Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 27 (June 1959)
– 20 –

Is there Maori leadership in Auckland? How does it differ from the traditional leadership? These questions are answered in this authoritative essay from Dr Winiata, based on the material in his unpublished doctoral thesis. Auckland Maori leaders, he says, ‘are close to European institutions though they are never forgetful of their Maori origins; they try to adjust Maori society to the demands of the wider environment and to rise above the narrowing limitations of kinship affiliations.’



There are roughly 12,000 Maori people of diverse origins from the major tribal groups in the country in the city of Auckland, among a total population of over 400,000.

The Maori people are engaged in clothing factories, on the wharves, in the freezing works, in the transport services, the city municipal works and the building trades. They are found in the teaching services and in the Government departments, particularly the Department of Maori Affairs.

They live in the slum areas of Airedale Street, Freeman's Bay, Hobson Street, etc., as well as in the newer housing areas of Orakei, Onehunga, Owairaka and Mangere. Many Maori people own their houses but the majority utilise the housing programme of the State. An old traditional marae, Orakei was situated not far from the heart of the city, belonging to the local Ngatiwhatua tribe, but this has now been eliminated except for the cemetery and the people are now established in the new housing area not far away. They still have a certain sentimental regard for the old marae. Other concentrations of Maori people from Waikato live further out at Onehunga, Pukaki and Mangere, which at one time were quite large marae, but today remain largely as Maori settlements.

The recent influx of Maori people to the city created social problems that were intensified by the unstable war conditions, and brought the existence of the new Maori communities to the notice of the city. As a result, various programmes for Maori rehabilitation were organised with the aid of Maori leaders. These included the erection of houses under various loan schemes and the construction of a building as a social centre for the Maori community as a whole with money contributed by the State from Maori sources and also by Maori tribes.


In the villages, kinship groups are usually confined to one's own family or sub-tribe, but in the city they often comprise a much wider circle of kinsmen, even a complete tribe or canoe area. Some groups may assume a geographic or territorial name to cover this wider amalgamation, and may even enlist the support of extra-kinship adherents. The sense of obligation on the grounds of kinship varies in intensity, but the sentiment attaching to an ancestral name is sufficient to make people feel that they belong to a group. On the other hand, the kinship group has been known to rally to the assistance of members in distress, to welcome relatives from a home district, to perform ceremonial functions or initiate discussions on a specific tribal welfare matter. Kinship motives may also enter into the other groupings such as church, sports and recreation.

Leadership in the kinship groups is taken by persons of the kaumatua and kuia class who show interest or some competency in the skills required in the specialised activities of the group. In Auckland the more traditional leaders, people with some standing in the tribe back home, may find their way into the positions of status through their European associations, personal drive and ability, and also because of the deference accorded to them by members of their specific group.

– 21 –

“X” comes of the senior lines in Ngatikahungunu and Ngatiporou. He is the recognised leader of the people from those tribes in the city. But then he is also a civil servant, and in a position to give assistance to those who need it. He is, further, an expert in Maori skills, such as oratory, ceremonials and the haka. He is consulted by members of the tribes visiting Auckland, and takes charge of ceremonial welcomes to them. In his case his kinship background combined with his official position strengthens his status. One of his roles is that of kaumatua.

“Z” is kaumatua of his tribe. He is an authority on the genealogies, being one of the leading wise men of the tribal Wananga. He knows the traditions of the canoe Ngatokimatawhaorua. When the Northern peoples decided to celebrate the traditional arrival of the tribal canoes, it was he who initiated the movement for raising money and discussions concerning the matter among his kinsfolk in the city.

“A” is a direct descendent of a renowned chieftain of 100 years ago and is therefore a recognised kaumatua leader of note among the Ngapuhi peoples. “A” has had some education and is equipped with Maori skills such as facility with the language and knowledge of tradition, the genealogy. He is also an important person in politics. In any important discussions concerning Ngapuhi welfare “A” is invariably called and the people listen to what he has to say. When for instance the Minister of Maori Affairs came to Auckland to speak on behalf of a candidate for the Northern Maori seat, “A” though opposed to this candidate politically, assisted in the proceedings. This was his marae.

