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King Koroki

P.TW.M.TR. Koroki
I whakawaahia 1933

Koroki Te Rata Mahuta Tawhiao Potatau Te Wherowhero was the elder of two sons of Te Rata, the fourth Maori King, of Ngati Mahuta. His mother was Te Uranga of Ngati Koroki and he was named for the eponymous ancestor of her people. He was born at Waahi. In his youth, Koroki, shy and reserved, was eclipsed by his younger brother, Taipu
As a youth Koroki showed aptitude as a motor mechanic, and had he not been destined for the kingship would have chosen this line of work as a career. He was a good musician, playing in a band, and a keen footballer. Probably in the 1920s he developed a relationship with Te Paea Raihe; they had one daughter. About 1930 Te Puea Herangi arranged a marriage for him with Te Atairangikaahu, daughter of Te Puea's brother Wanakore Herangi. Their daughter, Piki, later to take her mother's name, was born in July 1931. They adopted a son, Robert Te Kotahi Mahuta, in 1939. Koroki and his family lived at Waahi pa, near Huntly.

Koroki's father, Te Rata, died on 1 October 1933. Koroki begged Te Puea not to make him take his father's place: he did not feel fit for the task, and the people were so poor they could not afford to support a king. He expressed similar doubts to Pei Te Hurinui Jones. But at the tangihanga for Te Rata it was agreed by all the visiting chiefs that the Kingitanga should continue and that Koroki should be the successor. Apirana Ngata, Pei Te Hurinui and others encouraged Koroki to accept the kingship as a symbol of the mana of the Maori people. Pei Te Hurinui assured the young king of his personal support. This was the commencement of Pei Te Hurinui's career as one of the chief confidants and supporters of Koroki. Another was to be Piri (Bill) Poutapu, the well-known carver, who later acted as Koroki's secretary.
In his first few years as King, Koroki, sometimes referred to as the 'boy' by his elder relatives, was closely supervised by his uncles Tumate and Tonga Mahuta, and by the senior elder of the family, Haunui Tawhiao. Tumate and Tonga had their own plans for the kingdom, which they felt should retain its centre at Waahi pa.
From the beginning of his reign Koroki's life was a round of official engagements. At Turangawaewae he entertained visiting VIPs, Polynesian royalty and nobility, governors general, prime ministers and ministers of the Crown, and Allied officers in the Second World War. He attended numerous poukai (meetings on Kingitanga marae, where the King movement would provide food for the widowed, the bereaved and poverty-stricken). He also attended the tangihanga of many Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto elders, and was a guest at many events in other tribal areas. He was at the Waitangi Treaty House celebration in 1934. The cost of these functions and visits was very high.
Koroki Te Rata worked among his people in the garden to help sustain his people during these hard times, and was said to be found in his oil stained overalls. From his home in Waahi, now Huntly, he stayed more frequently at Turangawaewae Marae, established during the reign of his father, King Te Rata.
From the late 1950s his health began to deteriorate, and although he continued to keep himself informed, and his opinion continued to be sought, he gradually dropped out of public life. He was represented by Pei Te Hurinui, his wife, Te Atairangikaahu, and Piri Poutapu. And under the guidance of Te Puea Herangi, King Te Rata's daughter, Piki, took an increasingly prominent role as a representative of the Kingitanga.

King Koroki Te Rata died at Ngaruawahia on 18 May 1966.

Piki was crowned as Te Arikinui Te Atairangikaahu a few hours before Koroki's burial.


For more information Ministry of Culture and Heritage,