Māori King Movement

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Te Arikinui of The Kīngitanga
Flag of Dame te Atairangikaahu.gif
Standard of the Kīngitanga
King Tuheitia Paki 2009.jpg
Tuheitia Paki

Style: His Majesty
Heir apparent: None, elective.
First monarch: Pōtatau Te Wherowhero
Formation: 1858

The flag hoisted at Ngāruawāhia on the proclamation of Pōtatau Te Wherowhero as Māori King, drawn in 1863

The Māori King Movement or Kīngitanga is a movement that arose among some of the Māori tribes of New Zealand in the central North Island in the 1850s, to establish a role similar in status to that of the monarch of the colonising people, the British, as a way of halting the alienation of Māori land.[1] Today, the Māori monarch is a non-constitutional role with no legal power from the perspective of the New Zealand government. Reigning monarchs retain the position of paramount chief of several important tribes and wield some power over these, especially within the Tainui iwi.[2]

The position of Māori monarch was constituted in 1858 by chiefs (rangatira) from many tribes, predominantly in the central North Island.[1] Since the 1850s the role has been vested in the Tainui tribe (iwi) who pledged through the first Māori king, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero, to guard the position.[3] The current Māori monarch, Tuheitia Paki was elected in 2006.[4] His official residence is Tūrongo House at Tūrangawaewae marae in the town of Ngaruawahia.

An early Maori King Movement flag used during the reign of Potatau te Wherowhero.




In the early 1850s, a movement to establish a Māori king developed in response to the selling of Māori land to the Colonial government. Selling was frequently an act that challenged the status quo of political power within iwi. The movement was instigated by Tamihana Te Rauparaha (son of Te Rauparaha) after having met Queen Victoria in the United Kingdom in 1852. It was believed that by having a monarch who could claim status similar to that of Queen Victoria, Māori would be able to deal with Pākehā (Europeans) on equal footing. The establishment of the monarchy was also designed to achieve unity among some iwi and thus weaken the potential on the part of the British law and sovereignty; and, in addition, it was seen as a step towards preserving Maori lore. However a large number of powerful iwi chose to align themselves with the crown, such as Te Arawa, and the leading Ngāpuhi chief Tāmati Wāka Nene went with Governor Grey as an advisor when the Government negotiated a truce with rebel Maori in Taranaki to end the First Taranaki war in 1861. Others were not invited, such as Ngai Tapu,[citation needed] due to the history of inter-iwi hostilities during the musket wars. At its height the Kingitanga had the support of about 30% of Maori but this quickly dwindled after the 1863 defeat. Even in the Waikato not all Waikato hapu were behind the Kingitanga movement, many continuing to support the Queen and government throughout the 1863 rebellion.


The first Māori King, Pōtatau Te Wherowhero

Te Rauparaha's cousin Matene Te Whiwhi of the Ngāti Raukawa and Ngāti Toa iwi attempted unsuccessfully to persuade nine chiefs from various iwi to put themselves forward for the position. The elderly chief Te Wherowhero also expressed his reluctance, but was persuaded to accept the mantle of king at the wish of his own tribe Ngāti Mahuta. Te Wherowhero was formally selected as king by a meeting of chiefs of the Māori tribes held at Pūkawa, Lake Taupo, in April 1857 and was crowned during elaborate ceremonies held at his marae in Ngāruawāhia in 1858. He became known as Pōtatau te Wherowhero or simply Pōtatau.

Tāwhiao's reign[edit]

Tāwhiao, the second Māori King (1860–1894)

Shortly after succeeding his father on 25 June 1860, King Tāwhiao had to contend with increasing friction between the Māori concerns over land rights and independence and those of the Auckland based settler government. The tension eventually erupted into a conflict known today as the New Zealand Wars. Tāwhiao's reign primarily revolved around this conflict and, later maintaining independent coexistence with the New Zealand government. Tawhiao founded the Kauhanganui, the Kingitanga parliament, in 1889 or 1890.[5]

Land Wars[edit]

Map of Māori iwi with Ngati Mahuta iwi highlighted. Potatau te Wherowhero, the first Maori King, had ties to the Ngati Mahuta iwi. The Maori King Movement's territory roughly corresponded to the region marked "Tainui" on the map.

The King Movement had some influence over about a quarter of New Zealand's North Island—in particular, the lands of the Ngati Tuwharetoa, Taranaki, Whanganui and Tainui iwi that were involved in the movement's establishment but even in its Waikato heart land many Christian Maori sided with the government when conflict broke out. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Living in the King Country[edit]

After the 1863 military defeats in Auckland and the Waikato,the Kingitanga established their own press, police force, laws and governing body south of the Puniu River. Europeans who entered the Kīngitanga area were killed. However because the country was unproductive and the people cut themselves off from European civilisation they struggled to develop the Kīngitanga ideal. Drunkenness became a problem among the Kingitanga supporters south of the Puniu, particularly after the arrival of Te Kooti, who had a long established drink problem from his youth. Friction broke out between the Maniapoto hosts who wanted to engage with the European settlers and the conservative, mystic, Kīngitanga adherents who wanted to retain power and remain isolated.

Peace and opening-up[edit]

Masthead from Te Paki o Matariki, newspaper of the Kīngitanga (Māori King Movement), edition of 8 May 1893. This represents Matariki or the Pleiades as harbingers of good weather and fruitful endeavours.

