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


Sparseness of European population was responsible for the tardy appearance of Parliamentary electorates bearing names which indentified them with Poverty Bay and the East Coast. In 1868 the natives of both districts were incorporated in the far-flung Eastern Maori electorate, which extended over nearly a third of the North Island. The East Coast European constituency, which stretched from Tauranga to Wairoa, did not appear on the Parliamentary map until 1871.

Eastern Maori Seat:

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When Takamoana (an avowed Repudiationist) defeated Hotene Porourangi (a staunch Ngati-Porou loyalist), dismay was created in the Waiapu district. An inquiry revealed that the deputy returning officer for Waiapu had, prior to polling day, canvassed among the electors in his area, securing signatures to many voting papers and informing the voters that it would not be necessary for them to appear at a polling booth on election day. All these votes had been declared invalid. The House of Representatives, by resolution, declared Takamoana elected.

Wiremu Pere (born in March, 1837) was a son of Thomas Halbert and his fourth wife (Riria Mauaranui). His father proposed that he should be sent to Auckland for his schooling, but, when his mother found that the teacher was a negro, she declined to agree, adding that “she would sooner chop him up into little bits.” W1 Pere and three of his children were taken from Manutuke to Makaretu by Te Kooti after the Poverty Bay massacre, but, six days later, he fled to his uncle, Wiremu Kingi, at Torere (Bay of Plenty). He was held in ill-favour by many of the Europeans because he favoured the repurchase of all properties in the hands of the pakehas at the prices which had been given for them. Captain Read (Poverty Bay Herald, 9/3/1874) accused him even of going away voluntarily with Te Kooti after the massacre, and of deserting him only when he had suffered a defeat.

When Wi Pere entered Parliament in 1884 he attracted considerable attention. One commentator said: “What a change in one man's life! The little, wild, root-eating savage has been transformed into a grand, courteously-mannered member of the General Assembly. “He caused several “scenes” in Parliament, the most glaring being when, as a member of the Upper House in 1909, he complained that far too much native land had fallen into the hands of the Europeans, and declared that, if he had his way, “all the pakehas would be driven into the sea!” On the other hand, there were some occasions upon which his views caused much merriment, as, for example when, in 1899, he advocated the raising of a loan of £20,000,000. Another member interjected: “But how will we be able to pay back such an enormous sum?” Wi Pere evoked roars of laughter when he replied: “That will give our grandchildren something to do!”

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Wi Pere died on 9 December, 1915, and was buried in a vault at Waerenga-a-Hika on 3 January, 1916. In his eulogy, Sir A. T. Ngata said: “No man ever did more for his people … The mistakes he made were the mistakes a big man would make, and owed their origin to the fact that he had, to a great extent, to place reliance upon others … His pride in being a Maori led him sometimes to make impolitic remarks that were tinged with contempt for the pakeha. But never was there a greater fighter for his race than Wi Pere.” A fine monument, erected by the native people as a tribute to Wi Pere, stands alongside Read's Quay, Gisborne.

Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata, D.Lit., LL.B. (born at Te Araroa on 31 July, 1874) was a son of Paratene Ngata. His mother was a half-caste, and her maiden name was Katarina Ngake (Knox). He was educated at Wai-o-matatini native school, Te Aute College and Canterbury University College. In 1893 he gained his B.A. degree; in 1894 he was the first Maori to graduate M.A. (with honours in political science); and, in 1896, he was awarded the LL.B. degree. He was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in 1897. Two years later he became travelling secretary to the Te Aute Students' Association (Young Maori Party). From 1902 till 1904 he was organising-inspector to the Maori Councils. He sat on the Royal Commission appointed under the Native Lands Act, 1904 (1905), Commission of Investigation into the Te Aute and Wanganui Trusts (1906), and, with Sir Robert Stout, on the Native Land Tenure Commission (1907–8). He represented the Eastern Maori district in the House of Representatives from 1905 till 1943, was a member of the Executive Council representing the Maori race from 1909 till 1912, and was Minister for Native Affairs from 1928 till 1934. He was knighted in 1927. His work in connection with the development of native lands and the establishment of native settlers upon them, together with the keen interest he has taken in Maori arts and crafts and the construction of ornate, but durable, native meeting-houses, will constitute a worthy monument to him. In 1948 the University of New Zealand conferred upon him the honorary degree of D.Lit.