Mate Kairangatira

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: 
Probable name: 
Mate Kairangatira
Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Moe, Te Uri-o-Hau
1835 residence: 
Tohu (signature): 

Mate Kairangatira was born at Mihirau in Mangakāhia. His father, Te Rā, had been requested to move there from Ōrautā (near Moerewa) to strengthen the presence of Ngāti Moe, and did so with the assistance of Ngāti Hine hapū Te Orewai. Mate often travelled to Kaipara for fishing expeditions and to meet extended relations living in the area of Te Uri-o-Hau. After the deaths of his father and his older brother Pōtaka, Mate rose in prominence among Ngāti Moe and Ngāti Hine. He is said to have had seven wives.

Visiting Mate’s pā at Mangakāhia in November 1833, the missionary William Yate wrote that he was 'cordially welcomed by the whole tribe… all people of the place, in number about 200, assembled to hear what I had to say.' [1]

Two years later the Additional British Resident Thomas McDonnell almost sparked violence when he claimed to have access to timber in the northern Wairoa. When he tried to use Pēwhairangi (Bay of Islands) rangatira such as Tītore to support his claim, Tītore argued that those with mana whenua in Wairoa – such as Te Tirarau, Parore Te Āwhā, Moetara and Mate – had the final say over use rights.

Mate’s ties to Te Uri-o-Hau and Ngāti Whātua meant he also had settlements in Kaipara. His aunt Waimiro had married Te Keha of Kaipara, and there were strong family ties with Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Moe and Ngāti Whātua. Because of these connections, Te Ruki Kawiti chose Mate to act as a peacemaker between Kaipara peoples. At the 1825 battle of Te Ika-a-Ranganui, Kawiti took a number of Ngāti Whātua under his care to protect them from Hongi Hika’s impending taua. The Ngāti Whātua eventually returned to Kaipara, and in thanks offered land at Kākāraea and Puatahi. Kawiti accepted these tuku whenua, and Mate and his followers went to live there. This land and intermarriage led to the formation of the Ngāti Hine hapū based at Puatahi.

Mate signed He Whakaputanga at some time between 29 March 1836 and 25 June 1837, probably while visiting British Resident James Busby at Waitangi. Earlier, in 1834, Mate had written to Busby asking for a ship and a Pākehā to help run it: he 'must be a righteous one and acceptable to me and my people.' [2]

Mate is also associated with Ōtakanini pā in south Kaipara, an ancient Ngāti Whātua stronghold. The pā was strengthened in 1841 in fear of attack by Ngāti Te Ata, and Mate erected a carved wooden pou, named Te Whare-o-riri after an ancestor. The pou is now held by the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

In January 1845 Mate was wrongly accused of taking part in a taua muru at Matakana. In a proclamation issued by Governor FitzRoy, Mate was named as one of three Māori wanted for the incident – but he was later cleared of any involvement. However, the government still took his land.

Mate died probably during the 1860s, and was buried at Kākāraea. In the 1930s, a party of Ngāti Hine representatives, led by MP Tau Hēnare, helped to uplift and return his remains to Ngāti Hine’s ancestral burial site at Waiōmio.

[1] Missionary Register [Sections relating to New Zealand] 1834 p.460, Early New Zealand Books.

[2] Letter from Mate to James Busby, AABS 8156 BR1 Box 1, Archives New Zealand.

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