Whanau | People

Ko Hikurangi te Maunga

Ko Waiapu te Awa

Ko Ngati Porou te Iwi

Whanau, hapu and iwi life are central to being Ngati Porou. Regardless of where we are, maintaining these connections have been crucial to our life, and we have worked hard to stay connected. We also faced many challenges, whether it was health, migration or more recently whanau dysfunction, and we would often come up with unique solutions. We also understood that our spiritual, physical and social needs were all connected to our unique and strong sense of identity. Every whanau and hapu has their own perspective of their own lives: the following is one telling of the story…

Maintaining Hapu and Iwi Connections | Ngati Porou Health
Ngati Porou Spirituality and Faith | Ngati Porou Migration

Maintaining Hapu and Iwi Connections

Ngati Porou have found a variety of ways to maintain connections between whanau and hapu and iwi.


Whanau life is central to being Ngati Porou. Whanau is more than just ‘family’ – it is about identity, purpose and being connected. Within whanau people have always had their roles. Tuakana would look after teina; pakeke (elders) have the task of passing on knowledge of whakapapa and whaikorero to mokopuna (grandchildren), performing the whaikorero on marae or acting as advisors to local youth. The maintenance of this dynamic is whanaungatanga, which then extends out to hapu and iwi. Ngati Porou have always worked hard to maintain this whanaungatanga, to connect the people in a common identity and purpose.

The migration of many of our people to other rohe since World War Two has meant we have had to find new ways to do this. The importance of kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face to face) is still hugely important, physically coming together and sharing with one another. But in recent times we have found other ways to add to this, including the use of writing, radio, sports and the internet.

Learn more about a Ngati Porou whanau experience...


Traditionally hui were ways to bring together the iwi. Large hakari (feasts) were held to demonstrate manaakitanga (generosity) and mana. These gatherings could be used to celebrate occasions or events, or to unify various hapu. The hapu and iwi coming together was an important part of maintaining a collective identity. By the nineteenth century these gathering could be huge and bring together several iwi at once around a particular kaupapa. In 1872 for example Rapata Wahawaha called a hui at Mataahu near Whareponga to mark a new phase in Ngati Porou life. 52 hapu gathered as well as other iwi delegations, with tremendous feasting and speeches. The hui was successful, and even though it came at a huge cost in resources to the iwi, they nevertheless felt it was still worthwhile.


Iwi and Hapu came together for a variety of reasons, not just political. Kaupapa could include entertainment or sporting events such as rugby matches. These events became part of the culture of Ngati Porou. For example horse races were often held at Tikitiki with small nuggety horses called Naati. These horses became famous for their resilience and ability to go anywhere. They became so embedded in the culture that ‘Naati’ and the horse culture became part of the Ngati Porou identity, along with ‘Kaupoi (Cowboys), the knickname for the C Company during World War Two. Thus the collective Ngati Porou identity could come from a variety of sources.

Pa Wars

Pa wars has been a very successful way to keep the iwi connected

Pa Wars, officially known as the Ngati Porou Inter-Marae Sports Festival, is a more recent way of building Ngati Porou whanaungatanga. Pa Wars brings together different marae from around Ngati Porou in January each year to take part in highly competitive sporting contests.

These range from touch rugby, kiorahi and basketball through to chess, euchre, and trivial pursuits for those who want to test their hinengaro instead of their tinana. In 2005 over 1000 people from 22 marae entered and over 10000 people were present, and in the 2006 festival won that year’s Maori Sports Award for Community Initiative.

Nga Niupepa o Ngati Porou

Writing has always been a large part of Ngati Porou culture since the introduction of literacy. We have had lots of prolific authors wanting to share their views in order to bring together the iwi. Reweti Kohere was editor for many years of the Maori language newspaper Te Pipiwharauroa. Although published by Te Hahi Mihinare the newspaper was a great source of knowledge and information for many iwi, particularly for Ngati Porou, with Mohi Turei for example contributing many articles on Ngati Porou history. Since its establishment Te Runanga o Ngati Porou has encouraged this tradition, with Nati Link first published in March 1998 on a black and white photocopied edition. Today Nati Link is a high-quality professionally-produced magazine published alongside Nga Kohinga o Ngati Porou, sharing information and bringing the iwi together. This website NgatiPorou.com is the latest way we have of promoting and maintaining whanaungatanga amongst our iwi.

