Indigenous Mobilities


Pāora Tūhaere’s Voyage to Rarotonga

Lachy Paterson

In May 1863, Māori readers of the government’s Māori-language newspaper, Te Karere Māori, learned that the Ngāti Whātua chief, Pāora Tūhaere, had sailed the Victoria, a 56-ton schooner, 3,000 kilometres to Rarotonga to trade with the locals there. This chapter looks at the voyage and the ongoing relationships it fostered and consolidated. Like Regina Ganter’s discussion of Aboriginal interactions with Malaccan seafarers in this volume, the chapter examines Tūhaere’s voyage from the perspective of Indigenous mobility, which facilitated contact between Indigenous peoples, allowing both Ngāti Whātua and Rarotongans to construct spaces for themselves outside their home bases.

Up to 1863, colonial spaces in New Zealand had been realised through land purchase. Annexation had ushered in Crown colony status in 1840, succeeded by responsible settler government from 1858. However, political power in mid–nineteenth century New Zealand lay in possessing land, and the ability to define it. Despite large-scale purchases in the first two decades of formal colonisation, in many parts of New Zealand, considerable amounts of land still remained in Māori hands, unsold and unconverted to Western systems of land tenure. Although nominally British subjects, Māori who retained land were better placed to maintain their mana (authority) and rangatiratanga (autonomy), something many Māori became increasingly conscious of during the 1850s. One manifestation of this awareness was the Kīngitanga, a loose coalition of tribes in the central North Island who, choosing not to have their lands re-imagined as colonial spaces, organised themselves under a newly created Māori kingship. In contrast, Rarotonga remained a native space, ruled by ariki (high chiefs), although missionary influence was also powerful.1 The Cook Islands, of which Rarotonga is a part, became a British protectorate in 1888 with some degree of Indigenous internal authority, until annexed to New Zealand in 1901.2

Indigenous spaces are sometimes conceptualised in opposition to colonised spaces. Parts of what were entirely Indigenous lands may be left, or allotted, to the original owners as ‘native spaces’, while the rest is progressively assimilated by colonisers.3 As Jacqueline Holler suggested in her discussion of sixteenth-century Mexico, ‘reimagining the indigenous spaces as colonial ones was … a process carried out throughout the Americas’.4 The transformations that such a process implies were not unique to America or to New Zealand and Rarotonga, but pertain to all lands of Indigenous peoples intruded upon by European colonisation. Rather than see ‘native spaces’ purely as ancestral domains held by, or reserved to, Indigenous peoples—encircled, constricted or being nibbled away at—this chapter examines other kinds of locations that Indigenous peoples might imagine for themselves away from their native land, even if these were temporary constructions.

Seeing land as ‘native’ or ‘colonised’ positions it with other ‘sanctified binaries’ identified by Anne McClintock (e.g. ‘colonizer–colonized, self–other, dominance–resistance, metropolis–colony, colonial–postcolonial’) that fail to explain all aspects of the colonial experience.5 The reality was often more complex and messy. Nor does a binary of ‘static’ native and ‘mobile’ European fully cover how newcomers and Indigenous peoples lived their lives.6 Ironically, it was the mobility that colonisation introduced—the imperial or missionary networks, the technology of shipping and the openings that European capitalism provided—that facilitated new and wider opportunities for Indigenous peoples in the Pacific to travel,7 whether to metropolitan, colonised or other Indigenous places, or even in-between.8 ‘Space’, after all, can refer both to physical masses and the gaps that exist or are created between them, as well as more abstract constructions.9

Indigenous travellers often came with a different set of assumptions and cultural understandings than those experienced by Europeans, leading to different kinds of relationships with the people they met, as other chapters in this volume show (see chapters by Standfield and Shellam).10 Both Cook Islanders and New Zealand Māori belong to Eastern Polynesian societies with close linguistic and cultural similarities. The first known modern encounter between these peoples demonstrates that Māori could integrate relatively easily into Rarotongan society. The earliest recorded ship visit to Rarotonga was the ill-fated Cumberland from Sydney in 1814, which hoped to secure sandalwood; its crew included two Ngā Puhi men picked up in Northland.11 Upon arriving at Rarotonga, the Māori men, known locally as Veretini and Tupe, married local women, lived in their communities and may have intended to remain.12 Unfortunately, both died; one was implicated in shooting a Rarotongan chief and suffered utu (revenge); the other was shot by his European crewmates for supposedly inciting the Rarotongans against them.13 Notwithstanding their fates, it is clear that these Māori men were able to blend into Rarotongan society. In this way, they were unlike the Europeans, who stole food, molested women, ignored local tapu (spiritual restrictions) and were killed. While several of the slain European crewmen were eaten, ‘both Veretini and Tupe were buried in accordance with the tradition and custom of the time by the respective families of their wives’.14 When Tūhaere arrived in 1863, he was also able to fit into Rarotongan society. Sustained contact with Europeans had engendered significant cultural change in both New Zealand and Rarotonga. Although Britain had annexed New Zealand while Rarotonga still retained its chiefly rule, Māori and Rarotongans had converted to Christianity and begun to engage in commercial activities. The respective societies had changed, but in analogous ways.

