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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.



Major Ropata Wahawaha, N.Z.C., M.L.C., belonged to Aowera, a subtribe of Ngati-Porou. He was born at Te Puia “at the time of the second invasion by Ngapuhi” (circa 1820). In or about 1828 he was made a captive by Rongowhakaata, and became the prize of Rapata Whakapuhia, after whom he gained the forename “Rapata.” It was on account of Mr. McLean's pronunciation of “Rapata” as “Ropata” that it became changed His first marriage took place at Whakawhitira in 1839; he remarried at Turanganui in 1849. Ropata was acclaimed the greatest East Coast native war leader in post-pakeha times. He was presented with a Sword of Honour on 25 March, 1878. Prior to being elevated to the Legislative Council, he was in receipt of a Government pension. He died at Gisborne on 1 July, 1897, and was buried, with full military honours, at Wai-o-matatini. The handsome monument over his grave was erected by the Government.

Colonel Thomas William Porter, C.B. (born in India in 1844), was the son of an officer who served with the Bengal Native Infantry during the Indian Mutiny. He claimed descent, on his mother's side, from the ancient and aristocratic Roses of Kilravock Castle, Geddes, Nairnshire, and to be a nephew of Lord Strathnairn. He served as a middy on H.M.S. Hercules in raids against pirates on the coast of China in 1857–8, and then migrated first to Australia and then to New Zealand. In 1861–3 he was in the Wanganui Militia; in 1864, at. Mohaka; and, in 1865, was present at the Siege of Waerenga-a-Hika. Two years later he married Herewaka te Rangi-Paea, of Tokomaru Bay. He served with the A.C. at Ngatapa (1868); took part in the pursuit of Titokowaru in Taranaki (1869); and, with Ropata, engaged in several expeditions against Te Kooti in the Ure-wera Country (1870–2). He was in charge of the force which was sent to Opotiki in 1889 to prevent Te Kooti from paying a visit to Poverty Bay. For several years he was a Lands Purchase Officer on the East Coast, and, later, engaged in business at Gisborne. He was commander first of the Seventh New Zealand Contingent (1901) and then of the Ninth Contingent (1902) in the Boer War. A claim made in September, 1902, that he had succeeded to the Barony of Strathnairn was found to lack confirmation. When he retired from the Public Service in 1908 he was Acting Under-Secretary for Defence. He was the author of The History of the Early Days of Poverty Bay: Life and Times of Ropata Wahawaha. His second wife was Florence E. Sheppard, of Wellington. He died at Wellington on 12 November, 1920.

Captain Charles William Ferris (born in New South Wales in 1842) page 298 migrated to Dunedin in 1863. He served in the East Coast War; during the Te Kooti revolt; and afterwards in Taranaki, at Wairoa and at Lake Waikaremoana. His first wife was Keita Terapu, of Anaura. A son Charles (born in 1868) became noted for his disregard of danger in the exciting sport of harpooning sharks. In February, 1927, he gave a thrilling display of his fearlessness at Wainui in the presence of a large gathering. A full account of the daring episode appears in The Wide World Magazine (September, 1927). Wading into the sea up to his shoulders, he attracted the attention of some sharks by throwing pieces of stingray to them. Soon he was ringed by four of the monsters. He harpooned the largest, which was believed to be one that had been nicknamed “Kruger.” No time was lost by his helpers on shore in landing it by means of the rope attached to the harpoon. It was 10 ft. 3 in. long and weighed just over 400 lbs. One of Captain Ferris's grandsons (Lieutenant-Colonel James Ferris) was awarded the M.B.E. decoration. He served in the First Great War and during the 1939–45 conflict he held an important administrative post in New Zealand in connection with the Maori war effort. His death occurred in 1948. Captain Ferris, who resettled in New South Wales in 1911, died there in 1913.

Major C. Dean Pitt (son of Major-General George Dean Pitt, who served in the Peninsula War; became commander of the New Zealand Forces in 1847; was Lieutenant-Governor of New Ulster Province, 1848–51) had, prior to taking charge of the A.C. in Poverty Bay in 1870, served in the Waikato, Wanganui, Rotorua and Opotiki districts. After the Maori wars he engaged in mercantile pursuits in Gisborne. Captain W. T. Pitt (one of his sons) served in the Boer War and also on Gallipoli and died on 1 June, 1937.