Sir Apirana Turupa Ngata was born at Te Araroa, on the East Coast, 3 July, 1874. He had strong connections with Ngati Porou.
Ngata attended Waiomatatini Native School from age five before attending Te Aute College. His marks at College were such that he was awarded a Te Makarini Scholarship, that enabled him to attend Canterbury College where he completed a BA in Political Science, in 1893. He later added an MA.
In 1896, Ngata, after having moved to Auckland and begun work for Devore and Cooper, completed his LLB. He was the first Maori to complete a degree at a New Zealand University.
In 1895, Ngata married Arihia Kane Tamati of Ngati Porou. Together they had 15 children, 11 of whom survived into adulthood.
From 1899 onwards, Ngata was heavily involved in trying to better the social and economic situation of all Maori. He was the chief land reformer of Ngati Porou and spent the years from 1899 to 1916 investing in Ngati Porou lands, and setting up systems of land management and development that were implemented by other Iwi across New Zealand.
In 1905, Ngata contested the Eastern Maori Parliament seat and won. It was a seat he was to hold until 1943.
Ngata was an immensely able politician, who undertook many ventures as a Minister that included the recruitment and formation of the Maori Battalion in World War 1, and reforming the land of iwi throughout New Zealand. Ngata also encouraged the preservation of Maori identity, through sports and cultural competitions between wi.
In December 1928 Ngata was placed in office as the United Party became the ruling party. Ngata was Native Minister and was ranked third in Cabinet. As a Minister, Ngata was able to secure Government funding to allow Maori to develop their lands further. He was also able to coerce tribes who were uncooperative into joining the reform movement, such as the King Movement, in the Waikato.
Tragedy struck Ngata in 1929, when Arihia and his eldest son Makarini died of Dysentery. Ngata, however, continued his work in the same vein as before.
By the beginning of 1932, Ngata and the Native Department were being criticised for over-spending and a full report of the Department followed, in 1934. It accused Ngata and the Department of falsifying accounts, and corruption. Although there was no evidence against Ngata and much evidence against aides to Ngata committing these crimes, he took responsibility for his Department and resigned from Cabinet.
In 1943, Ngata finally lost his seat in Parliament to a member of the Ratana movement and never regained it.
Ngata died on 14 July, 1950 at Waiomatatini. He is remembered as the politician responsible for the revival of the Maori identity and culture in the early Twentieth Century. He was known as a man of intelligence, selflessness, perseverance and integrity.
The House logo of Ngata features the Tukutuku pattern of the Ngata whanau of Ngati Porou. This is a reminder to Ngata House of Ngata’s tireless service to others. Members of Ngata House seek to follow Ngata’s example of being forward-thinking, hard-working and putting the concern of others above their own.