Ever wondered how Grey St in Motueka got its name? No, not from Governor George Grey (Hori Kerei). Like a number of streets in our rohe, it’s named after one of our great tupuna, in this case Te Tau Ihu rangatira Kerei Pukekohatu.
Kerei Pukekohatu is an important figure in our history. He was the second son of the Ngāti Rārua chief Tana Pukekohatu, and brother of Rore and Hapareta. His children, two sons and four daughters, were the grandparents of many of our whanau today.
Kerei and his wife Ruita Rangirangi each owned land throughout New Zealand, including allotments of Occupation Reserves in Motueka.
Kerei wanted to make his Motueka lands available for lease to the growing number of settlers arriving in the region and saw the passage of the Native Reserves Act 1856 as a means of achieving this. The Act was intended to enable efficient management of land and to benefit Maori land owners by putting their land on an equal footing as other land leased to Europeans. He considered this a low-risk and profitable option, and understood that his land would be returned to him on request once any lease agreement had ended, as long as he paid for any improvements that had been made.
So Kerei handed the management and administration of his Motueka Occupation Reserve land, under the Native Reserves Act, to the then Nelson Land Commissioner, James Mackay Jr.
In the late 1880s, upon the expiry of the lease, Kerei requested the return of his land for him to administer and manage as he saw fit. However the Commissioners turned down Kerei’s request, because he did not plan to use the land for the purpose of living on it or cultivation, and they believed returning it to Kerei would be unfair to the current lessee. Thus Kerei discovered that his land was now caught within the Commissioner’s administrative grip.
Further amendments to the Native Reserves Act compounded this injustice. Kerei’s land became subject to the Westland and Nelson Native Reserves Act of 1887, which allowed lease holders the right to renew their lease indefinitely. Kerei would never see his land returned to him.
Kerei and his uri did not however remain landless forever. The passing of his wife Ruita at the Wairau Pa in 1905 saw lands and rents under her ownership in Motueka and around New Zealand handed on to Kerei, and on his passing, the lands and rents were given to the couple’s six children.
Many families living in our rohe today whakapapa back to Kerei and Ruita, and many of his uri remember him by giving his name to their tamariki.