A Nga Puhi leader from the Bay of Islands, Te Wera's child from his first wife was accidentally burned, and this gave rise to Hauraki’s name, Te Wera (the burning). Te Wera Hauraki is commemorated with great gratitude by the Ngati-Kahungunu people when they faced the greatest crisis in their history, this Nga Puhi leader rose as their protector and saved them from almost certain annihilation.
Pakeha traders taught the natives to use muskets and powder and shot and Maori traded with them for these weapons. After which all over the Island leaders had arisen, seeking supremacy for their tribes, a supremacy that could only be won by conquest. The great Rauparaha had arisen, Hongi Hika at Rotorua, Pomare in the North, while the Waikato, Ngati Raukawa (Otaki) and Tuwhare-toa (Taupo), all had able leaders. Sorties and threats from these enemies put the East Coast in continual turmoil and fear. But the Ngati-Kahungunu were slow to get involved with the weapons trade and if it had not been for Te Wera they might not exist today.
Te Wera first appeared on the East Coast as the enemy of the Ngati-Kahungunu, c.1821 a party of the northern Ngapuhis led by him, raided the Mahia pa, Nukutaurua. Among the prisoners who were captured and taken to the Bay of Islands was a chief named Te Whare-umu. He then served under Te Wera as a warrior and upon Te Wera awarding him the return of a famous greenstone mere (an heirloom of his family) he became a head general for Te Wera and served him faithfully.
Te Wera's first contact with the missionaries was probably with Thomas Kendall and John King. They had given him some assistance with planting his wheat near Kerikeri back in 1817. He had even met Samuel Marsden one evening in October 1819. It was after this he seemed no longer so set on utu.
In 1826, Te Wera determined to return Te Whare-umu and his famous heirloom to his home and his people. When he kept his promise Te Whare-umu seeing the situation of his people requested that Te Wera become as a father to them. “You will be a fence against this wind and that, and you and your tribe must permanently remain here.“ Te Wera consented to become their leader.
By the 1830s Te Wera was one of the most significant chiefs on the East Coast. He formed alliances with other tribes in the area and provided some much needed stability and protection, Although still actively engaged in tribal warfare, Te Wera picked his quarrels judiciously, and was respected for his total integrity.
Because of the peace and order he introduced, hospitality towards missionaries became possible. By the time of his death in 1839 an indigenous Maori Christian mission was growing within the kinship networks of the area. This was particularly so among the relatives of Te Wera.
Te Wera’s principal biographer, Takaanui Tarakawa, says that Te Wera died of old age, mourned by all the tribes of the East Coast. In some traditions it is said that he returned to the Bay of Islands in his last year and is buried there on Te Ahuahu Hill.
BORN: Unknown, New Zealand
DIED: 1839, East Coast, New Zealand