Tūhaere’s voyage is unique. As with many other Pacific societies, a number of Māori had already made trips to Sydney, and some had travelled to London and other foreign places as crew, guests or paying passengers.15 Māori-owned ships were active in coastal shipping around New Zealand.16 Fairly extensive trading already existed between Auckland and Rarotonga, and travel opportunities associated with this trade may have stimulated links between Rarotonga and Ngāti Whātua.17 However, Tūhaere’s Victoria was the first and, to my knowledge, the only Māori-owned vessel to undertake such entrepreneurial voyages beyond New Zealand’s shores in the nineteenth century.

That the colonial gaze stretched out into the Pacific can be seen in contemporary New Zealand newspapers’ coverage of Tūhaere’s activities; some articles were even reproduced in Australian papers, such as the Geelong Advertiser. However, more recent historiography is patchier. A few scholarly works, such as Hazel Petrie’s Chiefs of Industry, make brief mention of Tūhaere’s venture. While interesting and indicative of early Māori business endeavours, the unique features of Tūhaere’s journey make it an outlier to more New Zealand–bound commerce or international Māori travel.18 Rosemary Anderson briefly discussed Tūhaere and the links that grew from his endeavour in her thesis on Cook Islands migration.19 Dick Scott, who wrote a history of the Cook Islands, suggested that Tūhaere was in league with Auckland merchants to effect New Zealand’s annexation of the island, an assertion this essay addresses below. In 1938, Eric Ramsden published a newspaper account (no. 62 of ‘Strange Tales from the South Seas’) in Sydney’s The World’s News that borrowed heavily from Te Karere Maori’s (The Maori Messenger’s) accounts of Tūhaere’s activities.20 That Tūhaere’s entrepreneurial achievements have not projected more prominently into New Zealand historiography is due, in part, to the latter’s focus on Māori–Pākehā engagements and clashes. Tūhaere is better known for his more significant and ongoing political work, such as his involvement at the 1860 Kohimarama Conference, his role in convening a Māori parliament at his marae at Ōrākei in 1879 and his subsequent collaboration with the Kīngitanga.21

While the trade perspective is undoubtedly noteworthy, I feel that looking at Tūhaere’s journey in terms of place and people is much more productive, especially with regard to the themes of this volume. Imperial power, colonial trade and missionary religion may have been steadily enveloping the Pacific Ocean and its islands, but there was still scope for Indigenous peoples to operate according to their own agency and understandings. This chapter discusses Tūhaere’s base in Auckland, his marae at Ōrākei and the New Zealand political context at the time of his voyage. It then explores this journey, how it was projected to Māori by the Māori-language newspapers, why he went (including whether this fitted into Pākehā aspirations for a New Zealand Pacific) and what his presence on their island might have meant to Rarotongans. The relationships Tūhaere built with the Rarotongan people conformed to Polynesian understandings and lasted much longer than his travels might suggest; thus, the chapter explores the Rarotongan context, and how Tūhaere’s voyage provided Rarotongan visitors to Ōrākei with their own stopping point in New Zealand—a home away from home in both a conceptual and actual sense, well into the twentieth century. Finally, the essay looks at subsequent Cook Islands migration to New Zealand in the decades following World War II (WWII) and its repercussions for the bonds created a century earlier.


Ngāti Whātua ‘lands border four harbours—Hokianga, Kaipara, Waitematā and Manukau’.22 Near the southern margin sits Ōrākei, one of Tūhaere’s marae, on the north-eastern edge of the Auckland isthmus. A few kilometres to the west, across Hobson Bay, Governor William Hobson established Auckland, New Zealand’s second capital, in 1841. For Ngāti Whātua, a tribe with powerful enemies to the north, their proximity to the small but growing city allowed some protection, as well as excellent opportunities to trade with Pākehā settlers. Yet, Ngāti Whātua bought these benefits at a price; in 1840, the tribe parted with 3,000 acres for £341 in cash and goods to provide space for Pākehā settlement and, within 10 years, had relinquished most of their best land in Auckland.23 In 1863, their base at Ōkahu Bay at Ōrākei remained secure, and Ngāti Whātua were still able to offer manaakitanga (hospitality) to other tribes visiting the city.24 However, as Auckland grew and surrounded them, their surviving land holdings diminished; although 700 acres were declared ‘inalienable’ in 1869, this was whittled down to 39 acres by 1898. By 1928, only 10 acres remained. In the 1940s, Pākehā were complaining of the ‘deplorable conditions’ at Ōrākei25 and government took the last of the tribe’s ancestral land in 1950.26 As Penny Edmonds has observed, ‘colonial frontiers did not only exist in the bush, backwoods or borderlands’, they were also well within city limits.27 Auckland was no exception.

In its first two decades, the government had little effective control of Māori, relying mainly on persuasion and inducements to chiefs to advance its various frontiers through land purchasing. The pressure to sell land was corrosive to Māori society, often leading to conflicts between and within tribal groups. In response, in the late 1850s, tribes from the central North Island formed the Kīngitanga (Māori King Movement), a pan-tribal movement aiming to staunch land sales and the resultant bloodshed, which saw tribes place their lands under the mana of a newly created Māori king.28 Not surprisingly, the colonial state viewed the movement as a challenge to its claim to sovereignty. In 1860, the government pushed through a disputed land purchase in northern Taranaki. Most of the Te Āti Awa tribe, the owners of the land, opposed the sale and the government’s intransigence led to a year-long war. Relations between the government and the Kīngitanga became strained when some of the movement’s warriors assisted Te Āti Awa in their struggle. The conflict, which ended in stalemate, was followed by several years of cold war between the government and the Kīngitanga. After Tūhaere left for Rarotonga in 1863, Governor Grey provoked Taranaki forces into attacking a group of soldiers in Taranaki. With its casus belli established, the government prepared to roll out its plan to invade the Waikato to crush the Kīngitanga.29 ‘Friendly’ and ‘loyal’ chiefs, such Pāora Tūhaere, became even more valuable to the government cause.