All these men and several others are prominent in the Auckland Maori Community. They are men of standing in their own particular kinship groups. In the city they assume the same status within their own tribe or sub-tribe. With the exception of “Z” they are prominent representatives of European organisations. This adds to their acceptability to the people. But it is their skill in Maori things—oratory, knowledge of traditions and genealogies, interest in Maori welfare—that gives them that extra spurt that enables them to move forward as leaders in the specific circumstances where their skills are needed. As their Maori skills are at a premium, they tend to take over on behalf of the Maori community as a whole on such things as ceremonials and welcomes to distinguished visitors. When the Community Centre buildings were dedicated they represented the Maori community and took part in the proceedings as kaumatua leaders. When the mortuary rites were performed to commemorate the death of the late Sir A. T. Ngata, they welcomed Ngatiporou and arranged for the accommodation of the visitors. When Sir Peter Buck was farewelled at the Community Centre, the same leaders appeared at kaumatua performing the necessary offices, just as they would when on the marae in the tribal village.


Both Maori and European derived religious organisations are found in the Auckland Maori Community. The Latter Day Saints, the Church of England, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Roman Catholics, the United Maori Mission, the Brethren, the Ratana, the Nakahi, the Paimarire, and the followers of Rapana are all there To varying degrees the European derived churches maintain separate church services for the Maori members, though in all cases a ready welcome is extended the Maori people to attend the services in the European churches.

The Latter Day Saints and the Roman Catholics tend to become incorporated more than the others in the European churches. The leadership is given by both Maori and European clergy. Strong youth leadership among the laity is encouraged by the United Maori Mission, the Latter Day Saints and the Brethren.

The largest Maori derived denomination in the city is Ratana. Like the Latter Day Saints, the Ratana tend to pervade their influence throughout the community in the form of the social and recreational clubs, though the Roman

– 22 –

Catholics and to a lesser extent the Church of England, seem to be doing the same thing. Attitudes and policies are very frequently decided in political and administrative organisations by the religious background of members. Then, in the selection of leaders for the tribal committees, again one notes the religious and the kinship affiliations exerting an influence. A leader in a church secures a place in the tribal committee.

“F” is a preacher. He became a chairman of a tribal committee and from there he went on to the Waitemata Tribal Executive. He was chosen from the Waitemata Tribal Executive to a place on the important housing allocation committee in the city. His position in the church gave him standing in the tribal executive. He was frequently asked to open the meetings with prayer. It should be said that he was a competent a administrator, a good speaker in both Maori and English and a man with wide welfare interests.


One of the main problems that confronted leaders in the city was to secure sufficient cohesion among the diverse groups to provide the basis for local government. The Maori community was within and yet quite apart from the social organisation of the European. It had no unity but was split up into separate groups animated by distinctive interests and conflicting kinship loyalties. Ethnic affiliations, pressures from the European, the establishment of a physical community centre helped to suggest unities but in actual practice the relationship between the groups was loose and quite informal.

Maori leaders themselves regarding the phenomenon from within their own groups recognised that no solution at present could come from within any of the groups, neither could kinship relationships be made the basis for unity, as in the country districts. The framework would have to come from the outside. The opportunity was offered in the tribal committee organisation under the Maori Social and Economic Advancement Act, 1945. But, as the tribal committee organisation was designed to operate in a homogeneous kinship region, the Act, in order to be applicable to the peculiar conditions in the city, had to be adapted.

Auckland was divided up into territorial divisions, and the Maori residents in each division formed their own tribal committee, whether or not they belonged to the same tribe or subtribe. In some of the divisions, though a geographic name was adopted by a tribal committee, the majority of the members did belong to a specific tribe, but in the main local residence was the dominating factor in tribal committee membership.