Radio Ngati Porou

The jewel in the crown of Ngati Porou communication has to be Radio Ngati Porou. Started in 1987 the station was one of the first to be established and was the fruit of a long struggle across te ao Maori to hear our own reo on the airwaves. Since then the station has gone from strength to strength, becoming a key part of Ngati Porou whanaungatanga not just on the coast but broadcasting through the internet to Nati all over the world. The station is recognised as being highly innovative, including live streaming key events from hui-a-iwi through to rugby matches. The station is award-winning and in 2014 won three awards at the Iwi Radio Awards including Te Ohaoha Nui ki te Hapori award for Outstanding Community Contribution by an Iwi Station, won for the 24hour radiothon it ran to raise funds for the new C Company House.


Sarah McGlashan has made the iwi proud with her exploits on the cricket pitch

Sport has played a hugely important role in the whanaungatanga of Ngati Porou. Rugby has been the primary sport, and we are the only iwi today with our own provincial rugby team, Ngati Porou East Coast. Ngati Porou have excelled at a range of sports over the years.

Ngati Porou have been tremendously successful at football (soccer). Wynton Rufer is undoubtedly the most successful Ngati Porou and New Zealand footballer of all time, winning six titles with Werder Bremen in Germany and he was named Oceania Footballer of the Century by the Oceania Football Confederation. Heremaia ("Harry") Ngata began his career with Hull City in England, and may have been the first Maori footballer to play in the English premiere league, as well as representing New Zealand.

There have been many outstanding Ngati Porou netballers, most famously Silver Ferns captain and now coach Waimarama Taumaunu, MBE. Waimarama was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the Maori Sports Hall of Fame in 2007, and has been the Silver Fern’s coach since 2011.

Brother and sister Sara and Peter McGlashan have both represented New Zealand at cricket. Sarah has over 100 ODI caps for the White Ferns, and is one of New Zealand’s most experienced woman cricketers.

Ngati Porou have been heavily involved in tennis. In 1910 Mere Houkamau Stainton partnered with Paraire Tomoana of Ngati Kahungunu to take out the inaugural inter-rohe Marumaru Cup mixed doubles competition. Tennis remained a popular Ngati Porou sport for many years. In 1926 Ta Apirana worked with Taiporutu Mitchell and Pei Te Hurinui Jones and others to establish The New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association (which later became the Aotearoa Maori Tennis Association). In more recent times Kelly Evernden made the iwi proud by playing at Wimbledon, the Olympics and the Australian Open. Ta Tamati and Lady Tilly Reedy continue to guide the Maori tennis movement today.

Of course we have excelled at other sports as well. From Rugby League to waka ama, from boxing to judo, we strive for success in all that we do.

Learn more about the history of Ngati Porou rugby...

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Ngati Porou Health

Traditional Wellbeing

Traditionally our health was viewed in a holistic, all round way. Well-being was tied not only to the taha tinana (physical health) but also to the taha wairua (spiritual health). Sickness could come from both mate tangata (physical causes) and mate atua (spiritual causes), with breaches of tapu being understood as a leading cause of sickness.

Cures could be both physical and spiritual. Physical cures could include the use of rongoa - medicinal plants - including Kawakawa leaves, Rata bark, Koromiko leaves and Kumarahou. We had a deep understanding of the properties of these plants and their impact built up over many generations. Spiritual cures could include karakia and other rituals performed by tohunga, experts in these rites. Concepts like tapu also helped limit the spread of disease and sickness amongst our people.

New Diseases, New Ideas

The arrival of Pakeha brought new forms of sickness that we had no immunity against. Diseases such as venereal infections, measles, influenza and tuberculosis decimated our people. Although Ngati Porou were slightly better off due to our relative distance from main Pakeha population centres, we still had a population decline right up to the end of the nineteenth century.

By the end of the century new Maori leadership was emerging in the health field. In 1897 the Te Aute College Students Association (later known as the Young Maori Party) began its work with Maori communities across the country. TACSA was a group of students from various iwi who were graduates of Te Aute College, the Anglican boarding school based in Hawkes Bay. Ngati Porou played a large role in the establishment and maintenance of this movement, and many of the leading graduates were from our iwi. In particular Ta Apirana was the secretary for the movement and other leading members included Tutere Wi Reepa and Reweti Kohere.

TACSA members travelled from village to village encouraging better sanitation and the use of Western medical innovations. This was important in a time when our traditional health practices were under great strain and these actions helped the recovery of the Maori population.

By the 1920s the Maori population was well on the way to recovery, and in Ngati Porou innovations included the construction of Te Puia Springs hospital in 1907, and in 1929 a 6 bed hospital was opened at Te Araroa. Although our health was improving by the 1930s we still struggled. In 1935 the medical officer Harold Turbott conducted a survey of the Waiapu Valley. We had ten times the tuberculosis rates of Pakeha and six times the influenza rates.

