New Zealand Wars

The New Zealand Wars were fought between Maori and Government forces, which included the Crown’s Maori allies. Conflict arose from the rapid growth in numbers of colonists (Pakeha) and attempts by iwi to retain political sovereignty and land resulting in the initial clash between a settler posse and Ngati Toa warriors at Wairau in 1843.

North Egmont Camphouse. Photo: J Spence.
The renovated North Egmont Camphouse, Egmont National Park

The first major conflict was the Northern War of 1845-6. Followers of Hone Heke and Kawiti fought British troops and their Nga Puhi allies. After a series of defeats, the British captured Ruapekapeka Pa. An end to the war was negotiated with both sides claiming victory.

Fortifications used were a feature in this and successive wars. Maori used earthwork and palisade defences to delay or block enemy advancement. Government forces employed long established fortifications such as redoubts, stockades, and blockhouses. Iwi forces, often outnumbered, responded to greater firepower by digging in. They created bomb-proof bunkers which provided effective protection from muskets or rifles - a practice which anticipated the trench warfare of WWI.

Further conflicts broke out in the Hutt Valley in 1846 and Whanganui in 1847. An inconclusive campaign was fought in Taranaki over the sale of Waitara during 1860-61, and 1863-66. Governor George Grey invaded the Waikato, in 1863, aiming to destroy the Kingitanga movement. A decisive victory for the Crown, but only after heavy losses at Rangiriri. The Waikato War extended into Tauranga in 1864. A notable defeat of the Crown at Gate pa was followed by a victory at Te Ranga. War returned to Whanganui and South Taranaki during 1864-66.

In the mid 1860s British troops were withdrawn. Crown soldiers were now colonial volunteers and their Maori allies. Their main opponents were followers of millennial prophets, including adherents of the Pai-marire religion, (known to their opponents as ‘Hau hau’), a response to the defeat of Kingitanga and the extensive confiscation of Maori land. Titokowaru, South Taranaki prophet and war leader, won a brilliant victory over the Crown at his base in Te Ngutu o Te Manu, only to have his leadership collapse in early 1869. Te Kooti, founder of the Ringatu faith, led a guerrilla campaign in the East Coast and the Urewera, until escaping in to the King Country in 1872.

Struggles over land and sovereignty occurred after 1872, principally the non-violent campaign at Parihaka in 1881, where the Crown’s invasion of the village met no armed resistance, and the armed police assault on Maungapohatu in 1916 in which two Tuhoe were killed. The legacy of bitterness over land confiscation resulting from the wars continues to this day.

Sites:

The sites that DOC manages under this theme are:

Northland

Auckland

  • St Johns Redoubt Historic Reserve, 1863
  • Camerontown Historic Reserve, (landing), 1863

Waikato

Bay of Plenty

  • Fort Galatea Historic Reserve, 1869
  • Te Paripari Pa Historic Reserve, Whakatane, 1865

East Coast/Hawke’s Bay

  • Onepoto Redoubt, 1871, Te Urewera
  • Onepoto Petroglyphs, 1869, Te Urewera
  • Lake Kiriopukae Cemetery, 1869, Te Urewera
  • Onepoto whaleboat, 1869, Te Urewera
  • Kainaha Cemetery Historic Reserve, 1869, Te Urewera
  • Napier/ Taupo - Tarawera Redoubt ,1869

Tongariro/Taupo

  • Opepe Redoubt Historic Site, Opepe, 1869
  • Runanga Redoubt Historic Reserve, Runanga, 1860

Wanganui

  • Omata Stockade Historic Reserve, Omata Stockade, 1860.
  • Puketakauere Historic Reserve, Puketakauere, 1860.
  • North Egmont Camphouse, North Egmont Camphouse, 1855
  • Mahoetahi Historic Reserve, 1860-61 / 1865
  • Pukerangiora Historic Reserve, Pukerangiora, 1860/1861
  • Sentry Hill Redoubt Historic Reserve, 1864
  • Tataraimaka Historic Reserve, Tataraimaka, 1863
  • Taumata Historic Reserve, 1854
  • Marae Kowhai Niu Poles, 1864/1872
  • McClutchie Memorial, Pou Tehia Historic Reserve

Further reading:

Cowan, James (1922). The New Zealand Wars: a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period (2 volumes), P.D. Hasselberg, Government Printer, Wellington

Prickett, Nigel (2002). Landscapes of Conflict: A field guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House, Auckland

Ritchie, Neville (2001). The Waikato War of 1863-64: A guide to the main events and sites, Te Awamutu and District Museum, Te Awamutu

Belich, James. (1988). The New Zealand wars and the Victoria interpretation of racial conflict. Auckland: Penguin Books.

Belich James. (1998). The New Zealand Wars Nga pakanga nunui o Aotearoa. Auckland: Television New Zealand. [Video/DVD]

Walton, A. (2003). An inventory of New Zealand redoubts, stockades, and blockhouses, 1840-1848. DOC Science Internal Series 122. 15 p. (PDF, 82K).


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