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Henare Tomoana

Henare Tomoana 2Many of our place names and landmarks are well-known to us but sometimes we don’t know the rich history behind them. The name Tomoana is seen in many places across our district, including Tomoana Road, the former Tomoana Freezing Works, Tomoana Warehousing, Showgrounds Hawke’s Bay Tomoana, and the surname of the local Ngāti Kahungunu iwi chair, Ngāhiwi Tomoana. This important name Tomoana comes from local 19th century Māori leader and identity, Henare Tomoana.

Henare Tomoana was born in the 1820s or early 1830s, probably in Heretaunga. He was the third son of Te Rotohenga (Winipere) from whom he derived hi​s high rank. Her father was Hāwea of Ngāi Te Whatuiāpiti, heir to mana over Heretaunga, and eponymous ancestor of Ngāti Hāwea, an important hapū or sub-tribe of the Waipatu, Ruahāpia, Matahiwi,Te Awanga, Karamū and Heretaunga area(s). As mentioned, his name is seen in many places around Heretaunga today, and historically the name TOMOANA used to be proudly emblazoned in a huge logo across the Tomoana Freezing Works main building in Hastings.​

Tomoana's younger brother was Pene Te Uamairangi; his elder half-brothers were Karaitiana Takamoana and Te Meihana Takihi; all of these names are represented in our local street network across Heretaunga.

One of Tomoana's important contributions to community was to set up, publish and edit the Māoriri newspaper called Te Wānanga, at Pakowhai. The first issue emerged on 5 August 1874; it continued, usually weekly, until December 1878. It was hoped to educate its readers about European business practices, and provide contact between Māori and Pākehā concepts. It would unite the tribes. The paper discussed land selling and leasing, mortgages, reserves and Crown grants. By this time, his brother Takamoana was now MHR for Eastern Māori, and controversial land cases were reported on both locally as well as lobbied in parliament through his brother.

Tomoana's reputation had made him the natural successor to Takamoana in the Eastern Māori seat in 1879. He defeated both the more radical Henare Matua and Ieni (Hans) Tapsell in this and the succeeding election. As a member of the House, Tomoana's influence among Māori was enhanced. He was sometimes called on to resolve disputes. In the 1884 election Tomoana was defeated by Wi Pere, but his mana as a chief and leader in Hawke's Bay was undiminished.

The death of Renata Kawepo in 1888 left Tomoana the senior Heretaunga chief of his generation. In May 1891 in Waipawa he gave evidence to the Native Land Laws Commission, pointing out that great injustices had resulted from laws imposed on Māori by the European-dominated Parliament. This reflected Tomoana's growing involvement with Te Kotahitanga, the movement for an independent Māori parliament. Hamiora Mangakahia, several times premier of the Māori parliament, credited Tomoana with being one of the principal agents of its establishment. As chairman of the Waipatu marae committee, Tomoana welcomed Kotahitanga members to the June 1892 session there. His parliamentary skills were put to good use; he was elected Speaker of the Great Council of Te Kotahitanga.

Tomoana's greatest achievement as a member of Te Kotahitanga was to present to the native minister in June 1893 a draft Federated Māori Assembly Empowering Bill, and a petition listing Māori grievances. The bill asked for power over Māori to be delegated to Te Kotahitanga, subject only to the governor. In 1893 Tomoana took up the cause of Tuhoe who were resisting the survey of their land, and circulated a petition on their behalf throughout Hawke's Bay. This action led Premier Richard Seddon to release Tuhoe prisoners.

In June 1898 he was made a member of the Legislative Council, a position which he retained until his death on 20 February 1904. Thousands paid their respects to him at his tangihanga, and several hundred people attended his funeral at Waipatu, where he was buried in a vault close to the St Matthew’s Anglican Church. His mourners included Premier Seddon and the Minister of Native Affairs, James Carroll. He was survived by two children, including his eldest son, Paraire Tomoana.

14 September 2020

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