Ngāti Toa

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Ngāti Toa
Iwi (tribe) in Māoridom
Ngāti Toa domain
Rohe (region)Lower North Island
Upper South Island
Waka (canoe)Tainui
Population4779 (c. 2013)

Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Toarangatira or Ngāti Toa Rangatira, is a Māori iwi (tribe) based in the southern North Island and in the northern South Island of New Zealand.[1] Its rohe (tribal area) extends from Whanganui in the north, Palmerston North in the east, and Kaikōura and Hokitika in the south.[2] Ngāti Toa remains a small iwi with a population of only about 9000. The iwi is centred around Porirua, Plimmerton, Kāpiti, Blenheim and Arapaoa Island. It has four marae: Takapūwāhia and Hongoeka in Porirua City, and Whakatū and Wairau in the north of the South Island. Ngāti Toa's governing body has the name Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira.

The iwi traces its descent from the eponymous ancestor Toarangatira. Prior to the 1820s, Ngāti Toa lived on the coastal west Waikato region until forced out by conflict with other Tainui iwi headed by Pōtatau Te Wherowhero (c. 1785 - 1860), who later became the first Māori King (r. 1858–1860). Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Rārua and Ngāti Koata, led by Te Rauparaha (c. 1765-1849), escaped south and invaded Taranaki and the Wellington regions together with three North Taranaki iwi, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga. Together they fought with and conquered the turangawaewae[3] of Wellington, Ngāti Ira, wiping out their existence as an independent iwi.[4] After the 1820s, the region conquered by Ngāti Toa extended from Miria-te-kakara at Rangitikei to Wellington, and across Cook Strait to Wairau and Nelson.[5]

Traditional sayings[edit]

A saying delineates the tribe's traditional boundaries:

Mai i Miria-te-kakara ki Whitireia,
Whakawhiti te moana Raukawa ki Wairau, ki Whakatū,
Te Waka Tainui.

However the tribe mainly lives around Porirua and Nelson. An aphorism links tribal identity with ancestors and landmarks:

Ko Whitireia te maunga
Ko Raukawa te moana
Ko Tainui te waka
Ko Ngāti Toarangatira te iwi
Ko Te Rauparaha te tangata

Whitireia is the mountain
Raukawa (Cook Strait) is the sea
Tainui is the waka
Ngāti Toarangatira is the tribe
Te Rauparaha is the man[5]


Origins of the iwi[edit]

Tū-pāhau, a descendant of Hoturoa, the captain of the Tainui canoe,[6] received warning of an imminent attack by Tamure, a priest of Tainui, and at once organised a plan of defence and attack. Tamure had an army of 2000 warriors whereas Tupahau had only 300. Tū-pāhau and his followers won the battle, however Tū-pāhau spared Tamure's life. Tamure responded to this by saying, Tēnā koe Tupahau, te toa rangatira! meaning "Hail Tū-pāhau the chivalrous warrior!" (toa meaning "brave man" or "champion" and rangatira meaning "gallant", "grand", "admirable" or "chiefly").

Later, Tū-pāhau's daughter-in-law bore a son who received the name "Toa-rangatira" to commemorate both this event and the subsequent peace made between Tamure and Tū-pāhau. Ngāti Toa trace their descent from Toa-rangatira.

Te Rauparaha[edit]

Sketch of Te Rauparaha

Parekowhatu of Ngāti Raukawa, the wife of Werawera of Ngāti Toa, gave birth to Te Rauparaha in about the 1760s. According to tribal tradition the birth took place at Pātangata near Kāwhia. Te Rauparaha became the foremost chief of Ngāti Toa, credited with leading Ngāti Toa forces against the Waikato and Ngāti Maniapoto iwi and then, after his defeat, with piloting the migration to, and the conquest and settlement of, the Cook Strait region in the 1820s. Later he crossed Cook Strait to attack the Rangitane people in the Wairau valley. His attempt to conquer the southern South Island iwi was thwarted by an outbreak of measles which killed many of his warriors.

Te Rauparaha signed the Treaty of Waitangi twice in May and June 1840: first at Kapiti Island and then again at Wairau. Te Rauparaha resisted European settlement in those areas which he claimed he had not sold. Later disputes occurred over Porirua and the Hutt Valley. But the major clash came in 1843 when Te Rauparaha and his nephew Te Rangihaeata tried to prevent the survey of lands in the Wairau plains. These lands had been claimed by the New Zealand Company "on two grounds – alleged purchase by Captain Blenkinsop, master of a Sydney whaler in 1831-2; and the negotiations between their principal agent (Colonel Wakefield) and Rauparaha, the head of this tribe, in 1839".[7] Te Rauparaha burnt down a whare which contained survey equipment. The Nelson magistrate ordered his arrest and deputised a number of citizens as police. Te Rauparaha resisted arrest and fighting broke out, resulting in the death of Te Rongo, the wife of Te Rangihaeata. Te Rangihaeata, who was known as a savage warrior, then killed the survey-party, who had surrendered, to avenge his wife's death in an act of utu. This became known as the Wairau Affray or until modern times, the Wairau massacre, as most of the Europeans were killed after the fighting had stopped.