Te Karere Maori, the government’s mouthpiece to Māori, published laudatory articles, including obituaries, on chiefs who were friendly to Pākehā or had improved themselves materially or spiritually in some way. It commended Tūhaere for his ‘enterprising spirit’ in journeying to Rarotonga and the £330 profit accrued. His voyage was portrayed as a good-news story about a loyal chief who was pursuing Pākehā customs. The story linked his achievement with his tribe’s location, and with their embrace of the Pākehā settlers:

The Ngatiwhatua were the original owners of the soil upon which Auckland stands, and were the first to invite the Pakeha to the shores of the Waitemata; and we now find they are the first of the Maori tribes to open up trade with their brethren at Rarotonga, Mangaia, Atiu, Mauka, Waitutaki, and other islands of the South Seas.30

This discourse can also be seen in the Napier-based niupepa (Māori-language newspaper), Te Waka Maori o Ahuriri, a quasi-official publication that reproduced Te Karere’s story. The niupepa’s paratext began by discussing the prevailing racial anxieties, then stated:

Let us turn … to look at things that are pleasing to the heart, peaceful pursuits by which man prospers … Pāora Tūhaere’s journey there [Rarotonga] is a Pākehā custom, that is, commerce.31

Not all Māori could do as this chief had done; however, it was stated that ‘all people are able to follow this wealth-generating example that Pāora has just shown us’.32 According to this portrayal by the niupepa, by consciously engaging in European customs and behaving like a Pākehā trader, Tūhaere stood in contrast to Māori who were resistant to the new order, such as the Kīngitanga, or those fighting at Taranaki.

As these two quotations demonstrate, niupepa framed the journey in terms of engaging with a new colonial order, and the same is true with Rarotongan ariki. The latter were well aware of the island’s vulnerability and had asked, unsuccessfully, for British protection as early as 1844.33 In 1862, one of the ariki, Kainuku Tamako, visited Auckland, perhaps as part of a diplomatic mission. Like Māori chiefs visiting this southern outpost of colonial power, he met Pāora Tūhaere, and may have stayed at Ōrākei.34 Later, recalling his visit to the Cook Islands, Tūhaere stated that ‘Kainuku fetched me’,35 indicating that the pair had planned his visit to the islands when Kainuku had visited Auckland the previous year.36 The commercial aims of the venture depended on European technology and skills. As Eastern Polynesians no longer sailed great distances in waka, Tūhaere purchased a schooner for £1,400. Although he had a party of about 20 men (who no doubt helped man the ship), a Captain Young was master, and the shipping company Combes and Daldy were his Auckland agents.37 It appears that Tūhaere became less directly involved as time went on. In 1867, the Southern Cross reported that ‘Captain Irvine had an interest in the ‘Victoria’ schooner. Paul [Tūhaere] got a share of the profits’.38

Dick Scott, in Years of the Pooh-bah, stated that ‘since Auckland merchants were “plotting” at the time to sponsor annexation by New Zealand, according to the [London Missionary Society (LMS)] mission, no doubt it was their backing that lay behind the journey’.39 Scott’s work is unfootnoted; however, he attributed his assertion to Angus Ross and Richard Gilson in a bibliographic note. Gilson noted that Reverend E.R. Krause, a German working for the LMS, made this claim, but that he was at odds with the traders and planters on the island.40 Undoubtedly, the Auckland Provincial Council wanted their city to become the principal trading point for the Pacific Islands.41 Ross conceded that Pākehā, at times, floated the idea of future Pacific expansion in the mid-nineteenth century, but had sufficient distractions in New Zealand to be concerned with.42 In contrast, Damon Salesa suggested that any Pacific dreams New Zealand’s politicians may have possessed were held in check by London.43 However, notwithstanding Pākehā imperial aspirations, no real evidence of a ‘plot’, let alone Tūhaere’s involvement in one, is apparent in Scott’s sources. Nor is there any indication that Pākehā merchants bankrolled his venture, as the chief sold land to purchase his vessel.44 Scott’s work on Rarotonga, although anti-colonial in tone, effectively limited Indigenous agency by suggesting that Auckland capitalists orchestrated Tūhaere’s voyage.

