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He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene

On 28 October 1835 at the Waitangi residence of James Busby, 34 chiefs signed He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene (known in English as the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand). By 1839, 18 more chiefs had signed He Whakaputanga, which was acknowledged by the British government. This biography of one of the signatories was originally written for the He Tohu exhibition.

Signing details

Signature number
Signed as
Kiwi Kiwi
Probable name
Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Manu
1835 residence
Tohu (signature)

Associated with Kawakawa (where he had a settlement near the Kawakawa River), Kiwikiwi was a key member of Ngāpuhi’s southern alliance, alongside his cousin Pōmare II and other kin. He was the son of Te Ārahi and Pātaea (also known as Tūroro or Te Ruru), and the nephew of Te Koriwhai; his grandparents were Rite and Taranui, and Te Huru (of Ngāti Hine) and Huatai, a chieftainess of Ngāti Manu. He was the younger brother of the influential Te Whareumu, also known as ‘King George’, and older brother of Te Auraki.

In 1828 the artist Augustus Earle lived for a time with Ngāti Manu and left a vivid description of Kiwikiwi: 'Mr Kiney Kiney [Kiwikiwi] (as he was sometimes called) was splendidly apparelled on this occasion; he had, by some means or other, become possessed of a light infantry sabre, with all of its belts and buckles, this was girdled round his naked body, which gave him a very gallant air.' [1]

That same year Kiwikiwi and Te Whareumu led a taua to Waimā, Hokianga, in response to the death of Ariki, the son of Pōmare I. Te Whareumu was killed, and it was decided that Kiwikiwi would succeed him. Although he was a leading rangatira, it is said Kiwikiwi did not have the same maturity and experience as Te Whareumu, and his influence was eventually overshadowed by Pōmare II.

Kiwikiwi was a participant in the ‘Girls’ War’ of 1830, which involved both his wife Te Urumihia and his daughter. Accounts differ on the cause, but the matter quickly escalated and on 6 March 1830 a taua led by Ururoa and his northern-alliance allies engaged in a two-hour battle with Kiwikiwi and others of Ngāti Manu on the beach at Kororāreka, now Russell. To avoid full-scale war within Ngāpuhi, Kiwikiwi surrendered the lands of Kororāreka as atonement for the incident. Kororāreka was a centre of European settlement in the Bay of Islands, and a major source of income for the hapū that controlled it. He and his people withdrew, first to Paihia and then to Ōtūihu, where Pōmare II was developing a strong pā for both defence and trade with Europeans.

On 20 March 1834 Kiwikiwi was present at the selection of Te Kara, the United Tribes’ flag. An observer from the HMS Alligator, the Austrian Baron Karl von Huegel, noted that rangatira such as Kiwikiwi questioned the logic of the event: 'Most of them regarded the proposal as indicating anything but friendship.' After the hui Kiwikiwi is said to have remarked:

How have we come into this situation of having to hoist a flag on our boats to ensure their safety?... it is through our own fault that we have to do it. If we had been more united among ourselves, if we had had no enmity of one horde against another, we would have been able to oppose their landing. [2]

Kiwikiwi held mana whenua around parts of the Kawakawa River, and in 1836 declared a rāhui (restriction) to prevent access to resources by a rival hapū. While local Māori complied, Pākehā refused, leading Kiwikiwi to fire on their boats as they passed. At a hui soon after it was decided that Europeans were permitted to ignore the rāhui. European breaches of tapu, deliberate or accidental, led to some of the significant violent events in the pre-colonial period and were one of the main cultural differences that Māori and Europeans had to resolve.

Kiwikiwi signed He Whakaputanga on 13 January 1836, a week after a skirmish at Waitangi between Waikato and another Ngāti Manu figure, Noa. His tohu is fifth on the codicil.

[1] Augustus Earle, A Narrative of Nine Months’ Residence in New Zealand, in 1827: Together With a Journal of a Residence in Tristan d’Acunha, an Island Situated Between South America and the Cape of Good Hope, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green & Longman, London, 1832, p.179.

[2] ‘Report on Stage 1 of the Te Paparahi o Te Raki Inquiry’, Waitangi Tribunal, Wellington, 2014, p.131, Waitangi Tribunal.