Maui Pomare

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The Honourable
Sir Maui Pomare
8th Minister of Health
In office
7 June 1923 (1923-06-07) – 18 January 1926 (1926-01-18)
Prime Minister William Massey
Francis Bell
Gordon Coates
Preceded by James Parr
Succeeded by Alexander Young
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Western Maori
In office
Preceded by Henare Kaihau
Succeeded by Taite Te Tomo
Personal details
Born 1875 or 1876
Died 27 June 1930(1930-06-27) (aged 54)
Los Angeles
Nationality  New Zealand
Political party Reform
Father Wiremu Naera Pomare
Mother Kahe Te Rau-o-te-rangi

Sir Maui Wiremu Pita Naera Pomare, KBE, CMG (1875 or 1876 – 27 June 1930) was a New Zealand doctor and politician, being counted among the more prominent Māori political figures. He is particularly known for his efforts to improve Māori health and living conditions. He was a member of the Ngati Mutunga iwi originally from North Taranaki,then Wellington and then the Chatham Islands after the 1835 invasion.[1]

Early life[edit]

The date of Pomare's birth is unclear—school records give 24 August 1875 but other sources give 13 January 1876. He was born at a pa near Urenui in Taranaki. His father, Wiremu Naera Pomare, was of Ngāti Mutunga descent and his mother, Mere Hautonga Nicoll, was of Ngāti Toa descent. His maternal grandmother, Kahe Te Rau-o-te-rangi, had been a signatory of the Treaty of Waitangi. Both of his parents died before he reached adulthood, leaving him in the guardianship of his aunt. Pomare was the boy injured at Parihaka when a horse trod on his foot.[2]


Pomare attended Christchurch Boys' High School and then Te Aute College. Although his family wanted him to study law Pomare decided to become a doctor and, in 1895, he began study at a Seventh-day Adventist Church medical college at Battle Creek in the US state of Michigan. He remained in the United States until 1900 and travelled extensively.

Department of Health[edit]

At the time of Pomare's return to New Zealand there was considerable concern about public health, with the quality of housing and sanitation being a major political issue. The problem was particularly pressing in Māori communities and Pomare, as one of a small number of trained Māori doctors, was selected to serve as Māori Health Officer in the Department of Health. In this role he undertook a number of major campaigns to improve Māori health and met with considerable success. Pomare was highly active in the everyday work of his office, often walking to remote villages to give public speeches. His frequent lectures on health matters gave him considerable skill in oratory.

In contrast to some of his friends, notably Apirana Ngata, Pomare was not particularly concerned about the loss of Māori cultural identity, and sponsored the Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907 which led to loss of many oral traditions.[3] While Pomare and Ngata agreed on the need to modernise Māori living conditions, Pomare did not share Ngata's drive to preserve and protect traditional Māori culture and arts—instead Pomare believed that, eventually, Pākehā and Māori would merge to form a single culture incorporating the best aspects of both (a common ideal of his iwi).


Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1911–1914 18th Western Maori Independent
1914–1919 19th Western Maori Reform
1919–1922 20th Western Maori Reform
1922–1925 21st Western Maori Reform
1925–1928 22nd Western Maori Reform
1928–1930 23rd Western Maori Reform

In the 1911 election, Pomare stood for the House of Representatives as an Independent in the Western Maori electorate[4] that covered the western part of the North Island from Wellington to just south of Auckland, plus the east coast from Tauranga north.[5] Aided by support from the "Māori King", Mahuta Tāwhiao, he was successful, displacing the incumbent Henare Kaihau. He was aligned with the new Reform Party that had won the largest number of seats. When the party formed a government, Pomare was appointed in July 1912 to Cabinet as a minister without portfolio,[6] a largely symbolic position. Pomare was quite popular with his party—in part this is likely because he did not promote an independent Māori cultural identity and that fitted well with the Reform Party's generally conservative views. (Meanwhile, Pomare's old friend, Apirana Ngata, was serving as an MP for the opposition Liberal Party.)