Certainly, Tūhaere was loyal to the government; his proximity to the Pākehā centre of power would have made any other position untenable. At the 1860 Kohimarama Conference, he declared, ‘I am a child of the Queen’.45 Tūhaere spoke for peace and the rule of law, commerce and progress, and Māori inclusion in the workings of the state, but this did not preclude him from criticising Crown actions.46 When hostilities resumed in Taranaki during his absence, he seemed genuinely shocked, writing: ‘I have heard from the newspapers which have come to this place from Auckland, that there is war in New Zealand—that the Pakeha were attacked’.47

Tūhaere was not the only Māori wanting to head to Rarotonga. According to the Daily Southern Cross, he took a Waikato man to the island who was intending to purchase powder and ammunition for the future warfare:

Paul, on discovering his intention, refused to bring him back, saying that the Governor and white men were his friends. He was consequently left behind to return the best way he could.48

It is likely that this individual was Henry Nicholas, the son of a Pākehā trader and a woman of Ngāti Hauā, a tribe aligned to the Kīngitanga. Nicholas travelled in the Victoria and he remained in Rarotonga, where he married a local woman and was active in the cotton industry, fruit production and printing.49 In the 1870s, Nicholas had shares in a cutter that traded between Rarotonga and New Zealand, but it appears that his interest was mainly financial.50

Rarotonga, with its warmth and supposed ease of living, appealed to the imagination of some Māori. While Tūhaere was still on the island, Waikato Māori came to Ōrākei for an uhunga (ritual tapu removal of bones of recently deceased) and to persuade Ngāti Whātua to align with the Kīngitanga ‘in the event of hostilities taking place’. The senior Ōrākei chief, Āpihai Te Kawau, informed them that:

His nephew Paul had gone to Rarotonga, where the King of that Island had kindly received him, and had also given him the ‘mana’ of the Island to him and to his people—he (Apihai) had also heard, that it was a quiet and fruitful place—a proper place for old men and orphans—he had therefore made up his mind to go to that Island, and leave this land of confusion forever.51

Te Kawau likely used the term ‘pani’ to define orphan, a word imbued with a sense of ongoing bereavement. He may have used the term to suggest vulnerability or dislocation, with the metaphor implying that Rarotonga was an easier, less-stressful place to live than New Zealand. In doing so, it is likely that he was attempting to divert the attention of his listeners, as he did not leave New Zealand himself. However, others did. In 1864, Tūhaere wrote to the Rarotonga ariki in response to a letter about a man named Maihi, a recent combatant against the New Zealand Government, who had visited the island ‘to look for land for his people’. Tūhaere was ‘enraged’ at this prospect. With the backing of Governor Grey, he talked of arming his men to deter the interlopers who, he believed, had hostile intent, and could easily defeat the Rarotongans ‘who know nothing of fighting’. On Tūhaere meeting Maihi, it was reported that:

[Maihi] said, ‘Let us both go [to Rarotonga] and hear what you have to say to them, because when they assembled to ask me to stay at Rarotonga, I said, “It will not be right because Paul is the man who has come to this island. I arrived after him.”’ I answered, ‘That is right.’ I continued—‘If it had been only yourself and your child, I would have consented.’ He said, ‘I will go and get my child.’ I replied ‘The thought is with you, because I will not consent.’52

According to the Hawke’s Bay Herald, Ngāiterangi, after their defeat at Te Ranga in 1864, petitioned the government to relocate them to Rarotonga. They were aware of Tūhaere’s voyages, and his ‘native space’ became a conceptual locality within their own imaginations. The paper noted:

The constant trading in oranges by the schooner of this chief, to and from Auckland, makes the idea of his residence there very familiar in the minds of the Maoris about this part of New Zealand.53

According to Te Karere Maori, on first arriving in Rarotonga, ‘Paora was proclaimed Ariki over a portion of Rarotonga, with the command of 2,000 men’, most likely an exaggeration.54 It was also reported that he was given ‘large plantations of bananas, cocoanuts [sic], oranges, limes, bread-fruit, taro, kumara, and other productions’.55 When the Victoria took the first cargo back, Tūhaere remained on the island. He sent a letter describing the land to his people:

This is a good country: there is little work done here. I have travelled over the whole place, and have seen that it is good. I have cultivated the soil. It is a good place for the orphan, for the labour of the soil is light.56

However, Tūhaere was unsure if he wanted to make it his permanent base:

They are urging me to remain at Rarotonga to be their chief, but I have not yet consented to their request. When Kainuku and I come to Auckland, then we shall be able to decide, after the matter is discussed.57

The newspaper translation suggests that Rarotongans wanted him to be their chief. However, it seems unlikely that the ariki there would have been prepared to accept a foreigner as their overlord. Tūhaere’s actual words ‘hei rangatira mo ratou’ could also be translated as ‘as a chief for them’. Similarly, the tuku (releasing) of the land and men would have been understood, in Polynesian terms, as an exercise of manaakitanga, seeking ‘to incorporate those who they chose to have living among them into their hapū structures’, with land returning to its original owners when no longer used.58 Unlike early Pākehā who settled in Polynesian societies, Tūhaere would have understood that his new ‘possessions’ were still the natives’ space. Both parties shared a mutual comprehension of what a gift of land meant—it was a means of benefiting the tāngata whenua or ‘a reward for services rendered’ and was unlikely to be in perpetuity.59 For the Rarotongan ariki, one of Tūhaere’s attractions was his European connections: he had close associations with the New Zealand governor who, in turn, was directly connected to London. The chiefs of Rarotonga and nearby islands feared France as a colonial power; their sympathies lay with the British, largely due to the presence of English Protestant missionaries.