Ngati Porou Health Professionals

Tutere Wi Repa led a proud tradition of Ngāti Porou health professionals

Ngati Porou embraced western medicine, and were among the first of the new Maori practitioners of this new way.

Tutere Wi Repa graduated from Otago University medical school in 1909 and became the third Maori to qualify as a doctor after Sir Maui Pomare and Te Rangi Hiroa, both of Ngati Mutunga in Taranaki.

Wi Repa became resident doctor at Te Araroa from 1912. Others followed in his health footsteps. Encouraged by Ta Apirana, Emere Kaa for example left Rangitukia and graduated as a nurse from Dunedin Hospital in 1925.

In more recent times we have had Dr Paratene Ngata and Dr Lorraine Brooking as leading examples in the profession.

The Rise of the Hauora

Although we had embraced this new way, in many areas we still held on to our traditional understandings of health and well-being. Rongoa was used continuously and we retained a deep belief in the power of the wairua (spirit) to be an important part of health and healing.

These beliefs were placed under pressure by a Pakeha society that demanded conformity with its ways. The Tohunga Suppression Act of 1907 attempted to crack down on traditional healers, an example of this practice. The reality was though that many leading Ngati Porou supported this legislation, partly because it would stop people who were out to make money off of sickness.

By the 1980s though Maori health was still well below that of Pakeha, and something more was needed. This medical disparity was also partly due to our relative poverty in this country. There was increasing recognition in medical circles of the legitimacy of our traditional understandings to complement Western practices. Rangitane academic Mason Durie developed a model Te Whare Tapawha that reintroduced a holistic aspect to Maori health and well-being.

Maori responses to this health situation included the work and advocacy of the Maori Women's Welfare League, as well as the Kohanga Reo movement that supported well-being amongst tamariki and whanau. In Ngati Porou hapu joined together in 1994 to establish the Ngati Porou Hauora to lead our health development. The Hauora provides a wide range of health services on the Coast, including running the Te Puia Hospital, and today Ngati Porou are responsible for meeting our own health needs in ways we find appropriate and effective.

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Ngati Porou Spirituality and Faith

Te Taha Wairua

Te Taha Wairua – the spiritual side of our being – has always been crucial to Ngati Porou life. Concepts such as tapu and mana were tied to our spirituality, embodied in our rangatira (chiefs) and maintained and guided by our tohunga. Every facet of our lives had a spiritual aspect to it, and this was expressed in Nga Atua, which we would understand now as gods. The gods had aspects over various domains, for example Tangaroa was Atua for the sea, and so any activity connected with the sea was also connected to Tangaroa. Our health, our well-being, our economic success and our authority were all dependent on the spiritual realm.


The arrival of Christianity in Ngati Porou in 1834 with Piripi Taumataakura meant a substantial realignment of our understandings of our spirituality. European missionaries were in many ways ‘agents of colonisation’ who confused their own Christian message with their European culture. This often meant a clash between our own understandings of spirituality and that of European Christianity, often with devastating results. However the Ngati Porou experience of Christianity was different from some iwi in that we controlled its introduction and how it became part of our lives.

Learn more about Piripi Taumataakura...

Te Hahi Mihinare

Mihinare minita at the tangi of Tā Apirana - starting second from left: Poihipi Kohere, Keepa Paenga [at back], Mutu Kapa (Te Aupouri), Pīhopa Bennett, Sam Rangiihu, Te Hihi Kaa, John Tamahori, Paki Tipene

Christianity was initially spread throughout Ngati Porou by Kaiwhakaako (teachers and evangelists) who travelled to different rohe engaging with hapu. The haka Tihei Taruke tells of this initial spread:

Rangitukia ra te pariha i tukua atu ai nga Kaiwhakaako tokowha.

Ruka ki Reporua

Hohepa ki te Paripari

Kawhia ki Whangakareao.

Apakura ki Whangapirita e!

Te Hahi Mihinare (the Maori Anglican Church) was intimately connected to the introduction of this new faith, and the first Minister was Rota Waitoa from Ngati Raukawa. Based at Te Araroa he along with the rangatira Te Houkamau built the Church St Stephens. Soon other Ngati Porou were ordained as Ministers, including Raniera Kawhia, Hare Tawhaa and Mohi Turei. These men had been trained as tohunga originally and so were well placed to lead our spiritual transition. Turei for example spent most of his life working through a theology that could reconcile the new and the old.

