pakirikiri in late 1866, meaning that Te Hau Ki Turanga may not have been regularly occupied during the East Coast Wars. This would also explain the apparent removal of the more easily removed carvings from the front of Te Hau Ki Turanga.

A further plank of Richmond’s defence was that ten unnamed Maori had been paid £100, a sum described by the Public Petitions Committee as “considerable” even though a later inquiry recommended that the sum be quadrupled, other interested parties later estimated that Te Hau Ki Turanga would fetch £1,000 on the London market, and in 1864 £300 had been offered by a private party for it. Correspondence presented by Graham referred to only two recipients of the £100 payment. Richmond went on to assert that his actions had the almost unanimous support of the 300-400 Maori attending what he considered a successful hui about land and raupatu matters, at the end of which he proposed the gifting of Te Hau Ki Turanga, to which, he claimed, there was but one objection. (He later claimed the hui was 600-strong.) The objector was referred to as an “old man,” which seems to have led the press (and subsequently others) to presume that the objector was Raharuhi  Rukupo  but  this  cannot  be  established  with any certainty.  Despite  the supposedly  overwhelming  support  of  the  hui,  Richmond  went on to note  that  shortly thereafter he asked Biggs to go back to Rongowhakaata and obtain their assent.  This rather implies it had not already been secured, which would also explain why payment was also proffered.

The final basis of the Crown’s claim to Te Hau Ki Turanga was that it, being sited on the ‘confiscated’ land of alleged rebels, belonged to the Crown as of right. While admitting that the whare had stood on Raharuhi’s land, Richmond claimed that Raharuhi was a “leading rebel” and added that Mokena Kohere of Ngati Porou not only approved of its removal but claimed it as his property by right of conquest, his only objection being that the Crown had paid Turanga Maori any money at all for it. The Public Petitions Committee also played the raupatu trump card, adding at the end of its report (as if unconvinced by its other justifications) that, “it is not to be overlooked that both the house itself and the land on which it stood belonged to rebel Natives, and were, strictly speaking, forfeited to the Government.” This supposedly overarching right rather begs the question as to why Richmond allegedly went to the trouble of obtaining the assent of hundreds of Turanga Maori to the free removal of Te Hau Ki Turanga (most of whom would not have had rights to the whare), and then paid some of them for it. In any event, no proof  was  offered  up  as  to  Raharuhi’s ‘rebel’  status   (and  nor  was  this  ever determined in court) and the land at Orakaiapu remained in Rongowhakaata’s hands, so the raupatu issue is little more than a red herring. It was simply another in a series of weak rationalisations used to defend the indefensible.

The Public Petitions Committee reported back to the House on Raharuhi’s petition in August 1867, but did little more than adopt Richmond’s statement as its report, without any further inquiry into the matter and certainly without reference to the petitioners, Tareha,  or  those involved  in  the  taking  of  Te  Hau  Ki  Turanga  (such  as  Biggs  or Fairchild). Richmond’s statement to the Committee, and its hastily-compiled and poorly- researched report, did little to either address or refute the claims made by Rongowhakaata in their petition.

Indeed, in private Richmond essentially admitted that the account of the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga given in their petition was a truer one than that given by him to Parliament. In April 1867, shortly after his return to Wellington from Turanga, he wrote to Emily Richmond, remarking on his visit and the general failure of the government’s East Coast dealings but adding that, the only great thing done was the confiscation and carrying off of a beautiful carved house with a military promptitude that will be recorded to my glory.

The self-congratulatory tone aside, this is certainly a more accurate account of what happened than Richmond’s report to the Public Petitions Committee, emphasising as it does the confiscatory aspect of the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga and the martial manner in which it was achieved. He added that an agent of the Melbourne Museum was also attempting to deal for the whare but, again stressing the martial nature of his acquisition, added that, “the broad arrow and Captain Fairchild of the Sturt [a government steamer] carried the day.”

The local historian, R. de Z. Hall, later reviewed the history of Te Hau Ki Turanga and expressed doubts as to the merits of the petition. He considered that, in March 1867, the taking of the whare was “accepted” by Rongowhakaata in the context of Richmond claiming to have withdrawn the threat of raupatu at the huge hui attended by Turanganui iwi. This supposedly led to mass acquiescence to his suggestion that Te Hau Ki Turanga be gifted to the Crown. Hall notes that it was Maori dissatisfaction with the later work of the Native Land Court at Turanga and progress with raupatu-related issues which led to a large petition on land matters from Turanga Maori in July 1867. His hypothesis is that Raharuhi and others, “whether by collusion or new-found boldness,” then filed, on the very same day, their petition on Te Hau Ki Turanga.