During World War I Pomare and Ngata joined forces to encourage Māori to join the armed forces. Pomare and Ngata both believed that by participating strongly in the war and fighting to defend the country, Māori would demonstrate to Pākehā that they were full citizens. Pomare angered many of his constituents, however, by eventually accepting conscription of Maori.

Ministerial career[edit]

In April 1916, Pomare was given ministerial responsibility for the Cook Islands, then a New Zealand territory.[6] He lobbied strongly for more funding to be given to the islands and was responsible for considerable infrastructural improvement. He opposed, however, the idea of self-governance for the islands, saying that they were not yet ready for it. On a number of occasions he overrode laws passed by the islands' own council, causing a certain amount of complaint. On the whole, however, he was well regarded in the Cook Islands, being presented with a silver cup at the end of his service.

Later, in May 1925, Pomare was appointed Minister of Health, his highest office.[7] Due to economic problems the Health Department's budget was low, making it difficult for Pomare to effect any important reforms. Nevertheless, he managed to make gains in some areas, particularly maternity care and equipment sterilisation.

Pomare was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1920 New Year Honours[8] and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 1922 Birthday Honours.

Later life[edit]

In 1928 Pomare contracted tuberculosis. In the 1928 election Apirana Ngata conducted Pomare's campaign on his behalf, despite belonging to the opposition party. Pomare was re-elected. Later Pomare travelled to California in the hope that the climate would be good for his health. He died in Los Angeles on 27 June 1930.


  1. ^ Penguin History of NZ.M. King.Penguin 2003.
  2. ^ Maori Claims and reinvented history.V.O'Malley.AK University press 2005.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 227.
  5. ^ McRobie 1989, p. 132.
  6. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 76.
  7. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 78.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31712. p. 4. 30 December 1919.


  • McRobie, Alan (1989). Electoral Atlas of New Zealand. Wellington: GP Books. ISBN 0-477-01384-8. 
  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First published in 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Alexander, Robert Ritchie (1966), "POMARE, Sir Maui Wiremu Pita Naera, K.B.E., C.M.G., M.D.", An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, retrieved 19 March 2014 
  • Butterworth, Graham. "Pomare, Maui Wiremu Piti Naera 1875/1876? – 1930". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2008. 
  • Cody, Joseph F. (1953), Man of two worlds: Sir Maui Pomare, Wellington, [N.Z.]: A.H. & A.W. Reed 
  • Duff, Alan (2000), Alan Duff's Māori heroes, Auckland, [N.Z.]: Random House New Zealand, ISBN 1-86941-425-X  (This is a book intended for children.)
  • Pomare, Maui (1908), Etahi kupu mo te ora, Poneke [Wellington], [N.Z.]: Hone Makae 
  • Pomare, Maui (1909), Nga kohungahunga me nga kai ma ratou, Turanga [Gisborne], [N.Z.]: Na te Wiremu Hapata i ta, ki te Perehi ki Te Rau 
  • Pomare, Maui (1916), Ko nga tamaririki [sic] me nga kai ma ratou / na Maui Pomare ; he mea tapiri mai ki o a nga Neehi [i.e. Nehi] o nga Takiwa Maori ; Tari mo te Ora, Poneke = Infants and their foods; with additions by district nurses for Maoris, Wellington, [N.Z.]: Govt. Printer 
  • Pomare, Maui; Cowan, James (1930–1934), Legends of the Maori, Wellington, [N.Z.]: Fine Arts ; Harry H. Tombs  (This two-volume work was reprinted by Southern Reprints (of Auckland) in 1987; and in a two volumes-in-one edition by Kiwi Publishers (of Christchurch) in 2000: ISBN (1-869-64372-0))

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Henare Kaihau
Member of Parliament for Western Maori
Succeeded by
Taite Te Tomo
Political offices
Preceded by
James Parr
Minister of Health
Succeeded by
Alexander Young