Native Land Court. [Otamarakau]
Theophilus Heale, Esq., Judge; Hone Peeti, Assessor.Otamarakau.
It has been made clear to the Court, on fully weighing the lengthy evidence taken, that from ancient times this land was occupied by Waitaha, and that they became connected by intermarriage with different parties of Ngatiawa, who, under Maruahaira, Rangihouhiri, and probably others, migrated from the East. They also kept up a close connection with the Ngaoho, since called the Arawa tribes, through the Ngatipikiao, who lived immediately inland at Rotoehu and Rotorua.
After the Ngapuhi invasion, nearly the whole of the Arawa tribes came into deadly warfare with the main body of the descendants of the Ngatiawa intruders, who, under the general name of Ngatirangihouhiri, had long held the "mana" over their ancestral lands about Maketu.
In the troubled times which followed the introduction of fire-arms, the whole associated Arawa tribes, including Waitaha, were engaged in scraping flax to procure from the white traders the means of defending their lives. All old occupations of lands were disturbed, and each hapu settled temporarily on the most convenient spot for the work on which they were engaged, and especially on the banks of the Pongakawa river.
As soon as the conquest from the Ngatirangihouhiri was completed by the taking of Te Tumu and the occupation of Maketu, a division was made of the lands which had lain long without inhabitants, like those round Maketu, and the hapus generally re-occupied the places where their ancestors had lived. The Waitaha hapus, and they only, returned to Otamarakau.
They could not have done so except as a result of the conquest made by the whole tribe, and the occupation of particular pieces must have been by the common consent. But Maori custom as well as European law, requires that when indivdual rights have been recognised by the community they should for ever be held secure; therefore, since the conquering Arawa tribes respected the ancestral rights of the Waitaha hapu to this land, to the Waitaha it must be held to belong, and it only remains to ascertain whether names can be selected from the different hapus descended from Waitaha to be declared owners of the whole block, or whether it will be necessary for the Court to investigate the several claims of the different hapus to particular pieces within it.