This view is not simply unduly cynical but is actually undermined by evidence which Hall does not cite. As noted earlier, the press had raised the issue more than a month earlier, in June 1867, so Rongowhakaata’s dissatisfaction with the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga must have been expressed before then for their account of the incident to filter through to the Southern Cross’s correspondent. In any case, Richmond’s claim (accepted by Hall) that the whare was gifted is further undermined by evidence relating to the need for payment, and Richmond’s reference to Biggs having to attempt to gain the assent of Rongowhakaata. Finally, as noted earlier, it is clearly questionable whether a hui of all Turanganui iwi even had the right to simply surrender the property of Rongowhakaata or, more specifically, Ngati Kaipoho (a point explored further below in connection with the eventual payment of compensation for Te Hau Ki Turanga).

The Second Petition, 1878

As Richmond noted triumphantly in April 1867, it was the “broad arrow” and Captain Fairchild who “carried the day” during the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga. Indeed, it was Captain Fairchild who did most to clarify the truth of Rongowhakaata’s 1867 petition and confirm the accuracy of Richmond’s private correspondence, as opposed to his public and official utterances. Fairchild’s account was given to the Native Affairs Committee (chaired by Native Minister Bryce) in October 1878, during an inquiry into a petition submitted by Wi Pere,531 Keita (‘Kate’) Wyllie, Paora Kate, and Otene Pitau.

The petition of 1878 sought the return of Te Hau Ki Turanga or, alternatively, the payment of compensation for the whare. The willingness to accept compensation for such a priceless taonga can be put down to several factors. Firstly, the petitioners (particularly Wi Pere, who had extensive experience lobbying the government) would have realised the  unlikelihood  of  the whare  being  returned  to  Turanga.  Secondly,  some  of  the petitioners were desperately short of funds, partly through having incurred crippling legal bills defending their interests in the Native Land Court. Otene Pitau’s £50 share went directly to his lawyer Graham, and prior to that he had the bailiffs at his house. It may have been he to whom local officials were referring when they later wrote to urge the payment of the money lest one of the petitioners, “be put in gaol for debt.”  Thirdly, the petitioners were headed by, and possibly dominated by, Wi Pere who could be said to lack strong links to either Te Hau Ki Turanga or Ngati Kaipoho, and the same might be said of another dominant petitioner, Keita Wyllie. They would thus be more receptive to compensation. Other petitioners, such as Paora Kate, appeared to be indebted to Wi Pere, increasing the acceptability of cash compensation to them. The payment of such compensation  was   of   course   preferred   by   the   committee   to   the   return   of Rongowhakaata’s property, and it eventually recommended the payment of £300 to the, “native owners, when they have been ascertained by the Government.”

Fairchild’s evidence appeared to be the key to the Committee’s finding in favour of the petition, and his evidence contradicted much of what Richmond had earlier claimed in Parliament. Fairchild told of how Richmond had instructed him to go back to get the whare, saying that, “he had arranged with the natives [that] I was to get it.” The very few Maori then at Orakaiapu told him, “I should not have the house,” but he, “was not willing to come away without it.” He then told them that they must either pay him for the coal he had burned in bringing his steamer to Orakaiapu to fetch the house, or give him the house. “At last,” he continued, “they told me I could have the house for an amount. I offered £80, and they laughed at the offer at first; then I offered them £100, thinking it would be as well to try and get the house.” He claimed they agreed to this price, even though he also said he had, when attempting a private purchase, offered Rongowhakaata £300 for Te Hau Ki Turanga in 1864. Biggs arrived towards the end of this haggling and “took the management of the matter.” Fairchild said he gave Biggs the £100, his own funds, “which I happened to have on board the steamer.” This was after Richmond had advised him that Te Hau Ki Turanga was to be, “a gift to the government,” a suggestion denied by Orakaiapu Maori who, according to Fairchild, did admit to having discussed the matter with Richmond, “but never told him he could have it for nothing.” He confirmed that he had no authority to make the payment but felt that, “if I could get it for £100, the government would be satisfied, and so they were.”  His claim that he just happened to have the £100 of his own funds on board the steamer is curious to say the least, given that this was a huge sum for a private individual to have on his person at the time. He may have had his own plans for Te Hau Ki Turanga, having admitted that he had himself offered Orakaiapu Maori £300 for it three years earlier.

After making the payment to ten unnamed individuals in private (in Fairchild’s cabin) Biggs then departed, as did the mysterious recipients of this bounty. However, despite Fairchild’s claim that the payment had been accepted, his evidence went on to note that when he and his men began dismantling Te Hau Ki Turanga, Maori began objecting all the time. They objected as I took stick upon stick… I had to take the house by force. I own to that. They stood there and objected to every stick that was touched… I was taking it down against their will. I took it with the tomahawk against their will. I believe they thought I would harm someone… I had to keep watch over it all night… They came with a bullock team to remove the balance of the house away. I was afraid they would get it away into the bush, and so I watched what remained of it all night long.

Under further questioning he revealed that he could not identify any of those to whom the £100 had been paid but he did recall that the recipients “disappeared almost directly” after the payment. By contrast, others, who arrived after the payment, “objected awfully strongly,” particularly, “a woman calling herself Victoria.” He noted that there were few Maori present when he arrived or when he paid over the money, possibly not a great deal more than the ten to whom the £100 was paid. This may have been due, in part, to the still unsettled nature of the district, and he noted that two people had recently been killed nearby. However, by the time he had finished “pulling the house down,” there were about Maori present.

It is probable that those, like Wikitoria, who arrived later from other more populous and safe settlements would have had a greater right to decide the fate of Te Hau Ki Turanga and it was they who objected to Fairchild’s actions. He admitted that his ability with te reo Maori was insufficient to discuss these objections, so he would have had to simply reject them without any further consultation. Or, as he put it, he engaged with them sufficiently  to  distract  them  while  his  men  continued  taking  the  whare.  Finally,  in response to a question that raised the possibility that the money had been paid to the “wrong people,” he admitted, “that is quite possible. Neither Biggs nor myself knew who the right people were.” Richmond, by his own admission, knew at least that Raharuhi was one of the “right people,” and by 1878 it was equally apparent that Raharuhi had not been a recipient of the £100 allegedly paid for this taonga.

The brief report of the Native Affairs Committee did not go into the reasoning for its recommendation that a “further £300” be paid to the owners of Te Hau Ki Turanga, when they were ascertained, other than to note that the payment of £100 in 1867, “appears to the Committee to be inadequate.” It is not clear on what basis they adjudged £300 to adequate, having heard evidence that Te Hau Ki Turanga would have fetched £1,000 had it been for sale in London. Less spectacular whare had recently been acquired in Tauranga at up to £800, and a similar building recently finished in Hauraki cost up to £2,000 to build and carve.  It is also unclear if the committee took into account the likelihood that the £100 paid in 1867 had gone to the “wrong people,” meaning that at least £400 should now be paid to the “right people.” What was clear was that the Crown had taken Te Hau Ki Turanga by force against the will of its Rongowhakaata owners, and had no intention of returning it to its rightful owners so a non-negotiable compensation payment was all that was available.

Compensation and the Individualisation of Te Hau Ki Turanga, 1875-1880

In the end, even the meagre compensation awarded as a result of the recommendation of the Native Affairs Committee appears to have been paid, at least in part, to the “wrong people,” and certainly no effort was made to locate the rightful owners of Te Hau Ki Turanga. Ultimately, the ownership of a whare built and owned by Ngati Kaipoho and, more generally, by Rongowhakaata was deemed by the government to vest in just one man and his successors, as determined not by Rongowhakaata tikanga but by the Native Land Court.

The October 1878 report of the Native Affairs Committee was not forwarded to the Native Department until February 1879, and the Native Department then made no moves to implement the recommendation of the Committee until July 1879, when the matter was referred back from Cabinet (where it had languished since February) and passed on to Whitmore at Turanga. In September 1879, one of the petitioners, Paora Kate of Pakirikiri, wrote to the Native Department to request that his share of the money to be paid for Te Hau Ki Turanga be given instead to Wi Pere. In November 1879, Wi Pere himself applied for the long overdue compensation. In the dying days of the decade Colonel Gudgeon wrote from Turanga urging the payment of the £300 compensation, commenting that, as noted earlier, if it was not sent soon one of the beneficiaries, “will be put in gaol for debt.” Finally, in mid-January 1880, Gudgeon advised that the compensation had been paid, “to the petitioners.” That is, the money was simply paid to those who had signed the petition, including Wi Pere, despite the select committee’s recommendation that the money be paid to the owners, “when they have been ascertained by the government.”

