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King Te Rata

P.TW.T.M Te Rata
I whakawaahia 1912

Te Rata was born at his father's home, Hukanui, near Waahi pa, Huntly. He was the eldest of five sons of King Mahuta. Te Rata's mother was Te Marae, a daughter of Amukete (Amuketi) Te Kerei, a chief killed at the battle at Rangiriri in November 1863. Te Rata is said to have been well educated, but was a chronic invalid as a child, and in adulthood suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. Partly because of his physical disabilities his contemporaries tended to regard him as weak, shy and easily led, and attributed his role in many important events to the influence of other King movement leaders. Te Rata usually lived quietly at Waahi, although he sometimes attended race meetings in Auckland. He married Te Uranga, the daughter of Iriwhata Wharemaki and Hira Wati of Ngati Koroki; their two sons were Koroki and Taipu.
Te Rata supported Maui Pomare, the candidate preferred by his father. Although he was later opposed by Te Puea Herangi and others, Te Rata continued to support Pomare as MP, both out of respect for his father's wishes and because Pomare promised to set up a commission of inquiry into the Waikato confiscations.

Mahuta died on 9 November 1912 at Waahi. There was no doubt that Te Rata was the most suitable candidate to succeed his father, and it was thought that his knowledge of Pakeha affairs would help his people.
In 1913 Te Rata took up Tupu Taingakawa's plans to present the British Crown with yet another petition asking for the restoration of confiscated lands. His mother, Te Marae, sold family land to finance the expedition, and King movement members agreed to support the trip by contributing a shilling each. A hui was held at Waahi on 1 April 1914 at which several speakers, including Apirana Ngata, attempted to convince Te Rata and Taingakawa to cancel their expedition. But they departed on 11 April, with Mita Karaka and Hori Tiro Paora as secretaries and interpreters, arriving in London in late May.
Te Rata had counted on the assistance of Sir John Gorst, government agent in Waikato in the 1860s and now resident in England; he at first refused to see the delegation, and gave them no real support. They were eventually received by King George V and Queen Mary, but the British government reiterated its position that Maori must look to the New Zealand government for the redress of grievances. The expedition, during which Te Rata fell ill, was a failure, but was the first meeting og a Maori King and a reigning British monarch. He was welcomed back at a hui organised by Te Puea at Te Paina marae, Mercer, and given a reception and ball by the mayor and citizens of the town.

In 1928 Te Puea was instrumental in arranging a visit by the governor general, Sir Charles Fergusson, to Ngaruawahia. However, the King movement leadership were still resentful of the government's conscription tactics against members of Te Rata's family and people, and at its failure to restore the confiscated lands (the royal commission eventually obtained by Pomare offered compensation in the same year). Te Rata refused to meet Fergusson when he visited Turangawaewae on 30 April.

In the 1920s, as his illness progressed and formerly trusted advisers such as Tupu Taingakawa turned to Ratana, Te Rata abandoned his parliament, known as Te Kauhanganui, as an instrument of his policy making and leaned more on Te Puea, who became his mouthpiece to an increasing extent. Apirana Ngata's schemes to develop Maori land through government loan money, initiated in November 1929, were enthusiastically accepted by Te Puea, but many Waikato people resisted involvement because of lingering suspicion of the government. Ngata and Te Raumoa Balneavis discussed land development with Te Rata at the opening of Mahinarangi in 1929, and subsequently the King came to accept their ideas. In 1931 and 1932 Te Rata and his brothers gave Te Puea their support on land development. Te Rata's sanction of the schemes ensured their success and he successfully persuaded many formerly suspicious landowners to allow their blocks to be developed. With his brothers he developed 600 acres on his own account. Ngata was later to say that Te Rata's death removed a great influence for progress; had he lived he would have been the greatest champion of land settlement.
Te Rata had been ill more or less continuously from 1927. In the last three years of his life he suffered from acute rheumatism. He died at Waahi on 1 October 1933. Te Uranga died in December 1935. Their younger son, Taipu, had died in 1924; the elder son, Koroki, aged only 24 at Te Rata's death, succeeded him. Te Rata's tangihanga lasted a week. Te Puea was in charge of the arrangements; the thousands of mourners were accommodated in marquees, and hundreds of sheep and cattle were slaughtered to feed them. Ratana arrived on 8 October, and at last paid his respects to Te Rata face to face.


Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture and Heritage,