More pressing were the Peruvian slave ships that were stripping vulnerable island communities of their populations for forced labour in South America. Tūhaere raised the issue of slavers with Governor Grey;60 the Victoria carried a letter to Grey from Nūmangātini, the ariki of Mangaia, whose son had been abducted, seeking his assistance.61 Doubtless too, the Rarotongan ariki would have sought advice from Tūhaere before writing to Grey seeking formal British protection in 1864.62 In the end, Tūhaere did not settle permanently in Rarotonga; instead, he returned to New Zealand and became active in the Māori politics that foreshadowed the Kotahitanga (unity or solidarity) movement.

While Tūhaere created his own temporary ‘native space’ in Rarotonga, the relationships, including marriages, that were forged between the two peoples, meant that his own marae at Ōrākei became a ‘native space’ for Rarotongans visiting or living in Auckland. As early as 1865, Tio, ‘a native of Rarotonga’, gave evidence in court on a stabbing case at Ōrākei, as did Pira, ‘a Wahoo’, possibly from Hawai‘i.63 More importantly, when Rarotongan royalty and other VIPs visited New Zealand, the Ōrākei marae formally welcomed them, with Tūhaere acting as host for these groups. His guests included Kainuku, the ‘King of Rarotonga’, in 1879;64 Queen Makea in 1889;65 the premier of the island, Tepou-o-te-Rangi, in 1889;66 and entertainers performing at Auckland’s 50th jubilee in 1890 who were quartered at the marae.67 Such encounters were mediated with formal Polynesian gift exchanges. For example, when Queen Makea came to Ōrākei:

Paul and his people accorded them a hearty welcome, firing off guns and dancing a war dance … Paul’s people made many presents to the Embassy, among them a valuable block of greenstone, greenstone ornaments, a whalebone mere, mats, and last, but not least, twelve native girls approached the Queen, each presenting her with a £1 note as a gift.68

Likewise, when the chief of Rarotonga (Tepou) visited, he was:

Presented with two beautiful and valuable mats, and pieces of greenstone and several hats. The presentation was made by Paul’s son, the old chief being laid up with a touch of gout.69

Such pōwhiri (rituals of encounter) continued after Tūhaere’s death in 1892. For example in 1934, the Ōrākei people hosted a group, with the feast prepared ‘in Rarotongan fashion’. The speaker for the tāngata whenua, Ngapipi Rewiti, reminded the gathering of the original friendship and alliance formed between Tūhaere and Kainuku.70 Ramsden, in 1938, described Ōrākei as ‘a Rarotongan marae’, stating that ‘for any roving Rarotongans in New Zealand there was always food at Orakei. Even to-day there are Cook Islanders associated with that village’.71

Intermarriage, begun when several of Tūhaere’s men married Rarotongan women in 1863, appears to have continued, although probably infrequently. In 1898, the Auckland Star announced that Nia Tare, ‘a halfcaste Maori and Rarotongan’ and relative of Pāora Tūhaere’s, was leaving Ōrākei with his wife and child to live in Rarotonga.72 Investigations into land grievances at Ōrākei in 1939 indicate that several Ngāti Whātua women were married to Rarotongans and living on the island.73 In 1945, the Māori chief Nia Hira Pateoro died at Ōrākei, survived by ‘his wife, Tauariki Mihi, a Rarotongan chieftainess’ and children.74 However, it is likely, as Antony Hooper suggested, that, over time, ‘those who married New Zealand Maoris have been absorbed into such Maori communities as Orakei’. In 1961, Hooper estimated that there were ‘some half-dozen Rarotongans’ living in the village.75

In 1863, when Tūhaere headed to Rarotonga, Pākehā saw him as a loyal and dependable chief. In 1867, the superintendent of the Auckland Province appointed him to his executive, despite his not being able to speak English.76 Tūhaere’s dependability was also useful in other ways. Although Ngāti Whātua had not joined the Kīngitanga, they were related to the Tainui tribes (a confederation of North Island iwi) of Waikato through the ancestors Tūrongo and Mahinaarangi. Tainui had sheltered some of Ngāti Whātua in Waikato during the musket wars, and it was partly due to the protection of Te Wherowhero (the Tainui ariki who became the first Māori king in 1858) that Ngāti Whātua’s presence in the Auckland isthmus was assured in the 1830s.77 The government invaded the Waikato in 1863, pushing the Kīngitanga forces southward in a year-long campaign. The New Zealand parliament passed legislation allowing the governor to confiscate most of Tainui’s Waikato land. Tāwhiao, the second Māori king, and his people, retreated south into unconquered Ngāti Maniapoto lands. This territory, effectively an independent state, lay behind the ‘aukati’ (boundary) that excluded governmental authority and any unwanted Pākehā. Although fighting had ceased, the government’s relations with the Kīngitanga were often tense. Loyal chiefs with genealogical links to Tainui were useful go-betweens, especially up to 1881 (when King Tāwhiao finally reconciled with the Crown). During this period of estrangement, Tūhaere met with Kīngitanga chiefs on behalf of the government, which asked him to mediate in cases where trespassing Pākehā had been murdered by Kīngitanga supporters.78

Over time, Tūhaere became more sympathetic to the Kīngitanga’s aims. He still acted as an envoy for the government during the 1870s and accompanied official parties; however, he maintained a relationship with the Kīngitanga on his own terms. For example, in 1878, the Waikato Times indicated that Tūhaere was hosting Tāwhiao’s son and other Kīngitanga chiefs.79 When he hosted a large Māori parliament at Ōrākei in the following year to discuss how Māori had fared in the colonial state, the Kīngitanga sent three delegates.80 Tūhaere was still ‘loyal’ to his people, but the Ngāti Whātua tribal holdings in Auckland had diminished over time and their economic participation in the city had become marginal, allowing a closer affinity with other tribes who had experienced land loss:

Their principal chief, Paul Tuhaere, who had formerly gone tophatted to Government House parties, began to prefer the company of his compatriots … He became a regular attender at meetings of the King party. Here he exhorted the King party to retain their land, bitterly recollecting his own experience as a landseller; ‘Look at me, a man who knows how to suffer.’ He urged them not to admit the Native Land Court, to keep out the European surveyors and purchase agents.81

Tūhaere’s alignment with the Kīngitanga meant that the itineraries of Rarotongan royal visitors generally included visits to the Māori king, or important Kīngitanga chiefs. Tūhaere took Kainuku to meet a number of chiefs behind the aukati at Te Kōpua in 1879.82 It was Tūhaere who facilitated Queen Makea’s visit to King Tāwhiao at Whatiwhatihoe in 1885.83 These links extended into the twentieth century. The Rarotongan party who were entertained at Ōrākei in 1934 left soon after for Ngāruawāhia to see King Koroki.84 Later that year, at the Kīngitanga’s annual Koroneihana (coronation) celebration, a Ngāti Whātua group, with ‘several Rarotongans who are resident in Auckland’, proved popular, performing Rarotongan songs in ‘Island costumes’.85 Of course, the Kīngitanga also forged its own connections with Rarotonga, with Piupiu Te Wherowhero, the granddaughter of King Tāwhiao, marrying the Rarotongan ariki, Kainuku Vaikai.86

The dynamic between Ngāti Whātua and Rarotonga developed over time. With New Zealand’s annexation of the Cook Islands in 1900, the Rarotongan chiefly elite gained official channels to work through, not just administrators situated on the island, but Wellington-based politicians. As Rosemary Anderson has observed, before WWII, the responsibility for the Cook Islands fell largely to Māori politicians: Sir James Carroll, Sir Māui Pōmare and Sir Āpirana Ngata. The latter two visited Rarotonga and formed close bonds with the Indigenous elite.87 Ngata fostered close ties between the island and his iwi, Ngāti Porou, who erected the large Te Hono-ki-Rarotonga meeting house at Tokomaru Bay, opened by the Rarotongan ariki Makea Tinirau in 1934.88

Relationships between Rarotonga and Ngāti Whātua continued to change after WWII. The 1936 census recorded only 33 Cook Islanders in the Auckland area,89 and it is probable that many had connections with Ōrākei. However, as New Zealand’s post-war economy boomed, Māori were drawn into the cities to work. Large numbers of Pacific Islanders immigrated to New Zealand at the same time. Although the government had recruited some Cook Islands’ women during the war to fill a shortage in domestic labour,90 the number of Cook Islanders living in New Zealand cities increased markedly from the 1950s (as did other Pacific populations).91 By 1966, there were 4,391 Cook Islanders in Auckland.92 This influx of both Māori and Pacific peoples into Auckland meant that Rarotongans were less likely to meet Ngāti Whātua of Ōrākei or have any connection to the village. Moreover, the capability of Ngāti Whātua to host Rarotongan guests in Auckland effectively ceased in 1950 when the government seized the last of the tribe’s land at Ōrākei: no cultivations were possible for food and there were no marae where appropriate speeches could be made. Nor were incoming Rarotongans likely to live near the village; instead, they re-created their own ‘cultural islands’ within other inner-city suburbs, and then in South Auckland. Apart from an area of state rental houses provided for Ngāti Whātua families and a section of public reserve, the land around Ōrākei was given over to up-market housing occupied by Pākehā.93

In 1970, P.H. Curson noted a degree of antipathy and ‘social distance’ between Māori and other Polynesians in Auckland, with some Rarotongans refusing to acknowledge that they might understand Māori language.94 By the time of the 2013 census, 37,000 people living in the Auckland region claimed Cook Islands descent: of the 142,770 Auckland Māori, just 7,353 identified as being of Ngāti Whātua descent.95 As Anderson pointed out, it had been the elites that had benefited from the relationships established by Tūhaere, and it was ‘unlikely … that the daily lives of ordinary islanders were enhanced by these interactions’.96 The large numbers of Cook Islanders who settled in Auckland in the later twentieth century effectively swamped what was left of the connection between Ōrākei and visiting Rarotongan dignitaries.


