Story: Maioha, Hamiora Wiremu

Page 1 - Biography

Maioha, Hamiora Wiremu

1888–1963

Nga Puhi; interpreter, farmer, community leader

This biography was written by Angela Ballara and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 3, 1996

Hamiora Wiremu Maioha, of Ngai Tawake hapu of Nga Puhi resident in the Bay of Islands, was often known as Hami, as Tahi to his intimates, and as Sam Maioha junior to his Pakeha business associates. He was the son of Wiremu Tarapipipi Maioha and Kariti Toi of Nga Puhi. His paternal grandmother was Rimaumau (Makere) of Nga Puhi. She had married Hone Maioha, a cousin of the brothers Patara Te Tuhi and Honana Te Maioha of Ngati Mahuta of Waikato. One of Hami's younger kin was Hare Hongi (H. M. Stowell).

According to family information, Hamiora Maioha was born on 21 September 1888 at Waimamaku. He was orphaned quite early in life, and was brought up by his uncle, Sam Maioha senior, of Waimate North. He passed the sixth standard at primary school, and was later tutored, probably by his uncle, a licensed interpreter who probably also taught him the meticulous book- and record-keeping Hamiora practised all his life. In 1908 he qualified as a second-grade interpreter and in 1910 as first-grade. Possibly to avoid competition with his uncle he moved to Kaikohe, where from 1910 until 1923 he practised as a licensed interpreter.

His main work was for law firms, some as far afield as Auckland, interpreting deeds and accounts for their Maori clients and facilitating the purchase of Maori land by obtaining signatures to transfer deeds and proxies to sales. He negotiated leases, and sometimes travelled to Whangarei or Auckland to attend land courts. There were frequent clashes of opinion as to whether his fee should be paid by the legal firm or its clients. In 1916 he became a member of the newly founded Licensed Interpreters Association of New Zealand.

Hamiora Maioha was involved in many other activities. He played representative rugby, tennis and cricket, and helped to found the North Auckland Native Representative rugby team. From 1916 he was chairman of the Kaikohe Native School Committee. That year he became a census sub-enumerator, work he was to perform for each census until at least 1939. From 1916 he was also Kaikohe's registrar of Maori births and deaths, and registrar of pensions. Throughout his life he held many positions of trust for sports clubs and social organisations.

About 1915, at Waimate North, Hamiora Maioha married Te Aira (Ida) Te Nana, known to her family as Rewa. Rewa was of Ngai Tawake, of high rank, a grand-daughter of Ihaka Te Tai Hakuene through his daughter Kiritapu. Rewa was also kin to the descent groups Te Patu and Te Rarawa. Through Rewa, Hamiora developed an interest in Moturua Island, and in 1916 organised a lease for her and her kin.

In 1917 Hamiora Maioha read an address from Nga Puhi to members of Parliament who were touring the north, became involved in the Anglican Maori synod and began his long-term membership of the Paihia vestry, and organised a concert of the Kaikohe Maori Minstrels. But in February 1918 he withdrew from all his positions of trust, turned his business over to his uncle, and entered Trentham Military Camp with the last intake of Nga Puhi to join up for First World War service. After nearly four months he passed an officer's exam. Few Maori officers were being commissioned, and he was transferred to the training camp at Narrow Neck, Auckland, in June, where until the end of the war he performed the duties of a sergeant major.

Maioha returned to Kaikohe after the war, resumed his business, and took on new responsibilities. In 1921 he was Kaikohe's town clerk and acquired a land agent's licence (which he relinquished after a year). In 1925 and in many subsequent elections he was deputy returning officer for the Northern Maori electorate.

In 1923 he moved with his family to Moturua Island, perhaps hoping to improve his income and reduce his wife's rent debt by farming. He carried on his interpreting and other business from an office on the mainland at Rawhiti, which he visited regularly. His fluctuating household often comprised his wife, his mother-in-law, two children and various other kin. His activities included planting and harvesting crops for subsistence and sale, tending livestock (his main farming income was from cream and occasionally wool), getting firewood, concreting paths, and fishing. He visited the mainland for his office work, meetings, local dances, tennis, golf and picnics. Despite his own state of nearly constant financial crisis, his generosity to others was remarkable.

