King Country

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King Country
Unofficial region of New Zealand
Country New Zealand
Island North Island
  Region50,000 to 70,000 depending on definition of area

The King Country (Māori: Te Rohe Pōtae or Rohe Pōtae o Maniapoto) is a region of the western North Island of New Zealand. It extends approximately from the Kawhia Harbour and the town of Otorohanga in the north to the upper reaches of the Whanganui River in the south, and from the Hauhungaroa and Rangitoto Ranges in the east to near the Tasman Sea in the west. It comprises hill country, large parts of which are forested.


The region, albeit loosely defined, is very significant in New Zealand's history. The term "King Country" dates from the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, when colonial forces invaded the Waikato and forces of the Māori King Movement withdrew south of what was called the aukati, or boundary, a line of pa alongside the Puniu River near Kihikihi. [1] Land behind the aukati remained native territory, with Europeans warned they crossed it under threat of death. [2] [3]

Known for its rugged, rural roads and diverse landscape, the King Country has a warm climate, considered subtropical.


The King Country is not an entity in local government. It forms part of two local government regions, Waikato and Manawatū-Whanganui, and all or part of four districts: Otorohanga, Ruapehu, Taupo and Waitomo.

Taranaki-King Country is a parliamentary electorate for central government. The member represents an area which stretches from the outskirts of New Plymouth City to the outskirts of Hamilton City and including the King Country towns of Te Awamutu, Otorohanga and Te Kuiti.


The King Country (a.k.a. Western Uplands [4] ) is largely made up of rolling hill country, including the Rangitoto and Hauhungaroa Ranges. It includes extensive karst regions, producing such features as the Waitomo Caves.

The area is largely rural and sparsely settled, with no cities or large towns. The most significant townships are the rural service centres of Te Kuiti (in the north) and Taumarunui (in the south).


Prior to European settlement, the area was occupied by various Māori iwi, especially Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Tama, and Ngāti Tuwharetoa.

In July 1863, Governor Sir George Grey ordered the invasion of the Waikato by British troops, with support from small numbers of Māori. The invasion was aimed at crushing Kingite power that was seen as a threat to British authority, [5] and also at driving Waikato Māori from their territory in readiness for occupation and settlement by Europeans. [6] [7]

Heavily outnumbered and disadvantaged by superior firepower, the Kingite forces retreated southwards from the Waikato after the battle at Ōrākau in April 1864, eventually being forced to flee to Maniapoto land, later called the King Country.

At this time, the region received a Māori name, Rohe pōtae. This name translates as "Area of the Hat", and is said to have originated when the second Māori King Tāwhiao put his white top hat on a large map of the North Island and declared that all land covered by the hat would be under his mana (or authority). [8]

Heavy British losses at the battle of Gate Pā at Tauranga in April 1864 prompted General Duncan Cameron to abandon plans for further military campaigns in the Waikato area, and Grey and the colonial government were forced to accept this decision. [1] [9] The King Country, mountainous, poor and isolated, was not an attractive conquest. King Tāwhiao and his followers were able to maintain a rebel Māori monarchy in exile and a refuge for rebel Māori opposed to the government for more than a decade although living conditions were very poor. This may be partly due to the large influx of about 3,500 Waikato people who swamped the resources of the approximately 800 Maniapoto living in the rohe.

On 15 May 1872 Te Kooti, on the run from government forces, crossed the Waikato River and entered the territory as supplicant and was granted asylum. In 1880, William Moffat, apparently a land agent or buyer, was shot and killed. [10]

In 1881, as a result of ongoing friction with his hosts over the question of land sales, and a general amnesty being granted to the rebels, Tāwhiao emerged and laid down the King Movement's arms. After successful negotiations between the government, Wahanui, Rewi and Taonui, including a pardon for Te Kooti [11] by 1883 the King Country was made accessible to Europeans. It was opened to road surveying, and the start of the Main Trunk Line [12] - but with a prohibition on the sale of alcohol throughout the district. [13] At a March 1883 meeting, John Bryce got a compact that allowed the surveying of the rail route. [14] At a February 1885 meeting at Kihikihi with John Ballance construction of the line was approved. Ballance was criticised for not requiring cession of land alongside the route (which would rise in value because of the line), but he knew that would not be acceptable to Māori. [15]

Construction of the railway began in 1885, and finished in 1908, with the completion greatly improving transport and communications in the King Country, promoting settlement and farming in the area - as well as assisting in the growth of rural service towns such as Taumarunui which was an important railway depot until the 1950s. The alcohol ban lasted until 1953 - as a young man, John A. Lee was jailed for smuggling alcohol into the area around 1910.


The greater part of the region's economy is involved in farming (especially pastoral farming) and forestry, with some supporting services. There are some areas of tourist significance, such as Waitomo Caves. The King Country also contains areas of conservation estate, especially Pureora Forest Park.