Following fighting in the Hutt Valley in 1846, Governor George Grey arrested Te Rauparaha after British troops discovered he was receiving and sending secret instructions to the local Māori who were attacking settlers. In a surprise attack on his pa, Te Rauparaha, who was now quite elderly, was captured and taken prisoner of war. The government held him as a prisoner for 10 months and then kept him under house arrest in Auckland on board a prison ship, the Driver. After his capture fighting stopped in the Wellington region. Te Rauparaha was released to attend a Māori peace conference at Kohimaramara in Auckland and then given his liberty after giving up any claim to the Wairau valley. Te Rauparaha's last notable achievement came with the construction of Rangiātea Church (1846) in Ōtaki. He did not adopt Christianity, although he attended church services.

Te Rauparaha died on 27 November 1849, aged about 85, and was buried near Rangiātea, in Ōtaki. Many remember him as the author of the haka "Ka mate, ka mate", which he composed after being hidden in a rua (potato pit) by a woman in the Taupō region after a defeat in battle.[8]

Invasion from the north[edit]

Ngāti Toa lived around the Kāwhia region for many generations until increasing conflicts with neighbouring Waikato–Maniapoto iwi forced a withdrawal from their homeland. From the late eighteenth century Ngāti Toa and related tribes constantly warred with the Waikato–Maniapoto tribes for control of the rich fertile land north of Kāwhia. The wars intensified with every killing of a major chief and with each insult and slight suffered, peaking with the huge battle of Hingakaka in the late 18th or early 19th century. Ngāti Toa migrated from Kāwhia to the Cook Strait region under the leadership of their chief Te Rauparaha in the 1820s.

Together, the two migrations Heke Tahutahuahi and Heke Tātaramoa have the name Heke mai raro, meaning "migration from the north". The carved meeting-house bearing the name Te Heke Mai Raro, which stands on Hongoeka Marae, immortalises the migration.[8]

First migration, Heke Tahutahuahi, 1820[edit]

Heke Tahutahuahi (translatable as the "fire lighting expedition")[9] brought the Ngāti Toa iwi out of Kāwhia and into Taranaki in 1820. The Taranaki iwi Ngāti Mutunga presented Ngāti Toa with Pukewhakamaru Pā, as well as with the cultivations nearby. Pukewhakamaru lay inland of Ōkokī, up the Urenui River. Ngāti Toa stayed at Pukewhakamaru for 12 months. The Waikato–Maniapoto alliance followed Ngāti Toa to Taranaki and battles ensued there, most notably the battle of Motunui between Waikato–Maniapoto and the Ngāti Tama, Te Āti Awa and Ngāti Mutunga alliance.[8]

Second migration, Heke Tātaramoa, 1822–[edit]

The name Heke Tātaramoa (translatable as the "bramble bush migration") commemorates the difficulties experienced during Ngāti Toa's second migration. Ngāti Toa left Ōkokī around February–March 1822 after harvesting crops planted for the journey. This heke also included some people from Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Mutunga and Te Āti Awa. The heke arrived in the HorowhenuaKāpiti region in the early 1820s and settled first in Te Awamate, near the mouth of the Rangitīkei River, then at Te Wharangi (now Foxton Beach), at the mouth of the Manawatū River, and then eventually on Kapiti Island.[8]

"Ka Mate" haka[edit]

Concern over inappropriate commercial use of Te Rauparaha's Ka Mate led the iwi to attempt to trademark it,[10][11] but in 2006 the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand turned their claim down on the grounds that Ka Mate had achieved wide recognition in New Zealand and abroad as representing New Zealand as a whole and not a particular trader.[12]

In 2009, as a part of a wider settlement of grievances, the New Zealand government agreed to:

...record the authorship and significance of the haka Ka Mate to Ngāti Toa and ... work with Ngāti Toa to address their concerns with the haka... [but] does not expect that redress will result in royalties for the use of Ka Mate or provide Ngāti Toa with a veto on the performance of Ka Mate....[13][14]

In November 2021, tribal elders told anti-Covid-vaccine protesters in New Zealand to stop using the Ka Mate haka at their rallies.[15]

Marae and wharenui[edit]

Looking south towards Cook Strait and the South Island from Kapiti Island

There are four marae (communal places) and wharenui (meeting houses) affiliated with Ngāti Toa:

  • Hongoeka Marae (including Te Heke Mai Raro wharenui), Plimmerton
  • Takapuwahia Marae (including Toa Rangatira wharenui), Porirua
  • Wairau Marae (including Wairau wharenui), Spring Creek
  • Whakatū Marae (including Kākāti wharenui), Nelson[1]


Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira Inc is recognised by the New Zealand Government as the governance entity of Ngāti Toa following its Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Crown under Ngāti Toa Rangatira Claims Settlement Act 2014. It is a mandated iwi organisation under the Māori Fisheries Act 2004, an iwi aquaculture organisation under the Māori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004, an "iwi authority" under the Resource Management Act, and a Tūhono organisation.