This is a significant recommendation as the ownership of Te Hau Ki Turanga was an issue that had never been clarified by the government, either when it took the whare in 1867 or subsequently. By 1878, the ownership of the land at Orakaiapu on which Te Hau Ki Turanga once stood seems to have been seen by the government as inseparable from the ownership of the whare itself. Once the collective ownership of the tiny block of Orakaiapu was individualised by the Native Land Court in 1875, it was assumed not only by the Crown that the ownership of Te Hau Ki Turanga largely paralleled the ownership of the land. In 1875 the land court allocated Orakaiapu to one small group of right- holders with links to Raharuhi Rukupo, who had died in 1873, and it was they (with the addition of close relation Wi Pere) who received the compensation recommended by the Native Affairs Committee. The alternative to this interpretation of the payment is that the government made no effort to ascertain the identity of the owners and simply paid the money to those few who had petitioned for the return of the house. In either case it got it wrong.

Raharuhi  Rukupo  had  not  claimed  exclusive  ownership  of  Te  Hau  Ki  Turanga  for himself, and nor should his immediate descendants have been empowered by the government to do so. Although the whare was built under his direction in 1842-1843, it was built by men of Ngati Kaipoho on collectively owned land and utilising the collective wealth and resources of the hapu. Such resources (food, flax, dyes, timber) would have come from hapu and iwi land well beyond the immediate confines of Orakaiapu itself. W. L. Williams described the pa in the early days of settlement and remarked on the way in which the extensive pa was divided by fences into enclosures, in which “whares and huts” stood. “Besides the ordinary huts,” he continued, there were several buildings of considerably larger dimensions, each the property of one of the subdivisions [hapu] of the tribe.” Clearly, Te Hau Ki Turanga was the property of Ngati Kaipoho and, given the splendour of its carving and the great labour of its construction, perhaps even of the wider iwi, as Raharuhi indicated in his 1867 petition. Te Hau Ki Turanga was, he wrote, “our very valuable carved house [ko to matou taonga nui ko to matou whare],” not ‘his’ carved house. When Richmond sought to obtain the whare from him he replied, “no, it is for the whole people to decide [kahore, kei te iwi katoa te ritenga],” but when asked if it belonged to them all, he answered, “no, the house is mine, but the work was done by all of  us  [kahore  naku  ano te whare  erangi  ko  te  mahi  na  matou  tahi].”  The  bald translation  lends  the  impression that Raharuhi  saw  the  house  as  his  but  he  clearly indicates that this is only in the context of his chiefly role as leader of his hapu and his iwi, stressing that, “the work was done by all of us,” and that, “it is for the whole people to decide.” Clearly, it was not ‘his’ personal property, but was rather, ‘our house’.

The very experienced Native Department Under-Secretary, T. W. Lewis, also advised the Native Affairs Committee in 1878 that such a taonga was unlikely to be seen by Maori as the property of one man to dispose of as he saw fit. He stated that, “when a large house is build, it generally belongs to the tribe… I have never know a single individual to put up these large houses.” Any transfer of such a whare would, in his opinion, have required rangatira, “to consult his tribe… I don’t think he could have done it without consulting his tribe.”

Such collective ownership had begun to come undone long before the 1878 petition was filed. Raharuhi Rukupo died without issue in 1873 and both Otene Pitau, his adopted son, and Paora Kate, his younger brother, later sought to secure ownership of what could then be legally classified by the Native Land Court as Raharuhi’s personal interests (rather than Ngati Kaipoho’s collective land held in the name of their rangatira). In the case of the two acres of Orakaiapu, it was Paora Kate, Otene Pitau, Kate Wyllie, Hare Waaka,and Tamihana Ruatapu who secured the title. Although the application for investigation of title was filed by Paora Kate, giving his hapu as Ngati Kaipoho, the title was ordered on the basis of evidence which referred only to Ngati Maru rights to the land. This may be due to the leading role of Tamihana Ruatapu whose support may have been necessary to allow the claim to proceed unopposed.

