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William Grey Nicholls and Rihitoto Mataia

The son of a Pakeha Maori, Nicholls had an illustrious ancestry on his mother’s side, and his wife Rihitoto Mataia also had a distinguished whakapapa. From the 1870s Nicholls farmed in Ohinemuri, and as a licensed interpreter played an important role in land transactions at the same time as he was becoming prominent in the Pakeha community. For over 30 years he invested in mining, starting at Te Aroha in 1880. He also invested in a variety of other enterprises, becoming prosperous through these investments, his farming, and in particular by acquiring and selling land. Over a 40-year period, Nicholls conducted many cases in the land court, and assisted Pakeha to acquire Maori land, and also acquired a considerable amount of land for himself and Rihitoto, who inherited many blocks from her father (but had to pay off his massive debts). Whereas Rihitoto was a prominent leader in the Maori community of Hauraki, Nicholls had the same role in Pakeha society. Active in a variety of initiatives to benefit the Ohinemuri community, he was a popular member and chairman of the Ohinemuri County Council, and late in life was elevated to the Legislative Council. Reputedly he assisted Maori in various ways, but clearly he identified rather more with his Pakeha ancestry. His career was a remarkably successful one, and his wife was also successful in maximizing the benefits that could be derived from her ancestry.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). William Grey Nicholls and Rihitoto Mataia. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 24), Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart

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