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Events In History

20 November 1841

Maketū Wharetōtara, the 17-year-old son of the Ngāpuhi chief Ruhe, killed five people at Motuarohia in the Bay of Islands. In March 1842 he became the first person to be legally executed in this country.


The death penalty

The first execution in New Zealand was that of a young Maori named Maketu, convicted at Auckland in 1842. Walter Bolton became the last to be executed when he was hanged at Mount Eden prison in 1957. In total there were 83 verified executions for murder and one for treason in New Zealand between these dates. Read the full article

Page 2 - The first execution

On 7 March 1842 Maketu Wharetotara, the 17-year-old son of the Ngāpuhi chief Ruhe of Waimate, became the first person to be legally executed in New

Headland and town 15 km north-east of Te Puke. Maketū is one of the most historic coastal landmarks in the Bay of Plenty. The Te Arawa canoe made landfall at Maketū, and a small cairn built in 1940 commemorates the event. The Ngāi Te Rangi and Te Arawa tribes contested authority over the area in the early 19th century. Te Arawa supported trader Phillip Tapsell, who lived there in the 1830s. From fortified positions Te Arawa and British forces repelled war parties from the East Coast seeking to join Waikato supporters of the Māori King movement in 1864. Because it was isolated between swamps along the Kaituna and Pongakawa rivers, there was little European settlement at Maketū until much of the swampland was drained early in the 20th century.
Meaning of place name
This was the name of a kumara plantation in Hawaiki, doubtless brought by the men of the Arawa canoe that ended its long voyage here.