Te Runanga o Toa Rangatira is an incorporated society, governed by a board of 15 representatives, including three elected from iwi whānui, some appointed from Hamilton, Nelson and Wairau, and some appointed from marae and other Ngāti Toa organisations. As of 2016, the iwi chairperson is Taku Parai, the executive director is Matiu Rei, and the society is based in Porirua.[1]

Wellington pan-tribal Māori radio station Te Upoko O Te Ika has been affiliated to Ngāti Toa since 2014.[16] It began part-time broadcasting in 1983 and full-time broadcasting in 1987, and it is New Zealand's longest-running Māori radio station.[17][18] Atiawa Toa FM is an official radio station of Ngāti Toa and Te Atiawa. It began as Atiawa FM in 1993, broadcasting to Te Atiawa in the Hutt Valley and Wellington. It changed its name in Atiawa Toa FM in mid-1997, expanding its reach to Ngāti Toa in Porirua and Kāpiti Coast.[19][20]

Ngāti Toa have interests in the territories of Greater Wellington Regional Council, Tasman District Council, Nelson City Council and Marlborough District Council. It also has interests in the territories of Kāpiti Coast District Council, Porirua City Council and Wellington City Council.[1]

Notable Iwi Members[edit]

  • Te Rauparaha
  • Te Rangihaeata
  • Nohorua Te Whatarauihi
  • Kahe Te Rau-o-te-Rangi
  • Wīremu Te Kakakura Parata


  1. ^ a b c d "Rohe". Te Puni Kōkiri, New Zealand Government. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Ngāti Toa Rangatira Area of Interest from the Deed of Settlement" (JPG 177KB). Te Puni Kōkiri. 7 December 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  3. ^ turangawaewae
  4. ^ King, Michael (2003). "10: God and Guns". The Penguin History of New Zealand. (published 2011). p. 151. ISBN 9781459623750. Retrieved 2 July 2020. Ngati Toa and Ngati Raukawa were pushed out of Waikato and made their way down the west coast of the North Island, fighting and defeating other tribes such as Ngati Apa, Muaupoko and Rangitane as they did so. Various Taranaki tribes joined them in actions against peoples in the far south of the North island, such as Ngati Ira, who virtually disappeared at this time.
  6. ^ Pōmare, Mīria (4 March 2009). "Ngāti Toarangatira – Identity". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  7. ^ Broad, Lowther. "Chapter V. The Jubilee History of Nelson: From 1842 to 1892". New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Retrieved 21 December 2011. (p. 50)
  8. ^ a b c d Royal, Te Ahukaramū Charles, Kāti au i konei: He Kohikohinga i ngā Waiata a Ngāti Toarangatira, a Ngāti Raukawa. Wellington: Huia Publishers, 1994.
  9. ^ Pōmare, Mīria (6 April 2010). "Ngāti Toarangatira – Migration from the north". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
  10. ^ "All Blacks fight to keep haka". BBC News. 16 July 2000. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  11. ^ "Iwi threatens to place trademark on All Black haka". The New Zealand Herald. 22 May 2005. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  12. ^ "Iwi claim to All Black haka turned down". The New Zealand Herald. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 3 May 2008.
  13. ^ Ngāti Toa Rangatira Letter of Agreement Archived 21 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^
  15. ^ McClure, Tess (15 November 2021). "Māori tribe tells anti-Covid vaccine protesters to stop using its haka". The Guardian. London, United Kingdom. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 February 2022.
  16. ^ "Big change for first Maori radio station". Radio New Zealand. Radio New Zealand News. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  17. ^ "TE REO : Real Maori radio takes to the air". Tu Tangata (36): 6. July 1987. ISSN 0111-5871.
  18. ^ Walker, Piripiri; Roy, Don (4 June 1991). "Outlook : Te Upoko O Te Ika – 783 kHz – Wellington's Maori radio station". Independent Newspapers Limited. Dominion Post. p. 31.
  19. ^ "Iwi Radio Coverage" (PDF). Māori Media Network. 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
  20. ^ "Wellington". Welcome to the Radio Vault. New Zealand: The Radio Vault. 23 July 2009. Archived from the original on 24 January 2010. Retrieved 12 June 2015.

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