Ripeka Wharawhara Love (1882 – 1953), leading Te Ati Awa rangatira and a descendant of both Chiefs Te Puni and Te Wharepouri, made a big impact on welfare work, particularly for Māori. Her maternal grandfather was Scottish surveyor Robert Park who worked for the NZ Company and accompanied Edward Gibbon Wakefield to New Zealand.
Ripeka Love was appointed an Order of the British Empire in 1918 for her patriotic and welfare military work during World War One. She was also prominent in the Anglican church and a leader in Māori welfare work, as well as in military welfare work.
On the outbreak of World War One Ripeka joined Lady Liverpool and Mrs Pomare’s Māori Soldiers’ Fund Committee, fundraising for food parcels for Māori and Rarotongan soldiers overseas. She visited sick and wounded soldiers at Trentham Military Camp and helped their visiting families. Ripeka also nursed her entire family back to health when the great influenza epidemic of 1918 struck.
In the 1920s many Taranaki Māori migrated to Wellington for work or visited for land claim hearings. Ripeka Love became a member of the welfare organisation Nga Puni o Te Whanganui-a-Tara (the orphans of Wellington), established in the Hutt Valley to help these new migrants who had no family support.
Ripeka Love and her family gifted land (Puke Ariki) for a new meeting house Te Tatau-o-te-Po ( ‘the doorway of the night’) that opened in 1933 on the Hutt Road. She helped fund raise for building extensions and the meeting house became an invaluable place for Māori visitors to stay.
Ripeka Love was instrumental in setting up the Te Ropu o Te Whanganui-a-Tara society which organised events at the Hall and the Te Ropu Māori Girls’ Club which supported the Anglican church.
In 1939 Ripeka Love joined the Hutt Valley Centennial Memorial Committee organising the centennial celebrations at Petone, assisting the Belmont Women’s Institute by raising funds for the celebrations.
Born Ripeka Wharawhara Matene in 1882 at Kāpiti Island to Matene Tauwhare (a Te Ati Awa chief) and Anehaka Tauwhare (daughter of Robert Park and Terenui, a Ngarauru chieftainess), she grew up in Petone. At 15-years-old she married Wi Hapi Pakau Love in an arranged marriage, uniting the most prominent Te Ati Awa families, with over 2,000 people attending the wedding.
Ripeka and Hapi had 10 children, but 3 died in infancy. After farming on Arapawa Island they returned to Petone in 1911. Their large house Taumata was built at Korokoro with a harbour view. The family were quite wealthy, generously donating to local marae and hosting Māori for big occasions. Ripeka and Hapi were strong Anglicans, and hosted Māori Anglican services and clergy at Taumata.
During World War Two six of Ripeka’s sons served in the army or air force, and of the two who served overseas, her second son Colonel Edward (Eruera) Te Whiti Love, the first Māori commander of the 28th NZ Maori Battalion, died at El Alamein in 1942.
During World War Two Ripeka was once again very involved in patriotic work through Te Ropu o Te Whanganui-a-Tara, visiting the wounded in hospital after they arrived home in New Zealand.
Ripeka and Hapi supported the Ngati Poneke club, and in 1951 Ripeka became patroness of the Wellington District Council of the new Māori Women’s Welfare League.
Ripeka’s husband Hapi died in August 1952, and Ripeka died in April 1953. They are both buried in Te Puni urupa in Petone. In the months before she died Ripeka with her son Wi Hapi made a series of autobiographical notes called “In retrospect”.
In 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world in which all women gained the right to vote in general elections. 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. For more information about the anniversary visit Suffrage 125 on Facebook.
This is part of a series sharing the stories and lives of women who have a connection to Lower Hutt.