Jane Te Hira (nee Maxwell)

IWI: Ngapuhi

MARAE: Kotahitanga

BIRTHPLACE: Kaikohe (08 July 1928)


IWI: Ngapuhi



Biography | tuhinga koi ora

“One of the country’s best all-round women athletes in the 50’s and 60’s representing New Zealand in three sports was Jane Maxwell”


Jane was honoured in 1965 with over four hundred sportsmen and sports women from over forty different sports at the Otahuhu Workingmen’s and Cosmopolitan Club along with the likes of Olympians Yvette Corlett and Murray Halberg, woodchoppers Joe Julian and Ding Silva, NZ swimming reps. Jean Hurring and Winifred Ashby, NZ hockey reps. Noeline Warin and Eric Watts, rugby greats Kevin Skinner, Ron Elvidge, Waka Nathan, Mackie Herewini, George Blake, Kiwi John Yates, boxing legend Eddie Parker and Mountaineer Peter Mulgrew.

Jane was one of five born to Ameria (neeTepana) from Kaikohe and Theodore Ernest Maxwell (originally from Germany) and a shearer, her siblings were Theodore, Mary, Jane, Sylvia and Henry. Sylvia, Henry and Theodore went on to be outstanding sports people, which will be highlighted later in this profile.


Jane was educated firstly at Maungatapere Primary School (eight miles out of Whangarei) Jane remembers making their own hockey sticks with the help of her parents, they would spend ages looking for manuka branches with the right shape. the family then moved to Whatatere where Jane was home schooled, although she wanted to go to High School, her father, a very protective man, thought the eight mile journey was too much to travel and Jane thought her sporting chances were lessened with the move to an isolated place where they were kept busy working on the family farm.


The break came when the Maxwell family, soon after the Second World War moved to Auckland Jane was about 14 or 15 years old at the time.


This was to be her introduction into organized sport, as the family attended sport and cultural gatherings at the Māori Community Centre at Victoria Park, Jane also got employment at a shoe factory, but it was basketball, hockey and softball that Jane enjoyed and excelled at straight away under the guidance of Tu and May Smith and an American who taught them the basics of Softball.


Aotearoa Māori sports teams were the ‘gun’ teams at that time so in joining the Akarana Māori Sports Association at Victoria Park they formed their teams and the many challenges with Aotearoa Māori are legendary.


One unusual story Jane recalls at Victoria Park “The Aotearoa & Akarana men were battling away in their game of rugby, when the women on the sideline still in their basketball gear) decided to play each other in rugby when the men had finished, Jane, along with the likes of Violet Harrison and May Smith took on Aotearoa and beat them, with Violet kicking the winning conversion”


But Jane was soon making her mark on the sports fields of Aotearoa and a quote from ‘Te Ao hou’ – “One of the country’s best all-round women athletes for 1953 was a young Māori girl from Auckland, Miss Janie Maxwell. We are told that in the National Hockey Tournament this year she displayed outstanding ability. We are told also, from a most authoritative source that if the New Zealand team which is at present in England, had been chosen this year instead of at the end of last season, she would have had every chance of being included. Miss Maxwell played for North Island in the Inter-Island fixture at the end of the tournament. Her ability, however, does not end with hockey, as the following week saw her at Palmerston North with the Auckland Indoor Basketball representatives, who beat the favoured Wellington side to win the New Zealand title. Janie was selected for the North Island team to play South Island, and also won a place in the New Zealand team which played the Rest. This was a very great honour for a young player, and we wish her every success for the future”


Jane’s sporting achievements (listed below) are legendary and history was made when Jane became the first ever NZ women to represent our Nation in three sports – Indoor Basketball, Hockey and Softball.


But not to be outdone was her brothers and sister – Theo who played for Auckland Māori rugby league with Henry against the 1953 USA All Stars, was selected for the NZ Māori touring side but was injured in a car accident, finishing his career.  Henry, who played rugby league out of the Pt. Chevalier club in Auckland, played for Auckland in 1953, 58, 60, 61, for NZ Māori in 1953, 54, 55, 56, 58, and for the Kiwis 1955, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60


and sister Sylvia, who started in Basketball with the Akarana Basketball team and athletics here before shifting, to Australia where she met her husband to be, John White. Sylvia was a South Australian champion and representative in athletics and basketball, representing Australia in Basketball and athletics where she was twice a World Veterans Champion in shot put, discus, high jump and javelin, Sylvia was a World record holder of the javelin.


Another piece of history was when in Brisbane, Australia in 1956, Jane was representing NZ Hockey and Brother Henry was representing NZ Kiwis. When Jane returned to Auckland she played for NZ against the USA Hockey team at Eden Park with Jane leading the girls in a rousing ‘haka’


Jane married Mervyn Te Hira from Hauhora in Ahipara at the Māori Community Centre on the 3rd October 1956, Mervyn who was a watersider, reckoned that to have a champion women athlete – she had to marry a non sportsman!


This was confirmed when Jane retired at 53 years of age, and they took up golf at the Maungakeikei Golf  Club in Auckland and Mervyn stated she cleaned me up easily!


Mervyn and Jane had five children – Moana, Tui, Reo, Michael and Wana. Jane continued to play her sports, with her children following in her footsteps, so it is no surprise that soon more whanau were making their mark in sports Nationally and Internationally – Tui’s son Lindsay Tait is a professional basketballer, representing Auckland, Wellington, NZ Breakers, Woolongong Hawkes and the Tall Blacks, winning a Commonwealth Games silver medal in 2006, while mokopuna Kurt Te Hira (Michael‘s son) represented the Junior Warriors in 2008 and the Vulcans in 2009


Jane credits her success to enjoying her sport and not letting politics and other raruraru get in the way, making sure she enjoyed the comrade of her fellow team members, irrespective of whom they were or where they came from, and is deeply proud of the achievements of her siblings Henry and Sylvia.




(August 2009) Jane, who still keeps in excellent health and Mervyn, live in West Auckland (where they spent most of their Auckland life) supporting their children and watching their mokopuna grow up.

Achievements | tutukitanga




Akarana Indoor Basketball team 19


Auckland Indoor Basketball team – winners North Island Champs 1951, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56


Auckland Indoor Basketball team – winners NZ Champs 1954


NZ Indoor Basketball team 1953, 55




Seddon Tech. women’s hockey team 195


Auckland Women’s Hockey team 1952, 53, 54, 55, 56, 65, 66


Auckland women’s Hockey team, winners NZ Champs 1953, 54


NZ Hockey team 1956 (World Champs, Sydney)




Akarana Softball team 19


Auckland Women’s Softball team 1950, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55


NZ Women’s Softball team 1954 / 55




Akarana Ladies rugby team, winners ‘Te Rarawa Challenge Cup’ 1949




The first women to represent NZ in three Sports – Indoor Basketball / Hockey / Softball


Inducted to the Māori Sports Hall of Fame 2006