By John Robinson

The ancestors of Ngati Toa, Te Atiawa and Raukawa lived elsewhere, to the north, before 1820; they were not the long-term inhabitants of Kapiti, thus any reference to these iwi as ‘tangata whenua’ is incorrect.

First, in 1819-1820, there came a taua, a band of savage warriors, when Ngati Toa joined with Ngapuhi from the north to ravage the district.  They saw that there was good land here with weakened tribes ripe for conquest.

During the first decades of the nineteenth century, Ngati Toa and Te Atiawa had been under constant murderous attack from enemy tribes (such as Waikato and Ngati Maniapoto), and they decided to move away, to find a new home and to themselves attack, kill and drive off those then living here in Kapiti.  In 1821-1822 a migration of Ngati Toa, with many of their allies, Te Atiawa, Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama, came to drive out those living in Kapiti in bloody battle and to take the land.  The treachery of the large Muaupoko tribe at Horowhenua, when they greeted the newcomers in apparent friendship before attacking and killing many, resulted in the unrelenting hatred of Te Rauparaha, and subsequently Muaupoko were almost completely wiped out.

There were struggles for the land.  At Paekakariki, in 1823, Ngati Toa were attacked by Ngati Kahungunu and Ngati Ira from Wellington and suffered heavy losses.  

Ngati Toa had been weakened as many of their principal allies in Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa had left to return to their previous homes in Taranaki.  They needed a safe refuge, which they found on Kapiti Island.  In 1824 they were attacked there by a great, combined taua of their foes – a wide range of iwi had cause to seek utu from Ngati Toa.  The fleet of the attacking taua had such a great number that the war canoes were almost continuous across the five kilometres from the mainland to the island.  But Ngati Toa prevailed and the attack failed.

Warfare was widespread across the country, and many Ngati Raukawa and Te Atiawa came in great treks to find sanctuary with Ngati Toa in Kapiti.  In 1828, with the strengthened forces and a large stock of firearms, and using the many canoes captured from the 1824 attackers, a fleet of war canoes crossed Cook Strait to Queen Charlotte Sound with a taua of 340 picked warriors from Ngati Toa, Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama, and Ngati Raukawa.  Further murderous raids to the south followed, as in 1831.

In 1830, Te Atiawa, Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga had sent a taua to attack Ngati Kahungunu, after which a truce of sorts had been arranged.  Later, in 1832, Ngati Kahungunu were invited to a feast at Waikanae, where they were treacherously attacked and killed by their Te Atiawa hosts.

In the early 1830s, the land on Kapiti Island and along the coast was overpopulated, crowded by many tribes, and the resources were severely strained.  With the increased population, relations among the several tribes in Kapiti started to fray, and, under the habits of tikanga, the resulting conflict resolution was by war.  In 1834, a conflict broke out between Te Atiawa and Ngati Raukawa.  When fighting spread, Ngati Raukawa made a call for help to Te Heuheu of Ngāti Tuwharetoa and Te Wherowhero of Waikato, and a combined force came to the aid of the besieged Ngati Raukawa.  After further fighting, negotiations led to a formal agreement and there was an uneasy peace; but the coalition was shattered.

More conflict in Kapiti followed in 1839.  When there was dispute, some Ngati Raukawa were keen to even up old scores dating back to the 1834 combat and there was bitter fighting in Waikanae.  Estimates of the casualties differ: between seventy and two hundred Ngati Raukawa and between twenty and thirty-six Te Atiawa and Taranaki died in that fight.  

The coming of these people to Kapiti brought two decades of violence.  Peace came only in 1840 with the acceptance of the national, colonial government, leaving those last comers in possession of the lands that they had taken.

This is not a history to be proud of; there is nothing here, no action taken by these iwi, that we can celebrate or should reward.  There is only a memory of bloodshed, misery and disruption.


Apihaka Mack of the Ngatiawa ki Kapiti iwi comments: “Ngatiawa was here before Rauparaha and Toa came down here. Ngatiawa Tipuna named this coast, Wairaka, Kaitawa, Waikanae, Wainui, Pekapeka. Names also in Hastings, and North Taranaki. Muaupoko are our Ngatiawa w’anaunga. same tipuna.”