Each tribal committee sent two delegates to the Waitemata Tribal Executive, which covers the whole of Auckland. This was usually the chairman and the secretary. In contrast to the country districts with their closer kinship grouping, the tribal executive, not the tribal committee constituent was the most important body. Frequently a tribal committee was formed for the purpose essentially of getting on to the tribal executive, and the tribal committee did not hold very many meetings. The tribal executive committee on the other hand dealt directly with European organisations in the city and with the Government through the Maori Affairs Department. The executive committee was active and strong because it had sound leadership and greater authority to get things from the Government.

This greater power of the tribal executive was feared by the tribal committees and the sports and recreational organisations. The tendency under these circumstances was for the tribal executive to stand apart even from their originating and sponsoring tribal committees. The leaders in the tribal executive carried out propaganda work to try and bring the various sports and recreation organisations into the tribal committee organisation either by joining an existing tribal committee or by formally declaring itself a tribal committee for purposes of the Act. The advantages of such measures however did not appeal to many of the sports organisations because of the fear of tribal executive interference in the internal administration of the smaller groups. In effect therefore the authority of the tribal executive though recognised by law supported by the Department of Maori Affairs and acknowledged by European organisations remained rather suspended, and the majority of groups in the city continued their own independent existence.

It is possible that in urban Maori communities a high degree of cohesion as visualised by leaders is neither possible in the near future nor desirable. The best that the tribal executive committee can hope to do is to nominally represent the Maori community as a whole and offer its facilities for the expression of Maori views, and its services for the diplomatic functions that may be required in the interaction with the European. In this respect then it seems immaterial whether all the groups in the city defer to the tribal organisations, in order to enable the latter to represent them. The tribal committee can still speak for the groups, and can offer its facilities to them without assuming overriding powers.

“X” and “Z” have already been mentioned in connection with leadership in the kinship groupings. All of them hold high positions in the tribal executive. “X” and “Z” do this by virtue of the fact that they are civil servants, whose duties are to promote interest in tribal committee organisations, to supervise over the meetings, and to report the proceedings to the Department of Maori Affairs. They are the intermediaries between

– 23 –

the Maori people and the Governmnt. In addition, however, these men are genuinely interested in Maori welfare work in the city. They help people to get houses and give them advice when they come to the city. These activities on behalf of the Maori people go beyond their official duties.


By far the most numerous groups were those to do with sports and recreation. These included Rugby football, Rugby League, Tennis, Basketball, Baseball, Dance Bands, Church Choirs, concert parties and social clubs. While some of these groups confined themselves to the activity referred to in the Club's name, others correlated a variety of activities in their programmes. Other sports and recreational groups were attached to church and kinship organisations. Latter Day Saints had a dance band, a choir and a concert party. The Ratana Church also supported a dance band and a social club, while the United Maori Mission had a concert party for the young people who lived in its hostels. The Rarawa Club was primarily a kinship organisation and so was the Tairawhiti Club. The latter organised Maori concerts with a party from its members, while the former ran a sports club, a weekly dance, and a social club as part of its work.

Although there was intermingling between Maori and European in sports and social gatherings through the various clubs, the identity of the groups remained Maori and in the main catered for young Maori people. Their administration too remained in Maori hands. While some of the sports clubs joined the general European controlled competitions and a Maori representative was appointed to the Rugby Union and the Rugby League controlling bodies, there were at the same time several Maori controlled competitions. Less prominent than in the country, but nevertheless quite significant was the feature of inter-tribal competition and rivalry in sports. Much of the leadership of the sports and recreation bodies was in the hands of the rangatahi leaders, who were specialists qualified by their specific playing skills. More often however the administrative leadership was assumed by an older person.

These non-playing leaders were usually persons long established in the City, the knew their way around, and they recognised that young people coming into the city required a social life and sports activities arranged for them. Frequently the profit motive in the clubs was the main appeal to the administrators. The young people however were satisfied as long as they reecived their fun. A shrewd administrator of Maori social and sports activities may use a tribal name to draw the young people from that district, or the initial steps of establishing the clubs may be fairly free of any thought of commercialisation. Soon however many clubs become money making concerns.