In January 1924 Hamiora Maioha was appointed a member of the Pewhairangi Maori Council. In this capacity he had various marae committees under his jurisdiction and was required to act as a magistrate during the hearings of disputes with Pakeha, with local Maori over property, or cases of petty crime or disturbances. The council itself was responsible for imposing fines for breaches of hygiene, administering the dog tax, and registering Maori births and deaths. Hamiora undertook all this work with his usual energy and enthusiasm, as well as being chairman of the Rawhiti marae committee from December 1924. Occasionally he sought reimbursement for his costs, but the council's only income was from fines and dog-taxes, and only a proportion could be paid.

In 1924 Maioha was also elected chairman of Te Rawhiti Native School Committee, and became a member of the Maori Advisory Board of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. He helped to select Maori players for New Zealand and overseas tours, and was appointed visiting delegate to the union's annual general meeting in Wellington. He continued to compete in tennis tournaments, and attended the annual championships of the New Zealand Maori Lawn Tennis Association.

Hamiora Maioha's Maori activities increased his status in the Pakeha world, as did his membership of the Freemasons; undoubtedly lodge contacts with Pakeha businessmen were useful. His organisational abilities were recognised, and he was elected worshipful master of Lodge Kororareka in 1936, the same year that he succeeded Hoori Tane as chairman of the Pewhairangi Maori Council. It was unusual for Maori to be Freemasons at this time; exceptional for them to be elected to the lodge's highest office. For a time Maioha took his duties very seriously, but by 1938 his interest had faded.

On an increasing number of occasions he acted as official interpreter for visiting dignitaries. The most important of these was in February 1934, when at a tremendous hui to celebrate Lord Bledisloe's gift to the nation of the Waitangi treaty house site and to lay the foundation stone of a meeting house in its grounds, Maioha was the official announcer and master of ceremonies. Armed with a megaphone, he bawled announcements through the rain and smoke for a fortnight. There were 5,000 tent dwellers to be marshalled throughout their stay, and at least 5,000 more on the day of the event.

Maioha had corresponded for years with his distant cousin, the historian Leslie G. Kelly, advising him on genealogical and historical matters, and in 1935 revived the Nga Puhi whare wananga. A Maori newspaper was also planned. It was believed locally that many deaths that year were caused by the discussion of tapu matters, and the revival was shortlived. However, it led naturally into preparations for the 1940 New Zealand centennial celebrations; canoe construction was being planned from 1937, and Maioha was elected a member of the committee for the Waitangi celebrations.

It was ironic that in the years of his greatest influence – he had hopes of succeeding Tau Henare as MP for Northern Maori and had addressed the Young Maori Conference in Auckland in 1939 – Maioha became increasingly desperate for paid work. During the depression neither his interpreting business nor his farming activities had been profitable. For a short period he worked collecting information for the historical atlas planned for the centennial. After the celebrations at Waitangi and the Bay of Islands, in all of which he played a large role, he travelled widely in Northland, consulting elders about local placenames. In May 1940 he joined the Centennial Branch in Wellington. However, the Second World War brought a virtual cessation of work on the maps after August 1940. Maioha joined the army's temporary staff and entered Papakura Military Camp in June 1941. His duties were clerical, and he was discharged in July 1950.

Hamiora Maioha eventually returned to the Bay of Islands, but not to Moturua Island, which was taken over for defence purposes during the war. In his last years, now a recognised elder, he lived in Brind Road, Russell, and his busy career continued unabated. He was a trustee and secretary of the Waitangi Te Ti Bay Trust Board, and secretary to the Waitangi National Maori Reserve Trustees Committee and the Kawakawa Tribal Executive; in these capacities he organised Waitangi celebrations and tribal events. He became chairman of the Tai Tokerau District Council of Tribal Committees, and shortly before his death he was appointed a member of the New Zealand Maori Council. In the New Year's honours in 1963 he was appointed an OBE. He was to have been presented to Queen Elizabeth II at Waitangi on 6 February, but he died suddenly in the Bay of Islands Hospital, Kawakawa, on 30 January, after a stroke. He was buried at Russell on 1 February; on 6 February Rewa was presented to the Queen.

Hamiora Maioha was highly skilled, literate and articulate in two languages and cultures, and was prominent in both Maori and Pakeha worlds. As a leader and interpreter he was an important intermediary between Maori and Pakeha for over 50 years.