By the early 19th century, Ngāti Toa Rangatira had settled the lands of Porirua and the surrounding districts, including the area we call Tawa today. The valley was known as Te Kenepuru, taking its name from the stream that flows from springs in the hills to the South, and meanders northward to the Porirua harbour. Te Kenepuru was a flourishing food source, with whitebait and eel from the stream itself, and cultivations along its fertile banks, particularly its lower delta.

One of the main tracks from Porirua to Wellington followed the Te Kenepuru stream, before branching out of the valley at Takapū to climb the Paparārangi hills, then descend the other side through the Korokoro stream.

In October 1839, the New Zealand Company ship The Tory arrived at Kapiti Island, one of the homes of Ngāti Toa. Their intent was to acquire as much land as possible, to on sell to British landowners and settlers. Aware that the British Government intended to establish a treaty with Māori, and that this treaty would prevent the sale of land to anyone but the Crown, the New Zealand Company knew they needed to secure their purchases before that treaty was enacted.

During that visit, the New Zealand Company entered into a deed with Ngāti Toa that purported to purchase 20 million acres between Taranaki and North Canterbury. The deed was only in English, and not accurately translated verbally. Both parties had differing views on its purpose, and what land was included. Ngāti Toa have always maintained that the Porirua lands were not sold to the New Zealand Company, a view that would be upheld by Land Commissioner William Spain in 1843.

In January 1840, the British Government’s representative, Lieutenant Governor Hobson, arrived in New Zealand and announced that a Land Claims Commission would be established to investigate the validity of earlier land purchases. He would go on to arrange the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in February 1840. In January 1841, William Spain was appointed a Land Claims Commissioner and in 1842 commenced his investigation into the New Zealand Company’s claim to have purchased land around Port Nicholson.

In early 1841, the New Zealand Company had started work to extend the track along the Te Kenepuru stream, to gain access to the lands of Porirua from Wellington. In June of that year, 126 sections were allocated to settlers, and by 1842, occupation of those sections had begun. Led by Te Rangihaeata, Ngāti Toa resisted this occupation, tearing down the buildings and evicting the trespassers. In the following years, Te Rangihaeata would place a rahui on the track, preventing passage by all.

In September 1843, Land Commissioner William Spain issued a preliminary report of his findings into the Port Nicholson Purchase. The report stated that “the greater portion of the land claimed by the Company at Port Nicholson and north to Wanganui had not been alienated and that Māori had not consented to the alienation of their pa cultivations and burial grounds.” The New Zealand Company’s solution was to offer a series of further payments, to secure Deeds Of Release.

In 1844, Governor Fitzroy visited Ngāti Toa to offer a Deeds of Release payment. This was for Ngāti Toa’s interests in the Hutt Valley, not Porirua. Te Rangihaeata initially refused the payment, but eventually conceded on the condition that the northern Hutt Valley be retained for Ngāti Rangatahi. His condition was ignored and settlers encroached further and further North.

Tensions escalated across the region. Work had continued on the Te Kenepuru Track, now known as the Porirua Road. In 1845, colonial troops began widening the road, and, in response to Ngāti Toa’s continuing resistance, erected a series of fortified stockades. The likeness of two of these stockades appear on Tawa College’s emblem today.

Governor George Grey arrived in Wellington in 1846, and the relationship between settlers and Māori took a dark turn. In response to the continued encroachment by settlers in the central Hutt Valley, a Māori war party attacked a military stockade at Boulcott’s Farm, where the Lower Hutt golf course is today. Six soldiers were killed, and more were injured.

George Grey blamed Ngāti Toa. In July 1846, he sailed to Plimmerton, captured Te Rauparaha, imprisoning him aboard the military steamer The Driver. He then directed his soldiers to attack Te Rangihaeata at his pā at Pauātahanui. Faced with overwhelming military force, Te Rangihaeata and his supporters retreated North along the Horokiri valley, making a final stand near the summit of a rise now known as Battle Hill.

With Te Rauparaha kidnapped and Te Rangihaeata banished, Ngāti Toa’s resistance dissipated. George Grey used these circumstances to coerce the remaining Ngāti Toa leaders into “selling” the lands of Porirua, from Makara to Paekakariki. Ngāti Toa agreed to this sale as the price to be paid for the release of their chief. This agreement is known as the Porirua Deed 1847.

The Porirua Deed stipulated three reserves to be retained by Ngāti Toa. The southern boundary was a straight line between the southernmost point of the Porirua Harbour to Ara Taura, just north of Boom Rock. However, as the New Zealand Company had already surveyed much of this land, it was simply “settled”, and the reserves boundary ignored.