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Sir Donald Maclean

Chapter V — Maclean's Second Inland Journey

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Chapter V
Maclean's Second Inland Journey

A Visit to the Taupo and Rotorua Tribes

It was not long before Donald Maclean made another visit to the heart of the Island which had attracted him so greatly because of the unsophisticated character of the people remote from pakeha settlements, and the mingled beauty and grandeur of much of the scenery where the most primitive tribes of the Island lived. The second journey to Lake Taupo began on 20 October 1845, and was continued to Rotorua; it ended on 10 December. The distance travelled, most of it on foot, was nearly 700 miles. This time Maclean had the Wanganui missionary for company. He walked from New Plymouth down the west coast to Wanganui, where he was joined by the Rev. Taylor, and they took canoe up the great river, with a crew who paddled and poled them to the upper parts; thence they walked across the central plateau to Taupo.

At Roto-a-ira, the beautiful lake on the north side of the Tongariro group of mountains, the travellers stayed at Motu-o-Puhi pa, a large stockaded village, on the peninsula which juts out into the lake, and were very kindly received by the Maoris. “We were very much struck,” Maclean wrote in his diary, “by the majestic appearance and kind and hospitable manner of the female chief of this place. She reminded us of what they had been in former days before they had intercourse with civilised people.” This rangatira woman was evidently Te Maari, whose people live to-day at Otukou, Mapouriki and other kaingas in the district. At Tokaanu Maclean saw for the first time the geysers and boiling springs. The principal geyser impressed page 23 the young Scot greatly. “It gave the idea of its being the very Gulph of perdition itself.”

Good old Heuheu hospitably received his pakeha guests at Te Rapa, after a salute had been fired in their honour by the musketeers of the place on their approach. He was glad to welcome them back again and inquired after their mutual acquaintances in other parts. Once more Hone Heke was discussed. Te Heuheu thought Heke was in the right in objecting to the British flagstaff. He himself was looking on quietly, but still he could not divest himself of a friendly feeling towards Heke, a man of his own colour and country. They were at present watching the end of Heke's war in the north. He found a difficulty in keeping the tribes around him in proper subjection to himself. To show his own disposition to both Europeans and natives, he said he was sending his women and children to Wellington with mats and kokowai (red ochre, mixed with oil) for Te Rauparaha and Ngatata. He did not wish to conceal from the pakeha that there was still a strong disposition on the part of the natives to have more fighting; that the mission natives were not well disposed and wanted to make themselves greater than they had any right, and that was one reason he did not join them. He had a great regard for all European missionaries and regretted that the Bishop had not placed one at his place; nothing gave him greater pleasure than having respectable Europeans to visit him.

The following are extracts from Maclean's diary:

Friday 14 November 1845 (at Rapa)–Te Heuheu said that Hongi (Heke's wife's father) who went to England to see King George, advised him to be friendly to the pakehas, both “Tewera”* and Missionary, but should it happen after his death that a flagstaff be erected in New Zealand, he was to be careful of preventing it on his own territories, as the intention would be to possess the land and deprive his countrymen of their rights…. Having had some food I passed the greater part of the afternoon with him when he told me that there was still a very strong feeling on the part of the tribes of Taupo—Rotorua, especially the Ngatipikiao tribe (Rotoiti), who, headed by the chiefs Rupe and Matenga, had sent him a basket containing a quantity of ready-made cartridges, as a token that they page 24 were disposed to assist him in attacking Ihupuku (on the Waitotara) and try the strength of those who collected there last year as well as to be revenged for the death of some of their relatives who had been killed in the engagement at Patoka. Those cartridges he fired off to signify he was not inclined to use them for the purpose intended. His desire was for peace, and through him it had been kept to the present time, but he could not altogether suppress the warlike propensities of other tribes.

17 November. After breakfast Te Heuheu got a canoe ready and accompanied us across the lake to the next pa north of the Rapa. This was Waitahanui. I had a long conversation with him, endeavouring to point out to him the benefit to Taupo in having a European settlement at Wanganui and how much it would be to his benefit to behave well to them. He showed us his houses at Waitahanui which were very handsomely built and neatly carved and fitted in the old native style, also one he had built for Mr. Chapman (the Rotorua missionary). We bade him farewell, and he begged us to visit him again and regretted he had not more means at his disposal just then to receive us more comfortably.

We then parted from the friendly old chief and arrived at Waimarino, on the lake side, where we found a very pleasing set of natives with an excellent man as teacher named Hakiha. The natives under his tuition were more advanced than at any place at Taupo we had been to. After schooling them for an hour or so we came to Motutere, Maniapoto's place, where we found the natives in a sad state of backwardness, arising principally from the want of a missionary amongst them. I could not but observe even in the short time we were there the good impression made by Mr. Taylor's addresses to them.