By 1863, when Pāora Tūhaere set off to Rarotonga, Western culture and modernity—through commerce, religion and colonial force—had already touched practically all parts of the Pacific. New Zealand was nominally a British colony, despite much of its land remaining in Māori hands, and Rarotonga, although still under independent chiefly rule, could see the benefits of British protection from French assertiveness or South American slavers. The advent of European maritime technology into the Pacific meant that many Pacific Islanders could travel to other places. Most often this movement was along pathways already established by Europeans to colonial outposts of power such as Sydney or to its source in London. In venturing to the Cook Islands, Tūhaere joined an already well-established trading network. What was different was that his encounters with Rarotongans operated on an Indigenous–Indigenous level, mediated by shared Polynesian understandings, through hospitality, marriage and the (temporary) gifting of land. Ongoing relationships, which were diplomatic as much as commercial, were as important as any profit either party might realise. The Rarotongan ariki willingly gifted Tūhaere land and labour because they believed that he was a conduit to the source of British colonial power. Ultimately, he appears to have maintained his diplomatic role far longer than his commercial one, continuing to provide manaakitanga to important Rarotongan visitors. As Ngāti Whātua’s land and influence diminished alongside Auckland’s growth as a city, Tūhaere’s sympathies began to align more with the Kīngitanga, leading him to act as a conduit between kāhui ariki of both the Kīngitanga and Rarotonga. These relationships were imagined and constructed in terms of place, both at Rarotonga and Ōrākei. Like Tūhaere’s trading ventures, these may have been temporary phenomena—only possible within the new colonial environment—but they were spaces nevertheless created by Indigenous people for themselves.


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1 Crocombe 1983: 24–25.

2 McIntyre 1992: 342.

3 Harris 2002: xviii–xxi.

4 Holler 2007: 107.

5 McClintock 1995: 15.

6 Carey and Lydon 2014: 2–3; Ballantyne and Burton 2009: 5.

7 See Mallon 2012: 77–95.

8 See Paterson 2013: 19–40.

9 Lester 2013: 125.

10 An exception, perhaps, is when Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama chartered a ship to invade Rēkohu (the Chatham Islands), the homeland of the Moriori people in 1835. See King 2000: 57–75.

11 Maude and Crocombe 1962: 35–36.

12 Petrie 2006: 64.

13 Maude and Crocombe 1962: 35–36; Henry 2002: 84, 90–91; Maretu 1983: 44–46.

14 Henry 2002: 92.

15 Chappell 1997.

16 Petrie 2006: 70–71, 121–26.

17 Gilson 1980: 44–45; Salesa 2012: 99.

18 Petrie 2006: 66; Hogan 1994: 263.

19 Anderson 2014: 21–22, 24.

20 Scott 1991: 19; Ramsden 1938: 6, 23. This story, however, does not appear in Ramsden 1944.

21 Oliver 2012.

22 Ministry of Culture and Heritage 2006: 196.

23 Waitangi Tribunal 1987: 23; Ministry of Culture and Heritage 2006: 200.

24 Kawharu 1975: 15.

25 For example, ‘Orakei Maoris’, New Zealand Herald, 21 August 1940: 12.

26 Kawharu, 1975: 7–10.

27 Edmonds 2010: 2.

28 Te Hurinui 2010: 211–16.

29 Paterson 2006: 167–96.

30 Te Karere Maori, 15 May 1863: 2–3. ‘Ko Ngatiwhatua te tuturu ake o te oneone e tu nei Akarana; ko ia te tuatahi ki te kukume mai i te Pakeha ki uta ki Waitemata; a kua waiho ratou hei tuatahi o roto o nga iwi Maori hei takitaki ai i te ara ki Rarotonga, kia Mangaia, ki Atiu, ki Mauka, ki Waitutaki, me era atu motu o tau moana ki te tonga, ki te kukume mai i o ratou tuakana’ (trans. from source).

31 Te Waka Maori o Ahuriri, 27 June 1863: 1. ‘me tahuri tatou … ki te titiro ki etahi mea manawarekatanga mo te ngakau—nga ritenga waimarie e pai ai te tangata … Ko te haere a Paora Tuhaere i haere ai ki kona, he tikanga Pakeha—ara, he hokohoko’ (trans. author).

32 Te Waka Maori o Ahuriri, 27 June 1863: 1. ‘e taea ano nga tangata katoa te whai i te tauira whakawhairawa kua oti te whakatakoto nei e Paora’ (trans. author).

33 Kloosterman 1976: 59.

34 Te Karere Maori, 15 May 1863: 2.

35 Geelong Advertiser, 16 January 1865: 3.

36 New Zealander, 30 May 1863: 9; 6 June 1863: 4.

37 Te Karere Maori, 15 May 1863: 2.

38 Daily Southern Cross, 29 January 1867: 4.

39 Scott 1991: 19.

40 Gilson 1980: 43.

41 Ross 1964: 53, 59.

42 Ross 1964: 53.

43 Salesa 2009: 154. See also Salesa 2012: 97–121.

44 New Zealand Herald, 5 December 1866: 6.

45 Te Karere Maori, 14 July 1860: 41. ‘he tamaiti au no te Kuini’ (trans. from source).

46 Te Karere Maori, 14 July 1860: 14–15, 41–42; 31 July 1860: 10; 3 August 1860 (supplement): 66, 70–71; 30 November 1860: 23–25; 16 December 1861: 19–20.

47 Te Karere Maori, 18 July 1863: 5. ‘Kua rongo au ki nga nupepa o Akarana i tae mai ki konei, kei te whawhai Niu Tireni ki te Pakeha’ (trans. from source).