Later it was revealed that Otene Pitau was identified in Paora’s will as his successor to Orakaiapu and other interests. Otene’s father was Thomas Halbert, which brought Wi Pere into the picture as he too was a son of Halbert, albeit by a different mother. Another key player was Kate Wyllie, also a child of Halbert’s (by yet another of his many marriages) and thus a half-sister to these sons of Halbert. She was an eager proponent of individualisation, land sales, and settlement and in April 1878, she attempted to acquire the title of Orakaiapu from the other grantees (probably for the purposes of profitably on- selling it) but it is not yet clear when or if this acquisition was completed.  She also contested Paora’s will with Otene, claiming to have arranged a new one with him as he lay dying in the early days of February 1880.

Paora Kate had entered into a lengthy and ultimately fatal period of illness in the late 1870s and by 1878 was too ill with kidney trouble to travel to Wellington to testify to the Native Affairs Committee. He died in 1880, mere days after Gudgeon had paid out the $300 compensation for Te Hau Ki Turanga, at the insistence of Kate Gannon. A lengthy, and costly, Native Land Court dispute over Paora Kate’s will ensued when Kate Gannon challenged it later in 1880, and the proceedings revealed the rather sordid details of Paora’s  final  days,  her  attempts  to  have him  sign  a  new  will  to  her  benefit,  other manoeuvrings  concerning  his  remaining lands, and  last  but  by  no  means  least,  the payment of the £300 compensation for Te Hau Ki Turanga.

By 1880, Kate Wyllie’s husband was dead and she had re-married M. J. Gannon, a former soldier and then a licensed interpreter. Astonishingly, it was to Mr Gannon that Gudgeon handed over the £300 compensation in January 1880, an action which appears somewhat questionable when Mrs Gannon was the recipient of a significant share of the money. She said that the money was handed over to her husband by Gudgeon at the written request of “we the petitioners.” It is unlikely that this ‘we’ included Paora Kate or Otene Pitau, two of the leading petitioners, but it is probable that Wi Pere joined his half- sister in this missive to Gudgeon. Neither Otene nor Paora had much time for Mr Gannon and shortly before Paora’s death (at the very time the £300 was handed over) Paora was said to have referred to Mr Gannon as “a tangata tinihanga – deceiver.”

It appears less than politic of Gudgeon to have handed over the £300 compensation to an interpreter who was the husband of one of the petitioners, particularly without making any inquiry into who the rightful recipients of the money should have been. That is, who were the owners of Te Hau Ki Turanga? Had the owners – Ngati Kaipoho or the wider iwi of Rongowhakaata – been asked this question it is highly probable that they would have emphasised their collective ownership, as Raharuhi Rukupo had done before them. Ani Te Waru later told the land court of how Paora Rapahia had talked to a group of Ngati Kaipoho outside the Paora Kate’s whare as he lay dying, directing his comments at Mrs Gannon who was inside the whare and within earshot. He told the people that the payment for Te Hau Ki Turanga should be given, “to the tribe who owned it… all Ngati Kaipoho, we own the house.” Even Mrs Gannon admitted that Paora Kate had said in his dying days that, “I do not want to appropriate that money to my private use. I wish to give it to the people.” Rather unnecessarily she added that, “if Paora was angry with me at any time just prior to his death it was with respect to the money for the carved house.”

Interestingly, Kate Gannon was the only person to claim that Te Hau Ki Turanga was the private property and “dwelling house” of Raharuhi Rukupo and his family (including, of course, herself). This runs counter to all of the other evidence on the matter. She also contradicted Raharuhi’s 1867 petition, informing the Native Affairs Committee in 1878 that Raharuhi had agreed to accept the £100 payment given for Te Hau Ki Turanga on the understanding that a much larger payment was to follow, while she also claimed that the £100 payment was made some time after the whare was removed.  This not only contradicts Raharuhi himself but the evidence of Richmond and Fairchild, and her testimony appears rather confused and quite unreliable.

Clearly it was the wily Mrs Gannon who was managing the payment. She later related how she had instructed her husband to show the £300 to Paora Kate before bringing back £50 each for her and Wi Pere. This angered Paora who initially did not let Mr Gannon retain the £50 for Wi Pere, although he appeared unable to prevent the Gannons getting away with their share. She also claimed that in the end Paora Kate had retained £150 of the compensation, with the remaining money being divided equally between herself, Wi Pere, and Otene (whose share went to pay his legal bills). Otene earlier said that Paora’s share had gone to his wife. There was no reference to what she did with the money.