Walking up the east coast of Lake Taupo and calling at numerous villages, Maclean and his missionary companion, with their Maori swag-carriers, continued on past Tauhara mountain northward on their way to Rotorua. Near Ohaki (on the present Rotorua-Waiotapu-Taupo road) they crossed the Waikato River by canoe, and walked on by easy stages, camping at Paeroa and Pakaraka, thence on to Rotokakahi. They crossed that lake by canoe, visited the missionary Spencer at his station, Kariri, on Lake Tarawera, thence on to Lake Okareka, and so to the Rev. Chapman's home at Te Ngae. With Chapman, Maclean and Taylor crossed Lake Rotorua by canoe and visited Hikairo, who at this time was the principal chief of the Arawa tribe in these parts.

From Rotorua Maclean and Taylor tramped across the heart of the Island, crossing the Waikato River, striking the Mokau at Motukaramu mission station.

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Te Heuheu Tukino and His Brother Iwikau Paramount chiefs of the Taupo country. [From a drawing by G. F. Angas, 1844.

Te Heuheu Tukino and His Brother Iwikau
Paramount chiefs of the Taupo country.
[From a drawing by G. F. Angas, 1844.

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From Motukaramu, with a Maori crew, they went down the Mokau River in a canoe. The descent of the many rapids was safely accomplished, and after twelve hours' paddling the party covered the whole distance (about 45 miles) to Mahoe, the Rev. Henry Schnackenberg's station, near the heads, by seven o'clock the same evening. At Mokau village they met the young Ngati-Maniapoto chief Wetere te Rerenga (the man who a quarter of a century later led the murderous raid on Pukearuhe.) Wetere talked about a small vessel he had partly purchased; the last instalment of the payment–80 pigs—was ready for the pakeha owner. Two days' hard walking along the coast, fording some of the rivers and canoeing across others, took them home to New Plymouth by ten at night–“and thus concluded a fatiguing journey of nearly 700 miles, the result of which, I hope,” Maclean wrote, “has been most satisfactory.”

Maclean and the missionary between them succeeded in persuading the often touchy Maoris in many places to abandon their quarrels and to regard the pakeha tribe with less suspicion—and so far so good.

The Death of Te Heuheu

On 21 May 1846, Maclean wrote in his diary when camped at Upoko-ngaro, Wanganui: “Heard guns firing. A report that they were fired in consequence of old Heuheu, the chief of Taupo, being capsized in a canoe.” (This was not correct). “It is feared he might have been destroyed by a taniwha, or god of the water, on the Taupo Lake. It is wonderful to find the sensation this fine old veteran chief of the interior causes at such a remote distance from his place—regretted by all, and not by any more so than myself. The lovely valleys of Wanganui resound with guns. This year will form a singular epoch in New Zealand history, so many of its renowned old chiefs have died.”

A few days later the facts about the great chief's tragic end reached Wanganui. Maclean wrote on 26 May:

“It is with very deep regret that I hear of the death of the fine old chief, Heuheu. I may indeed say that the very page 26 pride and boast of New Zealand chieftains is now gone, nor will successive generations replace this with a more intelligent or well-disposed man, well versed in every tradition and history of his country's people, as well as the productions of the country, of all of which, from the largest tree to the smallest shrub, he had some tradition or knowledge. He was a skilful botanist, and knew the physical uses of many herbs and plants. Nor was he ignorant of the insects and birds of the country. What an irreparable loss to the Island! Would that I had half of his knowledge committed to paper. I would make a greater sacrifice to obtain what I shall never have another opportunity of knowing. This noble chief lost his life at his residence, Te Rapa, on the Taupo Lake, where he was with his wife and clever son, and fifty of his tribe, sunk in a land-slip. The natives suppose this to be the work of a taniwha or god, over whom old Heuheu had influence; but it is to be hoped that the God of Gods has not forsaken him, and that he is removed where superstition and heathenism are alike unknown. His brother, Iwikau, has written a letter to Mr. Taylor. He states that, as his brother died evincing friendship to all parties, he should now give up his warfaring propensities, and abide by his brother's disposition. The death of Heuheu causes a sensation of grief throughout the Wanganui River, more particularly amongst the Patutokotoko tribe, who were closely allied to him. The females of the tribe have decorated themselves with feathers, the mourning worn by New Zealanders.”

The village Te Rapa, where the elder Heuheu and his people to the number of fifty-two were overwhelmed by a huge slide of earth and rocks and trees, stood in a position inviting disaster, below the steam-soaked hillside of Hipaua, with its hundreds of boiling springs. The landslide occurred in a storm in the midnight hours, when the flooded stream Wai-mataii burst its banks in the hot spring valley and descended in a cataract of ruin. Only two people escaped. Iwikau with his section of the tribe was not involved in the disaster; his home was on a hill pa about a mile away.

* Tewera: The Maori pronunciation of “devil,” the term applied by the missionary natives to traders and others who were not church people.