From 1860, King Tawhiao's reign would last for 34 years, peacefully guiding his people through some of the most turbulent eras of Maori-Pakeha relations.
In 1863 during the invasion of Maori land by British forces under the pretext that Waikato tribes (United by Tawhiao) were "preparing to attack" Auckland, Tawhiao and his people were forced to retreat as refugees to the heartland of Waikato, which eventually became known as King Country.
In the peak of his reign, King Tawhaio's mana and sphere of influence stretched from the Bombay hills to as far East as Tauranga, West as Raglan and as far south as Taupo. His visionary leadership and prophetic presence held a shining light of hope and an ideological example for his people (Followers of the King Movement) throughout these times.
His values of Kaitiaki left a legacy for Maori culture, adapting to the rapidly changing Aotearoa landscape, with a dream for a self sufficient economic base, supported by the strength of its people. Native trees and foods symbolise strength and self-sufficiency in his statement "I shall build my own house, the ridge pole work be of hinau (tall forest tree), and the supporting posts of mohoe and patete (common trees). This who inhabit the house shall be raised on rengarenga (NZ Spinach) and nurtured on kawariki (Edible plant)."