Peta Rutangiwhenua Wairua

Te Whānau a Apanui, Ngāti Awa, Ngā Puhi, Te Rarawa

1911 - 1980

Peta Wairua was born at Hauruia Maungaroa, and was educated at Te Paroa Primary School in Whakatane and St Stephen’s School in Parnell. He studied engineering at Auckland University before and after the war. He graduated with a Diploma in Civil Engineering. Wairua married Matekino Kapetaua in 1935 and had twelve children. He served in the Air Force during the Second World War and after the war worked as an engineering cadet for Whakatane County until 1949. He then worked as a surveyor and draughtsman for the Hobson County in Dargarville. Wairua was a licensed interpreter and served in the Māori Land Courts. He worked as a surveyor for Bitumix in the Auckland region from the Auckland Harbour Bridge up to Kaitaia until his retirement in 1962. In later life Wairua returned to university as an extra-mural student at Massey University and continued his B.A. studies at Victoria University. From 1935 he was very active in the early confiscation claims of Ngāti Awa. Wairua was a foundation member of Te Kotahitanga and was closely linked with Maria Romana and Te Maru Bedgegood - kaumatua of South Hokianga. He was spokesperson for Whina Cooper on the Land March. Wairua was a member of the former Bay of Plenty Historical Society and was a foundation member of Te Whanau-a-Apanui R.S.A. He collected Te Whanau-a-Apanui waiata and moteatea and wrote non-fiction material. He was an active social credit advocate and was a member of the Bay of Plenty Māori Rugby Union.

Biographical sources

  • Phone conversation with Peta Wairua on 7 July 1998.
  • Email correspondence from Raewyn Young on 17 and 21 July 1998.


  • "The Siege of Tokaakuku Pa." Te Ao Hou 25 (1958): 17-18. Rpt. in Historical Review: Journal of the Whakatane and District Historical Society 10.1 (1962): 11-12.
  • Wairua writes of the siege of the chief Whanau-a-Apanui’s stronghold at Toka-a-Kuku Pa by Ngapuhi, Ngāti Porou and Kahungunu in retaliation for the massacre of Te Whareonga. The siege lasted twelve months and Apanui managed to defend their position with the aid of muskets, the powerful Apanui fleet and karakia chanted by Te Uaaterangi’s brother-in-law.
  • "The Apanui Carvers of Mataatua and Hotunui Meeting Houses." Historical Review: Whakatane and District Historical Society 6.2 (1958): 63-65.
  • Wairua writes a short account of the Apanui Carvers, the nine sons of Treaty signatory Ahiwaru, who completed the carvings in the Mataatua House and worked under the direction of Wi Taopuku on the carved house in Thames. The Apanui carvers were descended from TuKaki, an upoko ariki who studied the sacred arts, crafts and cults at the Whare Wananga at Uawa and was awarded the honour "Te Kawa Whakairo Mai Hawaiki".
  • "Te Tai-O-Ruawano: A Whale. Legend of Tahu." Historical Review: Journal of the Whakatane and District Historical Society 10.1 (196?): 5.
  • Wairua gives a short account of Tahu’s voyage on the back of the whale, Ruawano, across Te Moana nui a Kiwa to Takore rock near Te Kaha. Tahu was then transported by a sacred shark to Te Kereu River and from there, Putiki, the taniwha took him to Ruahawene Pa where Tahu established his permanent home. Wairua writes of the homage given to Ruawano, the rituals performed to appease his anger and the area of Ruawano’s dominion, Tai-o-Ruawano.
  • Taylor, C.R.H. A Bibliography of Publications on the New Zealand Māori and the Moriori of the Chatham Islands. Oxford: Clarendon; Oxford UP, 1972. 98.