Our Wiremu Tamihana NZer of the Year


Tamahere’s first person of historic significance, Wiremu Tamihana, has been chosen as New Zealander of the year … 1863.

Wiremu Tamihana, retrospectively named New Zealander of the Year 1863
Wiremu Tamihana, retrospectively named New Zealander of the Year 1863

The belated recognition of the farsighted Ngati Haua peacemaker, labeled by some as a rebel in his day, comes as the NZ Herald celebrates 150 years of publication.

In a commemorative magazine in today’s NZ Herald, the paper, which has chosen a New Zealander of the Year for many years, uses hindsight to name people it thought should have been rightfully recognised in their day over the last 150 years.

The Herald was first published on Friday, November 13, 1863 and that year it would undoubtedly have picked as its first New Zealander of the Year, Governor George Grey. And it would have been wrong.

It says that Wiremu Tamihana, known then in the Pakeha press as William Thompson and whose full name was Wiremu Tamihana Tarapipipi Te Waharoa, in hindsight was the far better man, whose aim was not war but to broker an arrangement with the Crown under which Maori could live under their own laws and customs.

Author Evelyn Stokes, who wrote a biography of the man entitled Wiremu Tamihana, Rangatira, wrote that “his vision is still valid: that of a Maori society in control of its own destiny, under a system of Maori law, working in partnership with Pakeha law, and participating in the benefits of Pakeha settlement.”

The Herald also names Tamihana as one of the 10 greatest New Zealanders of the last 150 years alongside Kate Sheppard, Ernest Rutherford, Apirana Ngata, Katherine Mansfield, Jean Batten, Michael Joseph Savage, Whina Cooper, Ed Hillary and Richie McCaw.

A sign board in Bruntwood Rd memorialises Tamihana’s role in Tamahere, and it is likely a road will be named after him Рalso belatedly Рin the near future. To read more of the history of Tamahere click here.

Click here to read more on George Grey and Wiremu Tamihana in the commemorative NZ Herald.

Click here for the people the Herald names as the 10 greatest New Zealanders.

* Disclosure: Philippa Stevenson is a former NZ Herald reporter (but not in 1863).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *