Story: Raukawa, Te Mete

Page 1 - Raukawa, Te Mete

Raukawa, Te Mete

1836/1837?–1926

Ngati Ranginui leader, assessor, sportsman

This biography was written by Alister Matheson and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 2, 1993

Te Mete Raukawa of Ngati Hangarau, a section of Ngati Ranginui, was born at Bethlehem, Tauranga, probably in 1836 or 1837. He was the elder son of Simpson (Simson) Smith, a Scotsman who traded between Auckland and Tauranga; his mother was Raukawa Matia of Ngati Hangarau, a woman of rank. As a supporter of the King movement Te Mete fought in the wars in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty, including the battle of Gate Pa at Tauranga on 29 April 1864. Te Mete's leadership, firmness of character and judgement asserted themselves after the wars. Although constantly reminding his people of the confiscation of their land, he encouraged them by exhortation and example to self-reliance and abstention from alcohol.

Renowned as an orator with a very powerful voice – it was said that when speaking on the marae at Bethlehem he could be heard at Te Puna, almost one mile distant – Te Mete became the leading spokesman of all the Maori people of Tauranga, both Ngati Ranginui and Ngai Te Rangi. He often gave evidence on their behalf to the Native Land Court, and represented them on special occasions such as visits by governors and political leaders. With Hori Ngatai, leader of Ngai Te Rangi, he ably voiced their concerns when the native minister, John Ballance, visited Tauranga in 1885. He was appointed an assessor in 1884.

When the Maori King, Tawhiao, established his parliament, Te Kauhanganui, at Maungakawa near Cambridge in the late 1880s, Te Mete became one of its members. In 1894 he was appointed one of the Maori King's magistrates; his functions were to uphold Te Kauhanganui's laws, to keep the peace and to settle disputes. In June 1896 his Bethlehem settlement was the first place where Tawhiao's successor, Mahuta, stayed on his visit to the Bay of Plenty. He was accompanied by about 100 followers, and a large whare was built for their accommodation.

After Mahuta's death in 1912 Te Kauhanganui was moved to Rukumoana pa, near Morrinsville. Te Mete Raukawa and Potaua Tangitu, leader of the Pirirakau people of Te Puna, attended meetings there by riding on horseback along the ancient Wairere and Tuhi tracks over the Kaimai Range.

Te Mete was strongly opposed to the dog tax imposed by county councils in the 1890s. However, Tawhiao began collecting his own dog taxes and in 1894 Te Kauhanganui appointed Te Mete as a registrar of Maori dogs. Later, when the Maori councils set up by the New Zealand government were empowered to collect the tax, Te Mete and Ngati Ranginui refused to recognise the authority of the Matatua District Maori Council; they considered they should come under the jurisdiction of the Waikato council. Their offer to pay the tax to the European district councils was rejected. Five men were gaoled for non-payment of the tax in 1905.

Te Mete attended many Maori conferences in different parts of New Zealand and sometimes called such meetings at Bethlehem. However, he refused to stand for Parliament when the opportunity was offered to him in 1908. In 1909 Te Mete was the first to sign Tana Tainga-kawa's petition concerning violation of the Treaty of Waitangi.

In 1900 Tauranga's Catholic Maori opened a new church. The old mission church at Otumoetai had been abandoned and the bell, given by Bishop J. B. F. Pompallier, had been taken to St Mary's Church in Tauranga in the 1870s. A request for its return, although supported by Archbishop Francis Redwood, was refused, and the bell remained at Tauranga. The affair became a talking point among the tribes throughout New Zealand. It was settled when a party, which almost certainly included Te Mete, raided the belfry of St Mary's Church in broad daylight and removed the bell to the new church at Te Puna, where it remained.

Te Mete was a strong supporter of the Paeroa school, near Bethlehem. He emphasised the advantages of a European education in allowing Maori children to compete equally with Europeans. He saw other advantages to be gained from Europeans, strongly supporting the building of roads and railways in the Bay of Plenty.

A very keen sportsman, Te Mete trained many horses at Bethlehem and raced them successfully at Tauranga and elsewhere. About the turn of the century he spent some time in the Rangitikei district, where he was associated with Dan Riddiford, master of the Rangitikei Hunt. Such was Te Mete's standing in Tauranga that when the first race meeting was held at Otumoetai in 1893 he was invited to be the judge.

Te Mete Raukawa died at Bethlehem on 13 August 1926, survived by 10 of his children; his wife, Whare-angiangi, daughter of Ngai Te Rangi leader Te Kereti, had died in 1914. Because of Te Mete's close association with the King, permission was granted for the Maori King's coat of arms – the first completely carved outside of Tainui – to be placed above the door of Hangarau, the ancestral meeting house at Bethlehem, when it was rebuilt in the 1960s.