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Sir Donald Maclean

Chapter XXVII — The Luna's intrusion — Maclean's Surprise Visit to Kawhia Harbour

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Chapter XXVII
The Luna's intrusion
Maclean's Surprise Visit to Kawhia Harbour

One stormy day in 1873, the Government paddle-steamer Luna, butting into a strong southerly on a passage from Onehunga to Wellington, turned in at Kawhia Heads for shelter. Captain Fairchild remarked in his drawling “Blue Nose” way to his passenger, the Native Minister, “Well, Mr. Maclean, I guess you won't object to a few hours' rest at a quiet anchor instead of racketing about outside. Kawhia is one of the snuggest places I know, and I ought to know for I ran a cutter in and out of here in the old days before the war.” Mr. Maclean had a companion in his northern cruise, the Atiawa chief, Wi Tako Ngatata, who was returning to his home in Wellington. Kawhia had scarcely been visited at all by steamers since the war. The place had come to be regarded as the last retreat and sanctuary of King Tawhiao and his Ngati-Mahuta people and allied tribes. It was the innermost shrine of the Hauhau religious ritual. Here the Tainui nation drew around itself a veil of tapu.

The Luna's waddling entry, her paddle-boxes rolling heavily as she crossed the bar, at Kawhia's mouth, was watched by Maoris at Maketu village with intense curiosity. Some of them knew, from war-time, that she was a Government ship. She had carried pakeha and Maori military forces round the coast. Higher up the harbour, where the Kawhia township is now, at Powewe beach, a large canoe was presently launched. Paddled by nearly a score of practised waka-taua men she came sweeping down the harbour, her kai-hautu standing nearly amidships and gracefully turn page 117 ing and posturing as he sang, shouted and yelped the timesong for the crew.

“Visitors coming, Mr. Maclean,” Captain Fairchild announced. The canoe steersman swept his long craft up to the gangway ladder which had been lowered, and several Maoris stepped up on board. They shook hands with the Captain who met them at the top of the gangway and greeted “Te Makarini” and Wi Tako with the courteous hongi.

The leading man in the canoe party was the chief Te Tapihana,* a stern resolute-looking man, tattooed and short-bearded; a man of fame all along the coast and in Waikato. He had fought with desperate bravery in the war of 1863, and only surrendered to superior force at Rangiriri when his last home-made cartridge for his tupara had gone. He was the leading chief in the plan of escape which resulted in all the Waikato prisoners taking leave of their place of exile, Kawau Island, one fine night and removing themselves to the mainland and freedom.

Te Tapihana was courteous but restrained in his welcome to the Native Minister. The speechmaking which followed, as it developed, was of some political importance; it led, in the end, to the renewal of friendship between the tribes of Kawhia and inland and the pakeha Government and people.

Pacing to and fro, his greenstone club in his hand, Tapihana welcomed the Native Minister to Kawhia. “I greet you, Makarini,” he said, “I welcome you to Kawhia. I saw the masts of your vessel, and therefore I came down to you. Listen to my word. I am the supporting post of Tawhiao's kingdom. I am not willing that another steamer should enter this harbour. Do not think that I have forgotten page 118 how to use my weapon. It is sheathed by Tawhiao's orders, but still I have hold of the handle of it. I have laid down the weapon, now that you, my parent have come here. I have been accused of being implicated in crimes such as the killing of the Rev. Mr. Whiteley, and the surveyor, Mr. Todd. I wish you now to take the steamer across to the other arm of Kawhia, and lie there till the morning. Then go away and do not return. I will conceal nothing from you, even at the risk of offending you, but do not be offended. I shall have no objection to Europeans visiting this harbour in a year or two, but I do not wish them to locate themselves on shore. I want time to consider first, and let angry feelings subside. I wish it to be left for me to invite the vessels. Now, friend, let the Waikato land which has been confiscated, be returned to us. Let the boundary be at Mangatawhiri (the place where confiscation began).”

