From the late 1700′s Ngāti Paoa exercised their rangatiratanga over a substantial corridor of land and coastal margins, from Mahurangi in the north to Te Hoe-o-Tainui in the south (see map). Early European visitors described the people of Ngāti Paoa as “a powerful and wealthy tribe” and “the finest race seen in New Zealand.”
Having once occupied some of the most strategic land holdings in the Auckland, northern and eastern Waikato and western Hauraki regions, Ngāti Paoa were forced to seek refuge amongst kinsmen in the Waikato hinterland following the invasion by northern tribes in 1821. This warfare, combined with successive waves of epidemics and the land confiscations of the 1860s, conspired to seriously deplete the tribe’s influence over its former estate.
Proximity to the European settlement in Auckland during the 1850s initially gave the tribe a commercial advantage in trade; however, this same proximity brought the tribe under enormous pressure to sell land. Consequently, by 1900, the tribe had been significantly impoverished.
However, Ngāti Paoa began to rally themselves to assert their existence as an independent iwi. The Waitangi Tribunal case marked the beginning of a lengthy struggle to reassert the mana of the iwi throughout its historical domain.