Te Hahi Mihinare soon became a part of the Ngati Porou establishment. The Waiapu Diocese that spread from Tauranga in the West to Ngati Kahungunu in the South was led by the missionary Bishop William Williams along with a Hinota (Synod) dominated by Ngati Porou rangatira including Mokena Kohre, Rapata Whakawaha and Henare Potae among others. The proceedings of the Hinota were conducted entirely in te reo and reflected the needs and aspirations of the iwi.

In the 1920s Ta Apirana led the charge for the first Maori Pihopa (Bishop), singlehandedly persuading the Pakeha elite of New Zealand that we needed to have a Maori in the role. The first Pihopa o Aotearoa was Frederick Bennett of Te Arawa, and he was partly paid by the Ngati Porou Dairy Company as an expression of the commitment of the iwi. The first Ngati Porou Pihopa o Aotearoa was the current Bishop Paraone Turei, who was installed at Poho-o-Rawiri marae in 2005.

Whare karakia also became a feature of Ngati Porou with many built throughout the Coast. The pinnacle of this building programme was the opening in 1926 of St Mary’s in Tikitiki, designed as a profound theological expression of Ngati Porou spirituality. There were so many churches built that the saying came about ‘He Piko, He Whare Karakia’ (at every bend [of the river], a church).

Pai Marire

The clash between Pakeha and Maori worldviews found expression in whakapono. Many Maori became disillusioned with the broken promises of the missionaries and their ties to the oppressive Pakeha settler government. By the 1860s the majority of Ngati Porou hapu had turned their backs on Te Hahi Mihinare and were aligned with the Pai Marire movement founded by the Taranaki prophet Te Ua Haumene.

In 1865 the situation led to war within Ngati Porou over our future direction. Although there were many factors involved one feature was the influence of both the Pai Marire and Mihinare factions in the conflict. Eventually the Mihinare faction was victorious and enforced a kind of religious settlement on the defeated. This was followed by a time of peace and reconciliation, including intermarriage between the two factions.

Te Hahi Ringatu

In the 1870s the prophet Te Kooti Arikirangi had a series of visions that led to a military resistance against the settler state. After this war ended, Te Kooti’s followers established Te Hahi Ringatu and practiced his teachings. Many Ngati Porou followed in this tradition, living out their faith alongside their fellow Mihinare in a uniquely Ngati Porou way. Anaru Takurua  is a good example of this, raised as a Ringatu in Tokomaru Bay and eventually becoming an ordained Mihinare priest, carrying out and teaching the best of both faiths.

Many Hahi, Many Ways

Today many hahi are a part of Ngati Porou. From the 1880s the Mormon Church from America found great success among Maori, partly because of their emphasis on whakapapa. Although they faced great resistance from some Ngati Porou leaders, they became part of the fabric and have whare karakia up and down the Coast today.

Te Hahi Ratana was established after a vision by the prophet Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana in Taranaki in 1918. As with the Mormon faith his followers encountered great resistance in Ngati Porou, but can often be seen sharing ministry on the Coast. Ngati Porou today include many Roman Catholics, Pentecostals and a wide range of denominations. The House of Breakthrough for example based in Gisborne is today meeting the spiritual needs of many Ngati Porou whanau.

There is also a revival today of what is seen as ‘authentic’ Ngati Porou spirituality. Based on a recovery of knowledge, new ways are being found of expressing age-old spiritual traditions. This is all part of the Ngati Porou spiritual life, which remains crucial to our well-being and our whanau.

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Ngati Porou Migration

Te Ahi Ka

Ngati Porou have always been a mobile people. Although we based our existence on our connection to the whenua, we would move across that whenua for different reasons. Food gathering for example required us to move at different seasons, inland to gather kai at some times, to the sea for kai moana at others. We could also move for reasons of war, or for trade, or for health. The important factor though was the ongoing maintenance of Te Ahi Ka (the burning fires) in order to maintain ownership of and connections to the whenua. Although a hapu or whanau might move from time to time, they would make sure they maintained their connection to the whenua.

Unsettled Times

The musket wars of the 1820s created great destabilisation amongst iwi. Many iwi moved great distances to either escape war or to take advantage of opportunities. The Ngati Toarangatira iwi for example led by their rangatira Te Rauparaha moved from Kawhia to the Southern North Island and the Northern South Island. Ngati Porou hapu were fortunate in that our relative geographic isolation saved us from the worst of these conflicts. However we still moved internally, for example many hapu came together in large fortified pa in the Waiapu valley to provide safety from Ngapuhi raids.

Land Loss and Movement

Ngati Porou leaders worked hard to protect our lands from being alienated during the nineteenth century. However we still came under pressure, and ended up losing half our land by the end of the century. We also undertook land consolidation that made the land economically viable but for less whanau. This created early pressure for whanau to migrate, and by the 1930s whanau were leaving the Coast for towns.

Post-War Migration

Suburbs like Canons Creek in Porirua were built especially for new families migrating to the cities, including those from Ngāti Porou

The main movement of our people began at the end of World War Two. By the 1950s our population was growing rapidly due to improving health but we had less land to support our population. We were also still facing pressure to alienate us from our lands. Government policy was also forcing us to leave, withdrawing support for those who stayed and offering enticements including housing and support for those who left – it was an offer that was almost impossible to refuse. The idea behind the policy was laid out in the Hunn Report of 1960 and called ‘integration’ – that over time we would become more like Pakeha, and less like ourselves.

The towns and cities offered us many attractions. There were plenty of jobs in the cities, being a time of full employment. These jobs were relatively well paid, and a whanau could become relatively rich. The cities also offered an appealing lifestyle, with less back-breaking labour and more leisure time and opportunities – whanau could go to the races or the beach instead of having to weed the kumara patch.

Ngati Porou and Maori migration overall in the 1960s was massive. It has been described as one of the biggest population transitions in history, moving from around 20% of us living in the cities in 1945 through to 90% of us today. Ngati Porou has been particularly affected by this. Of the 71910 Ngati Porou registered in the 2013 census, only around 5000 of us live in our rohe and around 13000 in Auckland alone.

Impact of Urbanisation

There were many negative outcomes to this post-war migration. Whanau who moved to the cities quickly lost connection with their language and their identity. Whanau life changed rapidly, and many of our rangatahi became involved with crime without having the traditional support networks in place. Many also became involved in gangs as a substitute for traditional whanau.

Maori in the cities also faced the constant pressure of assimilation. Maori housing for example was deliberately placed among new Pakeha houses in a system called ‘pepper-potting’ in an attempt to encourage us to be more like them. Schooling was also a place of pressure to conform with Pakeha culture.

The impact was not all negative however. Ngati Porou in the cities were able to maintain strong ties to their whanau at home, returning for holidays, tangihanga or big events. Ngati Porou in the cities were able to financially support marae and other projects, and many worked hard at maintaining their ahi ka.

New Urban Communities

Ngati Porou in the cities quickly found positive outlets for their energy as well. New ropu sprang up and new places to gather were quickly established. Nati could be found in urban church communities such as Tatai Hono in Auckland under the leadership of Hone Kaa. The Horouta Marae was established in Porirua to cater for the cultural needs of Ngati Porou in Poneke, with the new wharenui opened in 2013. Ngati Porou were also involved in urban sports clubs, community groups and kapa haka ropu as places to come together to practice and maintain their whanuangatanga.

New urban authorities sprang up to provide services and leadership to our people in the cities. Such groups had been established very early on. The Ngati Poneke ropu was established in the 1930s, led by Kingi Tahiwi of Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Whakaue to cater for the cultural needs of Maori living in Wellington. The ropu had many Ngati Porou members and was mentored and guided by Ta Apirana, who also named the group. In 1984 Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust was established to meet the needs of whanau in West Auckland and is today led by John Tamihere. In 1986 the Jackson whanau led the establishment of the Manukau Urban Maori Authority to cater for those in the South of the city.


The Porou Ariki kapa haka roopu proudly represented the iwi based in Auckland

Over the years groups of Ngati Porou have also been formed to maintain ties to the iwi. Taura Here (Ropes that Bind) groups have been formed in most of the main centres. Lately these groups have become more professional and organised. In Auckland the Taurahere ropu entered into the local kapa haka regional competitions under the name ‘Porou Ariki’ and were very successful, gaining a place at the national competitions. In 2014 Ngati Porou ki Poneke hosted a very well-received Ngata Lecture series at Te Papa museum.

The Mozzies

The second large wave of Ngati Porou migration began in the 1980s as we moved from the cities to Australia. Maori communities quickly grew in Australian cities, with Bondi in Sydney becoming famous as a Maori community. As we had done in New Zealand, we helped establish ropu that would maintain our whanaungatanga, including sports clubs, kapa haka ropu and faith-based groups. It is estimated that today as many as one in five Maori live in Australia, meaning there may be around 15000 Ngati Porou living in Australia today.