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Sir Donald Maclean

Chapter XXV — The Hauhaus and the Ohinemuri Goldfields

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Chapter XXV
The Hauhaus and the Ohinemuri Goldfields

Ohinemuri is in my hand: I will not let it go. These hills and valleys shall never be held by people of a strange tongue. Let them go to Hauraki. As for me, I am a Hauhau.”

The speaker was a Maori of the Maoris; that was evident; his downright words left no doubts of his sentiments about the pakeha. He was a grim old tattooed warrior chief; tattooed so deeply and thickly that his face seemed a black mask, from which his fierce glittering eyes glared out at his audience. His name was Te Hira te Tuiri, and he ranked next to the famous Taraia Ngakuti as chief in the Ngati-Tamatera tribe, of the Upper Waihou and the Ohinemuri country. He addressed his speech to a lone white man who sat before him on a mat in the meeting-house. The house was crowded with men and women who sat, wrapped in blankets, listening in intent silence to the dialogue between the pakeha and the champion of Hauhau independence.

Such interviews in the Maori country—this episode was at Te Hira's village at Paeroa—were frequent in the late Sixties and the early Seventies, when the Native Minister and the Auckland Provincial Government were endeavouring to open up the Ohinemuri district for gold-mining. The Lower Thames Valley was by this time, the end of 1869, over-run with diggers, and a number of adventurous fellows had gone up-river to Paeroa and were scattered about the country which in after years was to become a famous gold-producer. It was risky work, for while a section of Ngati-Tamatera was friendly to the Government there was a large faction bitterly hostile to the page 110 threatened alien invasion. In 1869–70 Mr. E. W. Puckey (“Te Paki” of the Maori) was the Government native agent at Thames, and to him, as representative of the Native Minister, fell the task of conciliating if he could, the anti-pakeha party and preparing the way peacefully for the inevitable transformation of the Ohinemuri wilderness into a scene of civilised industry and treasure-winning.

The overlord of all this Ngati-Tamatera territory was the once-dreaded warrior Taraia, just mentioned, but by Puckey's time he was a feeble old man, and the fiery contempt which he had once exhibited for the pakeha Government had died down to a resigned acquiescence in whatever fate might send his way. In 1869 he had become reconciled to the looming digging invasion, and on 10 December of that year he welcomed Donald Maclean at a meeting at Pukatea-Wainui, the village of the pro-Government party under Ropata te Arakai. The ancient warrior, like all the other Maoris, had immense respect for “Te Makarini,” whom they esteemed for his profound knowledge of Maori ways, for his plain speaking and his fair dealing.

The venerable cannibal chieftain at this conference with the Native Minister, made with quavering voice, as he supported his bent form with a taiaha, a final indignant protest against his recalcitrant tribespeople under Te Hira. “The land is mine,” he declared, “it is not Te Hira's. Is it not because of my deeds when I was a warrior that the Hauraki people have a reputation and a name to-day? They talk of tribes coming here to help Te Hira. What tribes? I shall allow no tribes to come. The land is mine from the waters right up to the tops of the mountains. It is mine, mine only.”

At another meeting with the Hauhau party, this time in the carved house called “Te Whakahaere O Hauraki,” at Ohinemuri, Donald Maclean had to combat some strenuous objections to the cession of land for gold-mining. There were Hauhau prayers, and then Te Hira and other men stated the case from the conservative Maori point of view. Maclean warned Te Hira that the anti-Government canoe was a craft which was likely to be upset. As to the policy of exclusion of pakeha prospectors, he said: “What good do page 111 you derive from the gold under ground, of which neither you or your ancestors ever dreamed? Let your people derive benefit from the treasures which be in their land. The land is not all yours; let others share it as well as you.”

But Te Hira was not impressed. “This is my place; why do you seek after it?” he asked. “It is only a little piece. Let it remain to me.”

The Hauhaus held that there should be a limit beyond which diggers could not come. Hohepa te Rauhihi said: “Let Omahu remain the boundary.”

At one of Mr. Puckey's meetings with the natives it was agreed that a party of ten men, consisting half of Kingites or Hauhaus and half of Queenites, should go into the ranges and warn off all white prospectors. But after a fruitless search of five days, no pakehas were discovered, though there were many traces of them having been there a short while before. It was risky work prospecting, for Hauhaus were moving to the places where fighting was still going on. In fact it was generally expected that Te Kooti would come up to Ohinemuri from Tapapa, where he was then camped (the beginning of 1870), a journey of only two days on horseback. But though some of his followers left him after the fighting with Lieut.-Col. McDonnell and took refuge with Te Hira at Ohinemuri, Te Kooti made off in the other direction, towards Rotorua and the Urewera Country.

The most truculent figure of all about this time at Ohinemuri was a woman, a white-headed, scornful-visaged dame by the name of Mere Kuru. She was Te Hira's sister, and she was a downright old character. There is an excellent portrait of her in the Lindauer gallery of historic Maoris in the Auckland Civic Library Building, given by Mr. H. E. Partridge, for whom Lindauer painted Mere in the early Seventies. At this period the old chieftainess had a virulent hatred for the pakeha. She kept her brother well stirred up against the Government. Mr. Puckey reported to Donald Maclean under date 4 November 1869, that Mere Kuru was taking a hand in the eviction of the gold-diggers. She came to Puckey, on behalf of Te Hira, to ask him not only to send off the diggers camped at the landing-place at Thorpe's and up the Ohinemuri Stream at Paeroa (within page 112 a mile of Te Hira's house), but to spare no pains in driving off any who might be in the hills.

Mr. Puckey remarked of Paeroa—it was called Te Paeroa in those days—that “there is a public-house kept by one Andrews. Near this place is pitched a digger's tent.” That was the nucleus of the present town. After a good deal of talking with the diggers when they assembled, Puckey got them to agree to remove, for the time being, if those down the river at Thorpe's also would go.

It was about the same time that these people were much disturbed at the rumoured purchase of Te Aroha by the Provincial Government. It was 1874–75 before the old die-hards of Ngati-Tamatera became reconciled to the gold-digging invasion and consented to mining rights over their lands.

There were war dances and wild spectacles, and Mere Kuru, performing the pukana in front of her armed tribesmen, was the wildest of them all. And that was Ohinemuri as some of our mining veterans can still remember it—not so very long ago, yet the events of the day seem like a dream when one regards the gold country—and the good farming country—as it is to-day.

Taraia died in November 1871, and the Governor (Sir George Bowen) and the Native Minister went up the Waihou to Ohinemuri to attend the tangihanga.