Mere Kuru Te Kati


Ngāti Tamatera, Ngāti Mahuta (?- 1905)

Iwi map - Mere Kuru Te KatiIWI / HAPU AFFILIATIONS

Mere Kuru Te Kati has been written into history as a feisty woman.1 In today's terms she would be a respected environmental activist. In 1875, the New Zealand Government opened up Ohinemuri for mining and proclaimed the district as a gold-mining region. Many stories have been told about the fight Mere Kuru put up against the surveying and mining of Ohinemuri. This newspaper report from 1870 is an account of the second attempt made by Kuru and others to stop the imminent surveying of her lands:

Mere Kuru I and five others arrived on the bank opposite where the raft was moored. After a few Hauhau prayers and responses, the women asked us to take the raft to where it came from. We took no notice, and continued to stay by the raft. The women then came off in a canoe, pulled up the anchor, and towed the raft out of the Ohinemuri and sent it adrift in the Thames River. Next morning Mere Kuru and Mere Titia, and four other women, arrived before breakfast. As soon as they arrived they had prayers, Mere Kuru sitting with an iron rod stuck in the ground in front of her. Her hair was tied with a piece of flax, and three pheasant feathers stuck in front. She was supported on either side by her female executive. Prayers for the occasion were again repeated, with numerous responses. Mere Titia then asked Mr Wood to go away, and take his timber back... He replied that the timber was his, and that he would fetch it where he liked... Mere Kuru then told Mr. Wood that all Ohinemuri was hers. Paeroa was also hers. She admitted that Mr. Wood had it on lease for the purpose of buying pigs, potatoes, corn, &c, and keeping a store, but he had no right to give it to other pakehas. She did not know anything about a Crown grant having been issued for the Paeroa. It was all hers. Whilst Mere Kuru was speaking she was brandishing her iron sceptre far too close to be pleasant.... We determined not to take any action in commencing the survey until Rapata arrived in Shortland... We found Mere Kuru and her friends waiting for us, and as soon as we were seated the Hauhau service commenced, and lasted fully an hour. Mere Titia commenced the korero, and Mere Kuru followed in the same strain, repeating generally the statements she had made before. She passed her mere over the heads of ourselves and Mr. Jordan, by way of an incantation, as Aye suppose.2

Mere disliked the idea of being sketched or photographed by Pākehā artists. She finally agreed to sit for Lindauer on condition that a copy of the portrait would be supplied for the tribal meeting house. Mere Kuru died in 1905.



  1. ‘The Irrepressible Mere Kuru,’ Daily Southern Cross, vol XXVI, issue 4091, 1 October 1870, p 3, Papers Past, accessed 2 March 2010.
  2. 'Attempt to Survey Defeated by Female Natives', Tuapeka Times, vol III, issue 108, 5 March 1870, p 7, Papers Past, accessed 3 March 2010.
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