From 1966 to 31 March 2010, King Country Radio (with the call sign 1ZU) operated from Taumarunui.


The King Country Rugby Football Union has produced several rugby union players who became All Blacks: Kevin Boroevich, Ronald Bryers, Colin Meads, Stan Meads, Jack McLean, Bill Phillips, Joe Ratima and Graham Whiting.

The North King Country soccer team plays in a yellow and blue strip. It is based in Otorohanga.

Related Research Articles

Invasion of the Waikato

The Invasion of the Waikato was the biggest and most important campaign of the 19th-century New Zealand Wars, fought in the North Island of New Zealand between the military forces of the colonial government and a federation of Māori tribes known as the Kingitanga Movement. The Waikato is a territorial region with a northern boundary somewhat south of the city of Auckland. Hostilities lasted for nine months, from July 1863 to April 1864. The invasion was aimed at crushing Kingite power, which was seen as a threat to British authority, and also at driving Waikato Māori from their territory in readiness for occupation and settlement by Europeans. The campaign was fought by a peak of about 14,000 Imperial and colonial troops and about 4,000 Māori warriors drawn from more than half the major North Island tribal groups.

Tainui is a tribal waka confederation of New Zealand Māori iwi. The Tainui confederation comprises four principal related Māori iwi of the central North Island of New Zealand: Hauraki, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa and Waikato. There are other Tainui iwi whose tribal areas lay outside the traditional Tainui boundaries - Ngāi Tai in the Auckland area, Ngati Raukawa, and Ngāti Toa in the Horowhenua, Kapiti region and Ngāti Rārua and Ngāti Koata in the northern South Island.

The Tauranga campaign was a six-month-long armed conflict in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty in early 1864, and part of the New Zealand Wars that were fought over issues of land ownership and sovereignty. The campaign was a sequel to the invasion of Waikato, which aimed to crush the Māori King (Kingitanga) Movement that was viewed by the colonial government as a challenge to the supremacy of the British monarchy.

Waikato Region of New Zealand

Waikato is a local government region of the upper North Island of New Zealand. It covers the Waikato District, Waipa District, Matamata-Piako District, South Waikato District and Hamilton City, as well as Hauraki, Coromandel Peninsula, the northern King Country, much of the Taupō District, and parts of Rotorua District. It is governed by the Waikato Regional Council.

Te Kooti's War was among the last of the New Zealand wars, the series of 19th century conflicts between the Māori and the colonising European settlers. It was fought in the East Coast region and across the heavily forested central North Island and Bay of Plenty between New Zealand government military forces and followers of spiritual leader Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki.

Duncan Cameron (British Army officer)

General Sir Duncan Alexander Cameron, was a British Army officer who fought in the Crimean War and part of the New Zealand Wars. He was later a governor of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.

Te Kuiti Minor urban area in Waikato, New Zealand

Te Kuiti is a town in the north of the King Country region of the North Island of New Zealand. It lies at the junction of State Highways 3 and 30 and on the North Island Main Trunk railway, 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Hamilton. The town promotes itself as the sheep shearing capital of the world and is host to the annual New Zealand National Shearing Championships.


Tāwhiao was leader of the Waikato tribes, the second Māori King and a religious visionary. He was a member of the Ngāti Mahanga iwi (tribe) of Waikato.

Taumarunui Town in Manawatū-Whanganui, New Zealand

Taumarunui is a small town in the King Country of the central North Island of New Zealand. It is on an alluvial plain set within rugged terrain on the upper reaches of the Whanganui River, 65 km south of Te Kuiti and 55 km west of Turangi. It is under the jurisdiction of Ruapehu District and Manawatū-Whanganui region.

Otorohanga is a north King Country town in the Waikato region in the North Island of New Zealand. It is located 53 kilometres (33 mi) south of Hamilton and 18 kilometres (11 mi) north of Te Kuiti, on the Waipa River. It is a service town for the surrounding dairy-farming district. It is recognised as the "gateway" to the Waitomo Caves and as the "Kiwiana Town" of New Zealand. Until 2007, Otorohanga held a yearly 'Kiwiana Festival.'

Ngāti Maniapoto Māori iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa New Zealand

Ngāti Maniapoto is an iwi (tribe) based in the Waikato-Waitomo region of New Zealand's North Island. It is part of the Tainui confederation, the members of which trace their whakapapa (genealogy) back to people who arrived in New Zealand on the waka (canoe) Tainui. The 2006 New Zealand census shows the iwi to have a membership of 33,627, making it the 7th biggest iwi in New Zealand.

Māori King Movement Movement that arose among some of the Māori tribes of New Zealand in the central North Island in the 1850s.

The Māori King Movement, called the Kīngitanga in Māori, is a movement that arose among some of the Māori tribes of New Zealand in the central North Island in the 1850s, to establish a role similar in status to that of the monarch of the British colonists, as a way of halting the alienation of Māori land. The Māori monarch operates in a non-constitutional capacity with no legal or judicial power within the New Zealand government. Reigning monarchs retain the position of paramount chief of several tribes (iwi) and wield some power over these, especially within Tainui.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa Māori iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa New Zealand

Ngāti Tūwharetoa is an iwi descended from Ngātoro-i-rangi, the priest who navigated the Arawa canoe to New Zealand. The Tūwharetoa region extends from Te Awa o te Atua at Matatā across the central plateau of the North Island to the lands around Mount Tongariro and Lake Taupō.

Rewi Maniapoto

Rewi Manga Maniapoto (1807–1894) was a Ngāti Maniapoto chief who led rebel Kīngitanga forces during the New Zealand government Invasion of Waikato during the New Zealand Wars.

Te Tai Hauāuru New Zealand electorate

Te Tai Hauāuru is a New Zealand parliamentary Māori electorate, returning one Member of Parliament to the New Zealand House of Representatives, that was first formed for the 1996 election. The electorate was represented by Tariana Turia from 2002 to 2014, first for the Labour Party and then for the Māori Party. Turia retired and was succeeded in 2014 by Labour's Adrian Rurawhe who again retained the seat in 2017.

Ngāti Hauā Māori iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa New Zealand

Ngāti Hauā is a Māori iwi of the eastern Waikato of New Zealand. It is part of the Tainui confederation. Its traditional area includes Matamata, Cambridge, Maungakawa, the Horotiu district along the Waikato River and the Maungatautari district, and its eastern boundary is the Kaimai Range. Leaders of the tribe have included Te Waharoa, his son Wiremu Tamihana and Tamihana's son Tupu Taingakawa. The tribe has played a prominent role in the Māori King Movement, with Tamihana and descendants being known as the "Kingmakers".

Ngāti Mutunga Māori iwi (tribe) in Aotearoa New Zealand

Ngāti Mutunga is a Māori iwi (tribe) of New Zealand, whose original rohe were in north Taranaki. They migrated from Taranaki, first to Wellington, and then to the Chatham Islands in the 1830s. The rohe of the iwi include Wharekauri, Te Whanga Lagoon and Waitangi on Chatham Island, and Pitt Island, also part of the Chatham Islands. The principal marae are at Urenui in Taranaki, and on the Chatham Islands.


Te Wahanui Reihana Te Huatare was a diplomat and leader of the Ngāti Maniapoto iwi.

Orongokoekoeā Pā is a hill site located south of Te Kuiti, about halfway to Taumarunui, in the King Country region of New Zealand. It is named after the long-tailed cuckoo, which inhabits the area during the summer months. Orongokoekoeā is the site of an ancient Maori hill fortress (pā) belonging to the Ngāti Matakore tribe of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribal area. Pōtatau Te Wherowhero and his Waikato iwi retreated here and stayed for several years after they were defeated by musket-armed Ngāpuhi led by Hongi Hika in a battle at Matakitaki (Pirongia) in 1822. Te Wherowhero's son Tāwhiao, the second Maori King, was born at Orongokoekoeā in about 1825.

John William Ellis

John William Ellis was a New Zealand businessman and mayor of Hamilton from 1917 to 1918.


  1. 1 2 Belgrave, Michael (2005). Historical Frictions. Auckland: Auckland University Press. pp. 250–251. ISBN   1-86940-320-7.
  2. Dalton, B.J. (1967). War and Politics in New Zealand 1855-1870. Sydney: Sydney University Press. p. 260.
  3. Belich, James (1986). The New Zealand Wars. Auckland: Penguin. p. 175. ISBN   0-14-027504-5.
  5. Michael King (2003). The Penguin History of New Zealand. Penguin Books. p. 214. ISBN   0-14-301867-1.
  6. Dalton, B.J. (1967). War and Politics in New Zealand 1855-1870. Sydney: Sydney University Press. pp. 178–179.
  7. King, Michaerl (1977). Te Puea: A Biography. Auckland: Hodder and Stoughton. p. 26. ISBN   0-340-22482-7.
  8. "Te Rohe Pōtae", Te Ara
  9. Belich, James (1986). The New Zealand Wars. Auckland: Penguin. p. 199. ISBN   0-14-027504-5.
  10. "The death of William Moffat". NZETC. 1 September 1928.
  11. "How Te Kooti Gained a Pardon", Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, Joseph Angus Mackay
  12. "The Main Trunk Railway", The New Zealand Railways Magazine
  13. The Māori King movement. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. 4 March 2009.
  14. Belgrave 2017, pp. 262-264.
  15. Belgrave 2017, pp. 360,361.

Further reading

Coordinates: 38°40′0″S175°10′0″E / 38.66667°S 175.16667°E / -38.66667; 175.16667