Portrait by an unidentified photographer possibly of the Te Āti Awa leader Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke, taken about 1880.
Kīngi had migrated south to the Kapiti coast following the Waikato invasions of Taranaki in the early 1830s. When the New Zealand Company first made claims that it had purchased his Taranaki lands, Te Rangitāke uttered the words that would recur in his later life: 'Waitara shall not be given up.' After later demands from Governor George Grey to give up their ancestral lands, he and 600 of his Te Ātiawa moved from Waikanae back to Taranaki in 1848.
Tensions existed within Te Ati Āwa between those willing to sell and men such as Kīngi. Matters came to a head in Te Teira Mānuka offered the government some land near Waitara. Te Rangitāke was determined that the land should not be sold. This dispute over land at Waitara led to the outbreak of hostilities in March 1860.