The rangatahi leaders may find themselves being ushered into leadership positions in other groups. The general policy seem to be, where a club is strong, to try and keep its independence from the tribal executive who is trying to unite everybody, or else to form another group apart from the club though with the club personnel, and call it a tribal committee, and thereby get on to the tribal executive and at the same time retain the separate identity of the club.


Maori women's organisations attached to the churches have had a long history in the city. But the most important Maori women's organisation at the present time is the Maori Women's Welfare League. The forte of the League in Auckland is welfare and it is closely allied to the tribal committee organisation. Like tribal committees it is theoretically a territorial rather than a kinship organisation. But by virtue of the fact that the Ngapuhi and Ngatiwhatua women out-number the others, the leadership of the League tends to come from those tribes.

On the whole the Maori Women's Welfare League seem to be less bothered by outside in-

– 24 –

fluences, such as tribal or church affiliations. One of the reasons for this is that the interests are strictly in the field of women's concerns. The leadership is strong, and the emancipation of Maori women, something novel, is taking up the full attention of all. Maori women are in control of their own affairs. The Auckland league is part of the national organisation. Social functions like ceremonials, welcome to visitors and catering for meetings, all require the assistance of women folk, not only the kuia class, but also the younger women. Thus from their local branches they move forward into the district council and in that capacity they each serve or perform the rituals at the Maori Community Centre. An example of the energy and vitality in the League leadership may be mentioned in connection with the housing survey of the city which the League carried out. This was the first of its kind in the history of New Zealand to be conducted by women, Maori or European.

“K” is a widow and is one of the recognised kuia in Auckland. Her age, her wisdom, her possession of Maori skills, her hospitality and generosity and interest in Maori welfare and appreciation of Maori values are among her qualifications for leadership. She is held in high respect by all who know her, of whatever tribe. She is chairman of one of the branches of the league in the city area. There are here a combination of both the

traditional and the modern in her status and functions. She guides the meetings of the League, assisted by a younger educated person as secretary, and also by the local women welfare officer, a Maori. On ceremonial occasions when visitors are welcomed to the Community Centre building, she graces the occasion with her presence alongside the kaumatua.

“C” is the wife of a successful public servant, prominent among his own tribe. She is the daughter of a Maori leader, and by birth is high up in the old tribal ranking system. This background helps her to gain standing in League affairs and in the community generally. She is also a member of the Church of England committee and of the local branch of a political party, while she is trustee in a tribal committee. “C” is well educated, she has a lot of European ideas, but she is at the same time interested in Maori ideals and welfare. She is also a capable speaker and a competent administrator. She is rather of the younger type of women, and she has not as yet graduated to the rank of the kuia like “K”.


Party politics have held a wide interest for the Maori people in Auckland. This is natural because the people here wrk in industry and are therefore members of trade unions. The residence too of the Maori member of Parliament for the Northern Electorate is in the city. The urban Maori is more dependent upon the wage packet received from his employment than the rural dweller. Thus he is more open and sensitive to the usual party political propaganda concerning the close connection between economic conditions and politics. The two political parties, Labour and National, have their branches among the Maori people. Divisions of the community into political groups follow clear outlines. Certain tribal and religious groups support one or other of the political parties. The kind of employment and family connections seem to be factors in choosing a political party.

“Q” is from a southern tribe, whose traditional support of the National Party is known. “Q” is an officer of the National Party in the city. He has an academic background and is a teacher in a city school. “Q” has not taken any leading part in the affairs of the Maori community in Auckland. His

– 25 –

Picture icon

Two leading Maori figures in Auckland: Mr George Latimer, left, member of the tribal executive, is also active in sports administration. Mr Wakarara P. Karaka, now manager of the Maori Community Centre has been a considerable influence for years. Born in Tokomaru Bay, he joined the Department of Maori Affairs before the war, and after serving in the Middle East, became welfare officer in Auckland.

