Alfred Patchett (Patiti) Warbrick

Ngāti Rangitihi

1860 - 1940

He was born near Lake Rotomahana, the son of Abraham Warbrick who came from the English Midlands in 1849 and Ngāti Rangitihi chieftainess, Ruhia Ngakarauna, daughter of Paerau Moko-nui-a-Rangi. He was educated at the Takapuna Catholic school, the Three Kings Wesleyan Native Institution and St Matthew’s Boys’ School in Auckland. When he was fourteen he met Sir Donald MacLean and expressed an interest in becoming a boat-builder. MacLean arranged for Warbrick to be apprenticed to Charles Bailey in Auckland and Warbrick worked in this trade for ten years. His mother asked that he represent the family at the Native Land Court examining the Rotomahana Block titles. In 1886 he travelled to Rotorua with the aim of establishing a boat-building trade. After the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886 Warbrick assisted in the rescue work and some weeks later guided Auckland Evening Star correspondent J. A. Philp in an exploration of the Rotomahana crater site. He then began guiding others around the Tarawera area and became Chief Government Guide for forty-five years at Rotorua retiring in the 1930s. He was known as "Patiti" to the Māori. Cowan writes that Warbrick was "a great athlete, yachtsman and footballer; he was a member of the first Māori Rugby team to tour England [in 1888].... A series of chances set him guiding in Geyserland - it was at Government suggestion that he took it up soon after the eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886."

Biographical sources

  • Warbrick, Alfred. Adventures In Geyserland. Dunedin, N.Z.: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1934. 12-13.
  • Keam, R. F. "Warbrick, Alfred Patchett 1860 – 1940". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007. URL:


  • Warbrick, Alfred. Adventures In Geyserland: Life In New Zealand’s Thermal Regions. Including the Story of The Tarawera Eruption and the Destruction of the Famous Terraces of Rotomahana. Told by Alfred Warbrick (Patiti); Preface James Cowan. Dunedin, N.Z.: A. H. and A. W. Reed, 1934.
  • In these memoirs, ‘[i]ssued in the Raupo Readers in three parts’ and also published as one volume, Warbrick comments briefly on his family and his introduction into boat-building. He describes Te Wairoa prior to the 1886 Tarawera Eruption and notes some of the local personalities and Pakeha visitors, such as Sir George Grey who visited the area in 1849-50 and Mr S. Percy Smith and Mr C. W. Hursthouse who admired the region in 1858. Warbrick provides descriptive eye-witness accounts of the eruption and includes various reports from the Rotorua telegraphist. The second part opens with Warbrick’s account of his expedition by boat on 13 June 1886 to search for survivors. He writes of the various premonitions of the disaster such as the appearance of the waka taua some ten days before the eruption, and describes his rescue of the tohunga Tuhoto, whose whare had been buried under volcanic mud. Warbrick then recounts how he was part of a special exploration commissioned by Sir Henry Brett of the Auckland Star to ascertain the fate of the Pink and White Terraces in July 1886. It was after this period that Warbrick began guiding around the lakes and thermal area of Tarawera-Rotomahana on the initial suggestion of the Native Minister of the time Hon John Ballance. Warbrick recalls his highly publicised crossing by boat of the Waimangu Geyser in 1903 and the tragedy of four deaths occuring at the same geyser a fortnight later including Warbrick’s brother, Joseph. The writer goes on to discuss the Māori concept of matakite, or intuition/second sight. The book concludes with an appendix containing Warbrick’s whakapapa from Tamatekapua, captain of the Arawa canoe, and a short account of some of the exploits of Warbrick’s great-grandfather Moko-nui-a-Rangi.