Troubled times - Maori King movement 1860-94

King Tawhiao's reign

The reign of the second Māori King, Tukaroto Matutaera Potatau Te Wherowhero Tawhiao was dominated by the Waikato War and its fallout and in particular the impact of the confiscation of land which followed the war.

On 11 July 1863 Governor George Grey issued an ultimatum to the ‘chiefs of Waikato’ to pledge allegiance to Queen Victoria. The following day – before Waikato Māori had even received this message – a force led by Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron crossed the Mangatāwhiri stream, a tributary of the Waikato River near Mercer. This waterway marked the aukati – a line that should not be crossed– between the European settlement of Auckland and the lands under the mana (protection) of the Māori King. The key conflict of the New Zealand Wars had begun.   

Kingitanga forces attempted to stall the British advance before eventually withdrawing to Tokangamutu (Te Kuiti) in Ngāti Maniapoto territory. Some European commentators spoke of the Kingitanga's 'withdrawal into sullen isolation' yet the movement survived this period largely intact. As the century drew to a close, the Kingitanga re-emerged ready to take on fresh challenges on behalf of its supporters.

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