Maintaining Te Kingitanga - Maori King movement 1860-94

Struggling to survive

By the early 1870s, the Kingitanga was struggling. Living conditions within the Rohe Potae (the Maori King's territory) were poor. Allies such as Ngati Haua had begun selling land again, even before the death of Wiremu Tamihana in 1866, and other tribes outside the Rohe Potae allowed the Native Land Court to sit and recommenced selling land, despite having placed their lands under the Maori King's mana.

In the 1880s, partly to relieve supply problems and partly to increase support in other regions, Tawhiao visited Kingitanga marae throughout the North Island. He was always accompanied by hundreds of supporters, and these visits were later institutionalised as Poukai: annual ceremonial visits to enable the king to meet the people and gather revenue.

By 1886 the Land Court was at work within the Rohe Potae, so the Kingitanga centre could not be moved south. Kawhia or Aotea were options, but this would have isolated Tawhiao's followers from the Waikato tribes. Any move north was blocked by the confiscation line. In 1888 Tawhiao was forced to choose between land awarded to his followers in the Compensation Court or the dispersion of his people. He chose to accept the land. A new settlement was developed at Pukekawa, close to Mercer. He moved again in 1893 to Parawera, southwest of Maungatautari.

Living in Ngati Maniapoto country had been difficult from the start. Ngati Maniapoto feared that Waikato actions might lead to confiscation of their lands. The fact that Ngati Maniapoto had escaped confiscation clearly upset many Waikato Kingitanga supporters. Some Ngati Maniapoto feared that Waikato would claim the land on which they were now living. In the end Ngati Maniapoto sought to have their title guaranteed by the Land Court, thus ignoring one of Tawhiao's key edicts.

In 1879 Rewi Maniapoto was 'received like royalty' in Auckland and provided with a house by the government on their side of the aukati (the boundary between Crown and Maori territory). This cleared the way for a deal with Ngati Maniapoto that allowed the government to begin building the main trunk railway across their territory in 1885, guaranteeing European access to the Rohe Potae.

When Rewi Maniapoto returned to the Kingitanga fold by 1884, any hopes of a Maori 'state-within-a state' in the central North Island were effectively dead.

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How to cite this page: 'Maintaining Te Kingitanga - Maori King movement 1860-94', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012