Te Rangihaeata consistently took the view that the sale of the Hutt by Te Āti Awa was invalid without his consent. –Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

What’s in a name?

By Roger Childs

The obsession with giving government departments, new buildings and now highways te reo names continues. 

The latest to have a name “gifted” to it, is the long awaited but recently opened Transmission Gully motorway linking the Kapiti Coast with the Tawa Valley. But is anyone actually going to call it by the new Maori name?

Which way are you driving to Wellington?

I’ll save time if I go via Te Ara Nui o Te Rangihaeata. 

What’s that?

Ngati Toa move to safety in Kapiti

Te Rangihaeata, who later became a Ngati Toa chief, was probably born in the Kawhia area in the 1780s. He was often in the shadow of his more famous uncle Te Rauparaha who was a great leader of his people, but also a ruthless and brutal warrior. However the nephew became one of Te Rauparaha’s greatest generals.

In 1819 — 1820 both men were involved in a taua (war party) down the west coast of the North Island to Wellington and fought many battles along the way. The Te Ara website says of Te Rangihaeata that he was involved in killing or capturing many people on the Kapiti coast, at Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington Harbour) and in Southern Wairarapa.

Also in the taua was the legendary Ngapuhi chief Tamati Waka Nene who suggested to Te Rauparaha that the Kapiti-Wellington area would be a safer place to live than Kawhia where Ngati Toa was constantly menaced by the powerful Waikato tribes. 

The tribe duly moved south in the 1820s.

Te Rangihaeata – Brave warrior chief or brutal thug?

His courage and skill in battle was never in question however the ruthless side of his character was often to the fore. Although he signed the Te Tiriti o Waitangi in June 1840, he was loathe to accept the increasing European settlement in the southern North Island and northern South Island.  

In 1843 the two Ngati Toa chiefs opposed the illegal New Zealand Company surveying of land in the Wairau Valley in Marlborough and burnt down a surveyor’s hut. A fight broke out when a party set out to arrest them. A number were killed including Te Rangihaeata’s wife. The chief demanded utu and himself clubbed to death 9 prisoners despite his uncle’s protestations. There were demands from settlers that the two Ngati Toa chiefs should be arrested for what became known as The Wairau Massacre (later softened to “Wairau Affray”) but Governor Fitzroy didn’t agree. 

Te Rangihaeata lived for at a time on Kapiti Island and later Mana Island. He also built a fortified pa at Pauatahanui and from this base frequently menaced farms and settlements. In March 1846 he led his warriors on attack on a stockade at Boulcott Farm in the Hutt Valley and six British soldiers and a civilian were killed.

Then in August 1846, at what became known as Battle Hill, colonial forces and some Ngati Toa and Ngatiawa allies, drove Te Rangihaeata and his supporters out of the wider Pauatahanui region and thus ended the Maori threat to settlement in this area and the Hutt Valley.

The warrior chief in his old age did support peace between settlers and Maori, and became a church goer before his death in 1855.

Worthy of having his name on the motorway?

Is the name Te Ara Nui o Te Rangihaeata warranted for what everyone knows as Transmission Gully? 

Certainly the Ngati Toa chief was militarily active in the area; had a base in Pauatahanui; lived for many years on the Kapiti Coast; fought at Battle Hill, and often passed through the valleys which make up the route of the 27 km motorway.

You be the judge.