Picture icon

Two women with leadership roles in Auckland are Mrs Tumanako Reweti and Miss Ani Pihema, both members of the community centre trust board. Mrs Reweti is a regular voluntary worker at the centre and the president of the city branch of the Maori Women's Welfare League. Miss Pihema, of Ngati Whatua, ex-school teacher, is now a welfare officer with the Department of Maori Affairs.

– 26 –

Picture icon

Other leaders frequently met at the centre from left to right: Mr Andrew Paapu, Ngapuhi, chairman of the Owairaka tribal committee, and a public servant; Mrs Bella Taura, the ‘mother’ of the university Maori Club—more formally known as the president of the Whare Wananga branch of the M.W.W.L.; and Mrs Maraea Te Kawa, also very prominent in the league. All these people have a variety of other functions—Mr Paapu as secretary of a study group which meets at the Department of Anthropology (Auckland University) every fortnight; Mrs Te Tawa on bodies such as the recent money drive for Ruia Morrison.

education is a source of status and his leadership in party politics is made effective by his skill in both Maori and European things. He is a good Maori linguist and is also a master of English.

The leader of the Labour Party in Auckland is “J”. He had a good education, a brief period in the public service, attained fame as a Rugby footballer and was one of the leaders in the establishment of the Community Centre. He had a responsible position in a trade union in Auckland. The fact that he has been chairman of the tribal executive committee shows his competence as an administrator.


Leadership in the Auckland Maori community is comprised of a wide range of classes. The educated person is very much in evidence, so are the bureaucratic leader, the professional man, the woman leader, the administrator and the religious leader. It is to be expected that they would feature in an urban community close to European institutions. But then the kaumatua, the kuia and the rangatahi leader are here too. The pattern of leadership is practically the same as that found in the village community, the main difference is in the shift of priority. The educated person has moved to the fore in the urban community, while the kaumatua and kuia are called upon on specific occasions.

The bases of authority are not as clear cut as those found in the more homogeneous grouping of the village kinship community. Kinship affiliations in the city are important in developing leadership within particular tribes or subtribes. Ethnic association and the embodiment of Maori

– 27 –

Picture icon

Chairman of the Tribal Executive, and therefore senior Maori administrator in Auckland, is Mr Matiu Te Hau, in private life tutor-organizer for the Auckland Regional Council of Adult Education. Mr Te Hau, who hails from Opotiki, had varied experience in survey parties before the war but ended up doing a university degree and becoming a teacher. After the war, he joined Adult Education; the originality of his thought and the force of his oratory in both English and Maori are widely known.

ideals however are helping to cut across the restricting boundaries of kinship, though this, as yet is difficult still in Auckland. Maori skills gain recognition in certain situations when Maori deals with Maori. The scarcity of those men and women with Maori ceremonial skills in the city places particular prestige on those who possess such skills. Of importance in this regard is the way the kaumatua status is frequently assumed by younger men and educated persons because of some facility in the required skills. Education and the possession of European skills are the highest qualifications for leadership in Auckland. This is necessary because of the close association of Maori and European. While the educated leader is given prestige by virtue of his education, he maintains his position through concretely expressed interests in the welfare of the Maori community.

Added to education and European skills may be mentioned the alliance of a Maori leader with European institutions. A clergyman is backed by his church, and adult education tutor by the university, and the civil servant by the Government Department. The majority of the leaders in the city of Auckland are the specialists in charge of sports and recreation or other youth activities. Here general kinship supported by outstanding skill in games or in administration in the clubs helps to give prestige. A player who has achieved national fame is highly respected in the Maori community and such persons may find themselves being transferred into positions of leadership in the other organisations in the community.

The kaumatua and the kuia come into their own when distinguished Maori or European ivsitors are welcomed at the Maori Community Centre. Their main function is to give just that touch of Maori dignity and ceremonial to the gatherings.