Over time the more forward thinking ideas of Maniapoto prevailed, land was sold to the government and work was given to Tainui men on roads and on the main trunk line railway. Māori men were given the vote and Māori were given four members in parliament who all argued strongly for modernisation and acceptance of the benefits of Pākehā civilisation. Following this schools, stores and churches were built. Some of the Tainui leaders were employed by the government as advisors or given government pensions in recognition of their change of heart and willingness to engage with the government. Tainui continued to work behind the scenes to recover the remainder of the land they believed was wrongly confiscated (120,000 acres (490 km2) was returned by 1873) from them after their defeat during the land wars. Some land or reserves were given back to Tainui but this act caused intra-tribal friction for many years because most of the land retained by the government was in the north and central Waikato. [5]

20th century – present[edit]

Return of confiscated land[edit]

120,000 acres (490 km2) of land was returned to the rebels a few months after the British victory. In 1926 a government commission agreed to pay an annual payment of 3000 pounds. In 1946 an additional payment of 5000 pounds (later $15,000) per annum was made in perpetuity – this was a full and final payment. Since the 1990s Tainui have been actively seeking a resolution to their ongoing grievance over land confiscation. This has resulted in Tainui being gifted $170 million worth of government-owned land and financial compensation.

Te Atairangikaahu[edit]

Dame Te Atairangikaahu, a child born within the marriage of Maori King Korokī Mahuta, was elected as the first Maori Queen on 23 May 1966 and served until her death on 15 August 2006. Her 40-year reign was the longest of any Maori monarch.

Present day[edit]

Following the death of his celebrated mother, Dame Te Atairangikaahu, Tuheitia Paki was sworn in as the Maori King on 21 August 2006.

Today, the Maori monarch is a ceremonial position, one that is de facto subject to the New Zealand government. Although the monarchs of the Kingitanga are not recognised by the New Zealand law or many Maori tribes, they do hold the distinction of being paramount chiefs of a number of important Maori tribes and wield some power on a local level, especially within the Tainui iwi.[2]

Dealings with the Crown[edit]

After the end of the First Taranaki war which saw a defeat for the Ngati Maniapoto rebel Kingites in 1861, the British government under Governor Thomas Gore-Browne began making arrangements to attack the Kingites in Waikato to assert British authority over the interior of the North Island.

Pōtatau who at this time lived at Mangere near Auckland, wished to continue to work in co-operation with the British Government, but many of his followers adopted an opposing position. The issue came to a head when kingites in Taranaki attacked a British military patrol escorting a soldier for trial were ambushed. Warned by the governor that setting up an alternative system of government would be viewed as rebellion, kingities armed themselves in preparation for attacks in Auckland. Kingities set up a self-declared boundary at Mangatawhiri stream and prepared a fortress/ farm on the Kohero Ridge. This culminated in warfare in the Waikato region in 1863–64, by which time Pōtatau had died (in 1860) and been succeeded by his son, Matutaera Tāwhiao, or King Tāwhiao. Tawhaio surrendered to the crown in 1865 to formally end the Waikato campaign of the Land wars. The surrender was unconditional but the government agreed that no Kingities would be arrested provided they remain peaceful.

In light of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, King Tāwhiao travelled to England to petition Queen Victoria in 1884 for an independent Māori parliament and an independent inquiry into land confiscations. His request to meet with the Queen was rejected and he was instead introduced to Lord Derby at the Colonial Office. He referred the petition to the New Zealand Government on the grounds that the Imperial government no longer had responsibility for such matters, but the New Zealand government dismissed it. All subsequent petitions taken to Britain were referred back to the New Zealand Government on the same grounds.[6]

During World War I kingite aligned iwi refused to serve in the New Zealand army. The Maori pioneer corps which fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front were volunteers from loyal or kupapa tribes such as Arawa.[7][8][9]


The position of Māori monarch is not hereditary in principle. The monarch is appointed by the leaders of the tribes involved in the Kīngitanga movement on the day of the previous monarch's funeral and before the burial.[10] To date, however, every new Māori monarch has been the previous monarch's heir by cognatic primogeniture, descending in seven generations from Pōtatau Te Wherowhero to the present Māori king. With each successive monarch, the role of Pōtatau's family has been entrenched, although after any reign ends there is the potential for the mantle to be passed to someone from another family or tribe if the chiefs of the various tribes are in agreement. Thus far, though, the monarchy has been hereditary in effect.

A European analogue is the position of Holy Roman Emperor, which was technically elective but which passed along the line of the House of Habsburg for more than three and a half centuries, though with a single exception.


The Kingitanga has been a parliamentary elected monarchy since 1890. Power is divided between the Kauhanganui, the Kingitanga and Waikato Tainui parliament, and the standing Maori monarch. The position of the Maori king is mainly a highly respected ceremonial role within the Waikato Tainui tribe with limited powers. Nevertheless, the standing monarch can influence tribal policy based on their mana and is entitled to appoint one of the 11 members on the Te Arataura, the executive board of the Kauhanganui.[11]

List of Māori monarchs[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mana Whenua". Bateman New Zealand Historical Atlas. 1997. p. plate 36. ISBN 1-86953-335-6. 
  2. ^ a b Foster, Bernard. "TE KĪNGITANGA". TE KĪNGITANGA. Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "NZ History – The Māori King Movement". Ministry of Culture and Heritage. 3 July 2008. 
  4. ^ "Tuheitia new Maori king". New Zealand Herald. 21 August 2006. 
  5. ^ "Tensions ease – Maori King movement 1860–94". Normilising relations. New Zealand History online. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  6. ^ NZHistory.net.nz
  7. ^ "Resistance to conscription – Maori and the First World War", nzhistory.net.nz
  8. ^ "Maori objection", nzhistory.net.nz
  9. ^ "Discussion by Chiefs: Position of Waikatos", 9 July 1917, Ashburton Guardian
  10. ^ "Leaders to debate succession and Kīngitanga's future". NZ Herald. 16 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-16. 
  11. ^ "Executive body of Te Kauhanganui". Te Arataura. Waikato Tainui. Retrieved 6 July 2012. 

External links[edit]