Story: Taipari, Eruini Heina

Page 1 - Taipari, Eruini Heina

Taipari, Eruini Heina

1889/1890?–1956

Ngati Maru leader

This biography was written by Angela Ballara and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 4, 1998

Eruini (Edwin) Heina Taipari was born probably in 1889 or 1890 at Thames. He was the younger son of Hauauru Tikapa Taipari, later baptised as Wirope Hotereni (Willoughby Shortland) Taipari, the chief of Ngati Maru, who had succeeded his father, Hauauru Taipari, later baptised as Te Hotereni, in 1880. Eruini's mother was Tawai Meketanara of Ngati Awa, his father's second and concurrent wife; Wirope's first wife, Mereana Mokomoko of Ngati Awa, was childless. Eruini was descended from all five sons of Marutuahu, the eponymous ancestor of Ngati Maru, so he was related to Ngati Whanaunga and Ngati Tamatera; he was also connected to Ngati Paoa. His main hapu were Ngati Hauauru, Ngati Rautao, Ngati Hape and Ngati Kotinga.

Te Hotereni had kept Ngati Maru neutral in the wars of the 1860s, thus avoiding large-scale loss of land through confiscations. He and Wirope Hotereni along with other Marutuahu leaders had persuaded their various hapu to accept goldmining at Kauaeranga and in the tidal mud-flats. Eruini's grandfather had refused to sell the land, but by leasing it had established the family's fortunes. On the whole Wirope Hotereni had kept to the policies established by Te Hotereni.

As a result the Taipari family enjoyed a substantial income in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and were prominent political leaders and landowners at Thames. They lived at Pukerahui in a large European-style house, which was used as an important Marutuahu meeting place. This house and much of his father's and elder brother's land were inherited by Eruini at a very young age. His father died in 1897 and his elder brother, Waata, soon after. Their deaths meant Eruini had no immediate senior male relatives to pass on family history and provide training in tribal lore. He attended St Stephen’s Native Boys’ School in Auckland, and much of his upbringing was entrusted to European friends of the family.

The Taipari family had used their wealth to provide for Marutuahu and to make generous gifts of land for churches of various denominations, a public hospital, a cemetery, a park and school. This rangatira tradition of generosity was Eruini's legacy, but also a burden, for the sources of his ancestors' income were drying up: the gold was nearly played out, and the best timber was rapidly disappearing. During his life much of his family’s land was alienated by sale and lease. He was the victim of inappropriate advice from lawyers and others, but the largest losses derived from forced sales under the pressure of crippling rates demands from local authorities.

Taipari enjoyed most sports, and as a young man played representative rugby for Thames. He raced his own horses, riding as jockey in his youth, and later became a life member of the Thames Jockey Club and involved in the administration of the sport. The Taipari family had supported the establishment of the Church Missionary Society in the district, but by the twentieth century had become Catholics. On 17 June 1911, in Thames, Eruini Taipari married Alice Josephine Stewart of Ngati Maru and Ngati Hokopu hapu.

Eruini Taipari is remembered for placing the carved meeting house Hotunui in the Auckland Institute and Museum. It had been a marriage gift to Mereana from Ngati Awa, and had stood at Parawai, Thames, from 1878. The house had been carved by a team from Ngati Awa led by Mereana’s brother, Wepiha Apanui; Eruini’s grandfather, Te Hotereni Taipari, had carved the ridge-pole. The house had been left by Wirope Hotereni in trust to Eruini.

By the 1920s Hotunui was falling into disrepair. On 7 March 1925 the curator of the museum, Gilbert Archey, met Eruini and his mother at Parawai. Some 50 elders and a large assembly of Ngati Maru and other tribes were present; Ngati Tamatera sent a message saying they would accede to whatever arrangement Eruini Taipari made. George Graham, a member of the Auckland Institute, suggested that the house be deposited on loan with the trustees of the Auckland Institute so that it might be preserved for all time.

Eruini asked Judge C. E. MacCormick of the Native Land Court to advise his people; he counselled those present to accept the offer to have the house dismantled, restored to its original condition, and re-erected in the main court of the new Auckland War Memorial Museum, then under construction. MacCormick gave Eruini Taipari the credit for suggesting the museum as a new home for the house; he said that Eruini wanted to respect his father's will and save the house for the children of the Hauraki tribes, but circumstances had changed and the tribes no longer met at Parawai.

A chief of Ngati Whanaunga declared that the people were all willing to fall in with Eruini's wishes and that by placing the house in the museum, Eruini was exalting the mana of Ngati Maru. The decision caused controversy, however, as many Ngati Maru and related peoples were opposed to the house leaving the district. At Eruini's request, probably to save further argument and to commit Ngati Maru to the loan, the door lintel and carved figurehead were immediately taken down: they were transported to Auckland that night by ship. The dismantling of the rest of the house and the restoration work took some time and it was not until 29 November 1929 that Eruini Taipari and many of his kin attended the reopening ceremony in Auckland. He became an honorary life member of the museum.

In later years Taipari led a relatively quiet life, farming his remaining lands, racing his horses, and taking part in the social life of Thames. During the Second World War, although not an official member of any war effort organisation, he was the de facto local host at Thames, entertaining officers on leave or returned from the 28th New Zealand (Maori) Battalion. He died in Thames on 3 September 1956, survived by four daughters and two sons. His wife had died in 1950. Eruini Taipari is buried at the Totara Maori cemetery at Thames, near his father and grandfather.