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Māori King movement - 1860-94

Page 6 – Tensions ease

Normalising relations

It was clear by the 1870s that the Kīngitanga could no longer fight a war. Attempts were made to ease relations between the king and the colonial government, and Tāwhiao met Native Minister Donald McLean at Waitomo in 1875. Land on the west bank of the Waikato River was on offer if Tāwhiao took the oath of allegiance – a deal the king rejected.

In 1878 Sir George Grey, now the premier, attended the Maehe, an annual hui at which Kīngitanga subjects renewed their allegiance and their commitment to opposing land-selling. Grey's presence was viewed as another step towards normalising relations with the government while retaining the aims of the Kīngitanga.

Of greater significance to settlers and the government was the formal act of peace made by the King movement in 1881 at Alexandra (Pirongia). Tāwhiao and 500 supporters appeared before the resident magistrate, Major William Mair, and laid down their weapons. This was quickly followed by another attempt to persuade Tāwhiao to take the oath of allegiance and open the King Country to settlement. The king was offered a pension, a position as a legislative councillor, the return of 20,000 acres (8100 hectares) of confiscated land and a furnished house. Tāwhiao refused, and continued to bargain for independent authority and the return of all confiscated land.

In 1892, however, he accepted a government pension, arguing that this would test the government's sincerity in promising that he could retain the title of king and control local Māori affairs. After other Waikato leaders expressed outrage, Tāwhiao was forced to reject the offer.

New initiatives and rebuilding

In 1884 Tāwhiao led a deputation to England to petition Queen Victoria. He sought an independent Māori parliament and an independent commission of inquiry into the land confiscations. He stressed that the Kīngitanga was not separatist and did not reject the Queen's authority. It was rather an attempt to unify Māori so that they might more effectively claim the Queen's protection. In his view the Māori King and the British Queen could peacefully coexist, with God over both. Māori felt they had a special relationship with their Treaty partner, Queen Victoria, and believed they had a right to meet her in person. Instead they met Lord Derby of the Colonial Office, who referred the petition back to the New Zealand government on the grounds that the imperial government no longer had responsibility for such matters. The New Zealand government duly dismissed it.

From 1886 'King committees' at Whatiwhatihoe, Kāwhia, Aotea, Thames and Ōhinemuri functioned as local authorities within Kīngitanga territory. They issued summonses, heard cases, opposed surveys and wherever possible blocked government public works. They also opposed implementation of the decisions of committees set up under the Native Committees Act 1883.

A petition to the Native Minister calling for a Māori legislative council was countered by another offer to Tāwhiao of a seat in the colonial Legislative Council. The Kīngitanga now made plans for its own parliament, the Kauhanganui, which was set up at Maungakawa, near Cambridge, in 1889 or 1890. The Kauhanganui enabled Tāwhiao to communicate with his subjects through tribally appointed delegates.

How to cite this page

Tensions ease, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated