Topic: Koraurau (?-1828)

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Koraurau was the leading chief at Otamataha Pā in Tauranga. He was killed in 1828 along with around 500 of his people when the pā was raided by iwi from the Thames district.

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Koraurau was the leading chief at the busy Otamataha Pā in Tauranga. This was situated on the northern end of Te Papa peninsula and along with Maungatapu and Otumoetai was one of the main settlements in Tauranga at the time. It was occupied by Ngāti Tapu, a hapu of Ngāi Te Rangi.

In 1824 work was started on the schooner Herald by missionary Henry Williams (1792-1867) with the help of William Hall and Captain Gilbert Mair (1799-1857). Work was completed and the Herald launched from Paihia Mission Station in the Bay of Islands on 24 January 1826. 

At 9am on Friday 23 June 1826 the Herald was the first European ship to enter Tauranga Harbour.

On board was missionary George Clark who stayed overnight at Otamataha Pā on 23 June. He recorded the 'considerable fortification' in his journal; 'made so by Nature to which the Natives have added to its strength, by cutting the Earth down to the Water (by which two parts out of three it is surrounded), forming thereby perpendicular Walls, 40 or 50 ft high. A deep ditch is cut around the other part and fenced with heavy timber, and the entrance very narrow'. He also says of the houses, 'their number was considerable and were laid out pretty regularly for Native houses and might contain five or six hundred people' (p. 25).

The first Christian service at Tauranga was held at Otamataha Pā on Sunday 25 June 1826.

Te Raukaraka (pounamu mere)

Koraurau's mere was called Te Raukaraka (pounamu mere) due to it being made from a rare kind of greenstone resembling in colour the leaves of the karaka tree. During the visit of the Herald, Koraurau gave the mere to Gilbert Mair (Snr), father of William and Gilbert Mair. This was because Mair had given a shirt to Koraurau's wife who had given birth to a son the night of the Herald's arrival. The son was named Hohepa Te Mea after Mair.

Mair (Snr) left the mere with Koraurau, intending to pick it up during his next visit.

On 6 April 1828 when the Herald was near Tuhua (Mayor Island) on it's way to Whakatane and Opotiki Williams recorded in his journal that; 'Several canoes came off… They told us that the Natemaru had been to Tauranga, and had taken the Pa of Koraurau, that he himself was killed with many others and the remainder of the tribe taken as slaves' (p. 119). The Herald spent the night near Motiti Island before heading down the coast.

Otamataha Pā had been decimated by Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Tamaterā from the Thames district, commanded by Te Rohu (aka Te Rauroha). Koraurau and most of the inhabitants were killed, although it is said that twenty-five people from the pā escaped under cover of darkness. 

One of those who escaped by Koraurau's wife who had her young baby strapped to her back. However, she was shot as she dived into the water. She managed to swim across to the opposite shore where she died. Her baby, Hohepa Te Mea, survived, and later served as a guide for the British troops at the Battle of Gate Pa.

On 12 April 1828 the Herald's returned to the area. The ship entered the Tauranga harbour and anchored off Te Papa where the missionaries traded with Maori for potatoes.

On 14 April 1828 they went to investigate the reports of the massacre for themselves and Williams recorded; 'When last here we anchored abreast of the place, then were there many hundreds of men, women and children living here - now all was silent - their houses and fences burnt - dead dogs and pigs on all sides, and human bones in many places' (p. 123).

One survivor of the massacre was tohunga Matiu Tahu [Matthew]. Born in c1792, he was a helper to missionary Alfred Brown who refered to him as 'Old Matiu'. Henry Williams recorded a description of him in his journal in March 1837 when he would have been around 45 years old. Tahu signed the deed of conveyance for the second part of the sale of land to the Te Papa Mission  in 1839. He worked as a Native teacher at Otumoetai Pa. Tahu died in November or December of 1863. 

Nothing more was heard of Koraurau's mere until after the Battle of Gate Pa in 1864, when some soldiers, who were digging graves for their fallen comrades, unearthed it. The mere was identified and handed over to Koraurau's son Hohepa Te Mea, who gave it to Captain Mair in pursuance of his father's promise. Auckland Museum now holds the mere.

After the massacre the pā site was considered tapu and was never reoccupied. Today it is the site of Tauranga's Mission Cemetery.

Note: 'Te Rangituke, who was a son of Te Toki, was said to be related to the chiefs of the Tauranga Pa (Otamatahi) visited by George Clarke and the other missionaries' Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society  (p. 21).


George Clark's Journal, 19-29 June, 1826 (reproduced in the Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society, Vol. 50, April 1974, pp. 25-26).

Gilbert Mair: Te Kooti's Nemisis (2004) by Ron Crosby (pp. 23-24).

Matiu Tahu: Tohunga and Christian Teacher (December 1973) by Alister Matheson (49: 23-35).

The Early Journals of Henry Williams (1961) by Henry Williams.

The Tauranga Voyages of the Mission Schooner Herald in 1826 (April, 1974) by Alister Matheson (50:18-35).

The Te Papa Block: A History of Church Missionary Society and Crown Dealings, 1838-1867 (1996) by Vincent O'Malley.


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2015). Koraurau (?-1828). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2015)


This page was archived at perma cc March 2017

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Koraurau (?-1828)

First Names:Koraurau
Last Name:?
Date of death:April 1828
Place of death:Tauranga, New Zealand
Occupation:Māori chief
Name of the children:Hohepa Te Mea