Te Hau Ki Turanga was built by Raharuhi Rukupo, the leader of Ngati Kaipoho and Rongowhakaata, but the collective ownership of his hapu’s magnificent taonga appears to have been individualised as was Orakaiapu, the hapu land on which the whare stood. A non-negotiable sum of desperately needed compensation may have been paid to Wi Pere (of Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki) and a few other petitioners, but that cannot be said to have extinguished the collective rights of Rongowhakaata to Te Hau Ki Turanga.

Rusden and Richmond Revisit Te Hau Ki Turanga

Given the significance of the whare it is scarcely surprising that matters have not rested there. Te Hau Ki Turanga was again brought to the government’s attention only five years after the successful 1878 petition. This was in the wake of the publication of G. W. Rusden’s controversial History of New Zealand in 1883, a work which included a few lines on Richmond’s confiscation of Te Hau Ki Turanga. Richmond’s views on the incident had been recorded in the House of Representatives in 1867 and again by the Native Affairs Committee in 1878, but nonetheless he later took the opportunity to have Parliament re-record them in 1888. Richmond later claimed that as Bryce was already suing Rusden for libel in 1883, and effectively suppressing the book, he took no action at the time, even though he disputed Rusden’s account of the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga. When Rusden moved in 1888 to have his book re-published, sans the passages deemed libellous of Bryce, Richmond (then a Member of the Legislative Council) rose to his own defence. In a speech remarkable for its inaccuracies and dissembling he conflated the various existing accounts of the incident and produced a new and even less convincing justification for his actions in March 1867.

In 1888, he claimed that the hui of 300-400 Turanga Maori was in fact attended by 600, and that they were in such “high delight” that he had, “promised to abandon any claims the Queen had on the lands on the condition that they preserved peace and good order,” that they readily and unanimously assented to sell Te Hau Ki Turanga to the government. It will be recalled that Fairchild had earlier stated that Richmond had told him the whare was to be a gift to the government, and that Richmond himself had at times claimed this. In 1888, he stated the ‘purchase’ money to have been £150 or “more than that,” not £100, and despite Fairchild’s evidence as to the use of his personal funds, claimed that he had ensured that this sum was borrowed from the military chest on board the Sturt. He further asserted that Fairchild, “found no difficulty or obstacle in obtaining possession of thebuilding,” adding that Maori themselves pulled it down and were paid for their labours.

This statement is so utterly at variance with the evidence of not only Fairchild but also that of Rongowhakaata as to not merit serious consideration.

Richmond repeated his claims that the whare had been rotting where it stood and that the roof was in ruins, even though Fairchild and subsequent evidence indicates otherwise. In response to Rusden  repeating  his  own  statement  that  the  whare  had  stood upon Raharuhi’s land, Richmond said disingenuously that, “my observation and the general observation is that in those times individual titles to Native land were very rare indeed,” adding that it was of course not a private house but, “the runanga house of the tribe.”

Would that this communal ownership of the iwi’s land and taonga been recognised by the ministry in which Richmond was a member in the latter 1860s.

Clearly undeterred by any threat from Richmond, Rusden repeated his remarks on the taking of Te Hau Ki Turanga in a second edition of his work and appears to have escaped any further legal action by former Native Ministers of New Zealand. Despite his blustering in the Legislative Council, it is difficult to see how Richmond could have proved Rusden wrong had he chosen to challenge his History of New Zealand. Richmond later prepared a draft pamphlet based on his speech, which he intended to publish, “in reply to defamatory passages contained in Rusden’s History of New Zealand.” As well as reiterating the dubious claims made before the Legislative Council, Richmond added unctuously that, “our elder brothers in the land, the Maori of today, must be as thankful as we (the white people) are that such a monument of art and industry and craftsmanship has been preserved for our children.”

The “white people” of New Zealand are, doubtless, still thankful to have in Te Papa the oldest complete meeting-house in the country and a magnificent example of the work of the greatest Maori master carvers. However, Rongowhakaata’s views of this situation have only very recently been sought. Following extensive consultation with iwi representatives since 1989, they were in a position to express their endorsement of the Crown’s guardianship of what can only be said to remain their taonga, even if it is in ‘our place’.

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