Waikato-Tainui traces its roots back to the intrepid voyagers who traversed the oceans on the Tainui waka from Hawaiki to Aotearoa some 700 years ago.

Captained by Hoturoa, the Tainui waka made landfall in Kaawhia and its descendants extended their reach to form the four principal tribes of Tainui: Waikato, Hauraki, Ngaati Maniapoto and Ngaati Raukawa. Today, Waikato-Tainui is made up of more than 64,500 iwi members affiliating to 68 marae from 33 hapuu.


The Kiingitanga – a movement to create a unified Maaori nation – was formed after consultation among the tribes of Aotearoa. In 1858 Pootatau Te Wherowhero, ariki of Waikato, was chosen by the tribes of Aotearoa to become the first Maaori king.

Kiingi Pootatau, like many chiefs of his time, became convinced that unity under the umbrella of the Kiingitanga was the most effective way to protect Maaori lands and to help protect tribal structures and customs from the impact of Paakeha practices and beliefs.

In 1860 Kiingi Pootatau died and was succeeded by his son, Matutaera Pootatau Te Wherowhero – more commonly known as Tawhiao. His reign lasted 34 years and would see the most turbulent era of Maaori-European relations.

During the reign of Kiingi Tawhiao, the New Zealand Settlements Act 1863 was passed, which provided for military settlements to be established on confiscated land. Following enactment of this law, British troops crossed the Mangataawhiri Stream and advanced into the Waikato provoking war. This invasion triggered the confiscation, known as raupatu, of more than 1.2 million acres of Waikato land and caused catastrophic economic, social and cultural loss to Waikato.


The search for redress and justice for raupatu spanned more than 125 years and in 1995 Waikato-Tainui became the first iwi to settle its grievances with the Crown. The 1995 Waikato Raupatu Claims Settlement Act provided the foundations upon which the tribe could establish itself to progress the cultural, social and economic advancement of its people.

A Deed of Settlement for the Waikato River was also signed in 2008. The Waikato River Settlement supports work to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of the Waikato River for future generations.

Waikato-Tainui still has outstanding claims over the West Coast Harbours, and Wairoa and Maioro land blocks.