Struggling to survive
By the early 1870s, the Kīngitanga was struggling. Living conditions within the Rohe Pōtae (the Māori King's territory) were poor. Allies such as Ngāti Hauā had begun selling land again, even before the death of Wiremu Tamihana in 1866, and other tribes outside the Rohe Pōtae allowed the Native Land Court to sit and recommenced selling land, despite having placed their lands under the Māori King's mana.
In the 1880s, partly to relieve supply problems and partly to increase support in other regions, Tāwhiao visited Kīngitanga 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 Pōtae, so the Kīngitanga centre could not be moved south. Kāwhia or Aotea were options, but this would have isolated Tāwhiao's followers from the Waikato tribes. Any move north was blocked by the confiscation line. In 1888 Tāwhiao 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 Pārāwera, southwest of Maungatautari.
Living in Ngāti Maniapoto country had been difficult from the start. Ngāti Maniapoto feared that Waikato actions might lead to confiscation of their lands. The fact that Ngāti Maniapoto had escaped confiscation clearly upset many Waikato Kīngitanga supporters. Some Ngāti Maniapoto feared that Waikato would claim the land on which they were now living. In the end Ngāti Maniapoto sought to have their title guaranteed by the Land Court, thus ignoring one of Tāwhiao'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 Māori territory). This cleared the way for a deal with Ngāti Maniapoto that allowed the government to begin building the main trunk railway across their territory in 1885, guaranteeing European access to the Rohe Pōtae.
When Rewi Maniapoto returned to the Kīngitanga fold by 1884, any hopes of a Māori 'state-within-a state' in the central North Island were effectively dead.