To Tapihana's speech Mr. Maclean made the following reply:

“We had no object in coming here, but were driven in by the weather. You are one of Tawhiao's followers, but I should prefer to see him before dismissing questions of importance. As for the request that the confiscated land as far as Mangatawhiri, should be returned—this will certainly not be done. I may at once assure you that this will not be done. It has been confiscated, and must remain so. We want to see peace and goodwill established on fair terms. Your people have been to Pirongia (the speaker referred to the shooting of Todd, the surveyor), but I will not bear anger on that account. You have all suffered disaster in the days gone by, and should now turn your attention to seeking for what will benefit you. You and the few who adhere to you must have suffered enough by war to induce you to follow more profitable pursuits. I know of your conduct at Pirongia, and elsewhere. That is past, and the Europeans are a forgiving people.”

Wi Tako Ngatata, the old chief from Wellington, then replied to Tapihana's welcome. He had originally supported the Maori King, but found it expedient to change to the Government side. He referred to his visit to page 119 Ngaruawahia in the early part of 1860. “There I met Rewi, and others. They did not act in accordance with my advice. I remember what they said on that occasion. It is well you should say you are the main support of Tawhiao's authority. Speak to Mr. Maclean, and lay your grievances before the Parliament; so that our desire with regard to Tawhiao may be achieved. Give the work into my hands now. As for the killing of the missionary Whiteley and of the surveyor Todd, and Te Kooti's deeds of war, they are set aside. What will you gain by having recourse to arms?”

Tapihana rose again and said he wished Mr. Maclean to stay there until the weather became fine. As for the pakehas generally, he would be willing in a year or so to allow Europeans free access to Kawhia.

Later there was an interview on board the Luna between Mr. Maclean and Tu Tawhiao (the King's son), a young man, who died a few years later. The other chiefs present included Honana Maioha, brother of the celebrated Patara Te Tuhi; and the chief of Mokau Heads, Hone Wetere te Rerenga.

Honana said: “Makarini, you have come upon us unawares. We did not know of your coming. Now you have seen us, ariving among us regardless of what might be done to you.”

Tapihana reminded Maclean, “I have protected you this day. I have not been willing to see Europeans or vessels here, but now the way is open for us to meet. I see also the man who set up the King (Wi Tako Ngatata). I said to Manuwhiri (Tawhiao's cousin)–Keep quiet at your own place, and listen to what is going on. My desire was to slay the Europeans, but I have been thwarted by the secession of others from my party. This boy, Tu Tawhiao, now has the matter in his hands.”

Hone Wetere said that he had been shutting up Kawhia, but now, “Come and see us when you like. Tahau (Tapihana) is the wild beast of this place, Kawhia. Your real friend, Potatau (Tawhiao), welcomes you. No one is more welcome than you to Kawhia.”

Mr. Maclean said that he and Wi Tako would have been page 120 glad to have seen Tawhiao, but they had seen his son, it was well. Wi Tako and he would often come to see the people of Waikato.

Hone Wetere said that King Tawhiao was in favour of peace and there would be nothing to fear in the future.

Mr. Maclean: “So are we. Our desires, therefore, may be accomplished, as they run in the same direction. The fact Tawhiao is preserving order in this district is evidence of his good intentions. The Government is doing its part to promote peace throughout the country.”

When the Luna put to sea again the Native Minister had the satisfaction of knowing that a reconciliation of the two races had been advanced a little farther. The meeting with Tawhiao's son was of importance at that stage. It led to a visit to Tawhiao in the King Country in 1875, and this prepared the way for the final peacemaking with the King's tribes in 1881. Maclean died before that time, but his good work lived after him.

* Te Tapihana is the Maori form of the name Tapsell. The Danish Hans Tapsell, of Maketu, Bay of Plenty, had been a famous man in the Maori world of trade in flax and muskets. His trading station in Maketu Pa was destroyed when the Waikato and allied tribes, from Matamata to Kawhia, raided the Arawa Country in 1836 on an expedition of revenge. Tapihana derived his name from the fact of his father and other relatives having taken part in the expedition and the looting of Tapsell's establishment. Tapsell estimated his loss in trade goods and dressed flax at £4,000.