Early reports of Tāreha suggest that Europeans quickly recognized Tāreha’s powerful position as Ngāti Rēhia leader. This view was endorsed by visual impressions of him.
Tāreha was described as a man of extraordinary size and strength and seemed to surpass all his countrymen. He was much looked up to for his bravery and skill in leading warriors to battle.
Richard Taylor, who met Tāreha in the late 1830′s recorded that he was one of the largest men the missionary had ever seen. Said to be over 7ft tall and eventually came to weigh 600lbs.
Tāreha was unquestionably an influential and strong leader who directed and protected his own people.
The significance of Tāreha’s position is further reflected in the high degree of tapu (sacred, forbidden, taboo) associated with him, his family and his belongings.
Tāreha accompanied Hongi Hika and Rewa on many of the southern war campaigns of which his mere presence was enough to instill confidence in victory.
Tāreha, the Ngāti Rēhia chief remained in Kerikeri, moving regularly between the Kerikeri basin and Te Tii.
When he died in 1848, the old chief was at first buried in the chiefly wahi tapu (sacred site at the basin).
On the 9th April 1849 Hone Heke and a large contingent of Māori stopped at the Kerikeri Mission on their way to Te Tii to remove Tāreha’s bones. Heke said that “Tāreha was a great chief, and therefore his bones should be removed to the place where his tūpuna (ancestors) bones were laid.”
One week later, Heke and his party passed through Kerikeri with Tāreha’s bones where they were taken for display and reburial at Waimate.