48 Daily Southern Cross, 24 April 1863: 2.

49 New Zealand Herald, 1 July 1901: 6; Waugh 1971; Davis 1933.

50 Auckland Star, 11 February 1876: 2.

51 Fulloon 1863.

52 Geelong Advertiser, 16 January 1865: 3.

53 Hawke’s Bay Herald, 25 August 1864: 2.

54 While the population of Rarotonga in 1863 is unknown, Marjorie Crocombe estimates that it was about 7,000 in 1802; however, successive epidemics from introduced diseases had reduced it to 1,936 by 1871. Crocombe 1983: 21.

55 Te Karere Maori, 15 May 1863: 2. ‘Whakaarikitia iho a Paora e taua iwi; tukua iho nga whenua me nga tangata hei hoa noho mona e 2,000.’; ‘he mahinga panana, kokonata, orani, raima, taro, kumara, me era atu kai o taua whenua’ (trans. from source).

56 Te Karere Maori, 18 July 1863: 5. ‘He whenua pai tenei whenua, he iti te mahi o tenei whenua; kua haere au i nga wahi katoa, kua kite au i te pai, kua mahi au i te whenua, he mahi pai to te whenua nei mo te pani, he iti noa iho’ (trans. from source).

57 Te Karere Maori, 18 July 1863: 5. ‘Ko ta ratou tohe kia noho ahau i Rarotonga, hei rangatira mo ratou, heoi, kahore ano au i whakaae noa ki ta ratou korero, erangi kia tae atu maua ko Kainuku, hei reira tatou matau ai ki nga korero’ (trans. from source).

58 Mutu 2012: 95, 101. A probably more symbolic gifting was that of land to Ana Pōmare, the daughter of Sir Māui Pōmare who had been the government minister of the Cook Island. According to James Cowan, Lady Pōmare and Ana ‘were claimed as kinswomen and chieftainesses’ by the Rarotongans. Ramsden states that a ‘plantation’ was gifted to Ana Pōmare, in honour of her father after his death. Cowan 1987: xii; Ramsden 1938: 23.

59 Mutu 2012: 101; Campbell 2002: 232–33.

60 Archives New Zealand has a record of a letter from Tūhaere dated 2 April 1863 that states: ‘Natives of South Sea islands have been kidnapped by Spanish Peruvian ships [and that he] fears losing his ship’. Tuhaere 1863. See Letter from Paora Tuhaere to Sir George Grey, 2 April 1863. Unfortunately Archives New Zealand were unable to locate this letter.

61 Reilly 2008: 4–7; Otago Daily Times, 5 May 1863: 4.

62 ‘Memoranda by Mr. Sterndale on some of the South Sea Islands’: 19.

63 New Zealand Herald, 13 September 1865: 6. ‘Wahoo’ derives from Oahu, one of the Hawaiian islands. Pira may have been Hawaiian, or the term might have been used more generally to denote a Pacific Islander. Various Pacific Islanders visited, or lived, in New Zealand during the nineteenth century. See Mallon 2012: 77–95.

64 Waikato Times, 14 January 1879: 2.

65 Auckland Star, 10 October 1885: 2; New Zealand Herald, 14 October 1885: 5.

66 Auckland Star, 31 December 1889: 8.

67 New Zealand Herald, 16 November 1889: 4; 11 January 1890: 5; Auckland Star, 31 January 1890: 5.

68 New Zealand Herald, 17 October 1885: 4.

69 New Zealand Herald, 30 December 1889: 5.

70 New Zealand Herald, 10 February 1934: 14.

71 Ramsden 1938: 6, 23.

72 Auckland Star, 2 August 1898: 4.

73 ‘Orakei Lands’ 1939: 14, 19.

74 Auckland Star, 1 September 1945: 7.

75 Hooper 1961: 16.

76 South Australian Advertiser, 5 July 1867: 2; Daily Southern Cross, 29 January 1867: 4.

77 Kawharu 1975: 5, 6, 57–58; New Zealand Herald, 5 December 1866: 6.

78 For example, New Zealand Herald, 15 June 1869: 6; 10 May 1878: 3; 31 January 1879: 3; Bruce Herald, 28 February 1873: 3; Evening Post, 5 June 1873: 2; Auckland Star, 28 January 1875: 3. Letter from Paora Tuhaere to Sir George Grey, 2 April 1863; Auckland Star, 27 May 1873: 3; Waikato Times, 26 June 1873: 2.

79 Waikato Times, 23 April 1878: 2.

80 Auckland Star, 25 February 1879: 2.

81 Te Ao Hou, No. 27 (June 1959): 13.

82 Waikato Times, 14 January 1879: 2.

83 New Zealand Herald, 17 October 1885: 4; Auckland Star, 7 November 1885: 4.

84 New Zealand Herald, 10 February 1934: 14.

85 New Zealand Herald, 9 October 1934: 11.

86 Ballara 2012.

87 Anderson 2014: 29–44.

88 Schwimmer 1959: 34; Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou 2014.

89 Curson 1970a: 421.

90 Anderson 2013: 267–85.

91 Anderson 2014: 15–16.

92 Curson 1970a: 421.

93 Curson 1970a: 428, 430; Curson 1970b: 167.

94 Curson 1970b: 172.

95 Statistics New Zealand: Tatauranga Aotearoa 2013. A small number of people identified as ‘Rarotongan’. These have been included in the figure for ‘Cook Islanders’.

96 Anderson 2014: 47.