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A Dark Chapter from New Zealand History

Chapter II

page 6

Chapter II.

Weld Ministry—Volkner'S Murder—Weld Applies to M'Lean—Hungahungatoroa—Mr. Weld Resigns—False Pretences—Waerenga-Ahika—Te Kooti—Wairoa—Waikare-Moana—Omaranui—Remarks—Peace—Deportation.

In November, 1864, the Weld Ministry assumed office. At this time the war, being waged for Imperial objects, continued with varying success. It was at first viewed with alarm by the natives of Poverty Bay; at a later date they were imbued with the belief that their countrymen were victorious.

At the latter end of 1864, the Hauhau superstition had reached Poverty Bay. On the 1st of March, 1865, the Rev. Mr. Volkner was murdered at Opotiki, 100 miles from Turanga. On the 15th of the same month, the murderers came to Taureka, in Poverty Bay, carrying with them a European head. They were led by Kereopa, who had swallowed Volkner's eyes. The object of the party was to win over Hirini te Kani, the principal chief of Turanga, to their side. By the end of March, most of the Poverty Bay natives had become Hauhaus, and the Bishop of Waiapu was obliged to fly the district; a sad commentary upon heir presumed conversion to Christianity.

About this time, Mr. M 'Lean, then suffering from severe illness, was urgently requested by Mr. Weld to undertake the pacification of the East Coast; no light task. The Hauhaus were already in arms at Waiapu, and avowed their intention to exterterminate loyal subjects of both races. The Hauhaus were daily gaining adherents. Assistance would not or could not be obtained from the officer commanding the Imperial troops; and, but for the unexpected stand made by Mokena, a chief of the Ngatiporou tribe, the East Coast settlements must have fallen; as it was, they were in great peril. Mokena, after defeating the enemy on several occasions, was compelled to act on the defensive, and barely held his pa, against overwhelming numbers. One pa of his, in which he had placed his women and children, had fallen, and a young chief of high rank, nephew to Mokena, had been literally cut to pieces. This occurred in June, 1865. On the 1st July, Lieut. Biggs, with a few volunteers, were ordered by Mr. M 'Lean to proceed to Mokena's assistance, who was thus enabled to resume the offensive. His relief by Biggs was the commencement of that page 7long train of brilliant successes winch brought the war on the East Coast to a glorious conclusion—a war which would have proved final if its fruits had not been frittered away by a Government without principle, a Government that has sacrificed every vestige of self-respect, and is guided principally by an unflinching resolve to retain office at whatever cost to the colony.

By the 11th October, the first stage of the victorious East Coast campaign had been reached, by the capture at Hunga-hunga-toroa of 500 Hauhaus, the greatest triumph ever achieved in New Zealand. It was won by Lieut. (afterwards Major) Biggs, who fell in the Poverty Bay massacre, and Ropata, a Ngatiporou chief, who avenged that massacre. The force that accomplished so much was mainly composed of loyal natives, and was assisted by a handful of Europeans (120), who were enthusiastic in the cause whilst directed by Mr. M 'Lean. Between July and October, 1865, that force had routed the enemy in every encounter; had stormed and captured Pukemaire Kairomiomi and other strong pas—had followed the enemy into what had been deemed inaccessible districts —had killed several-hundreds of the enemy, captured many hundred more, and had compelled the remainder to swear allegiance to the Queen. Fraser, Biggs, Westrup, and other officers distinguished themselves in this campaign.

The second stage of the East Coast campaign commenced with the accession of the Stafford Ministry. On the 12th October Mr. Weld resigned, on the ground that his Ministry was not adequately supported by public opinion. He was the author of what is termed the "Self-Reliance Policy," which might have issued differently to what it has hitherto done if a regiment or two had been left in the colony for a year or two, and the mother country had granted that pecuniary assistance to which New Zealand was fairly entitled when she undertook to establish the Queen's supremacy, and to end an Imperial war after the British forces had failed, and for which the colonists have been heavily taxed.

It may be truly said that Mr. Stafford obtained office under false pretences. Whilst accepting the "Self-Reliance Policy" he promised to effect a reduction of £240,000 upon the Estimates, which (and no one could have known it better than himself) it was impossible for him to do. This was proved at an after date, when it was found that by a cheese-paring economy, calculated to impair the efficiency of the public service, his boasted savings amounted to about eight thousand pounds.

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Mr. Stafford became Premier on the 17th October, 1865. During that month the Hauhaus in Poverty Bay were busy erecting three formidable pas, of which one named Waerenga-ahika was the strongest. On the 9th November Mr. M 'Lean arrived at Poverty Bay with the victorious forces from Waiapu. On the 10th he sent an ultimatum to the rebels, of which no notice was taken. Fighting ensued on the 17th, and continued five days, during which about sixty of the enemy were killed. On the 22nd Waerenga-ahika was surrendered, 180 men and 200 women and children being made prisoners; 160 guns and a vast amount of plunder stolen from settlers were likewise captured. Shortly after a spy named Te Kooti was taken. He was afterwards better known as the author of the Poverty Bay and other massacres.

Upon the full of Waerenga-ahika a profound dread fell upon the remaining Hauhaus; the other fighting pas were precipitately abandoned, and their garrisons fled to Wairoa, there to stir up sedition; the remnant came in and submitted to European rule.

The last stage of the East Coast campaign of 1865-6, was marked by the severe defeats sustained by the Hauhaus at the Upper Wairoa and the Waikare-moana. Upon the borders of that lake, the Hauhaus suffered a heavy loss; the survivors escaped in their canoes, but were mostly killed or captured at Petane and Omaranui, on the 12th October, 1866.

Thus ended a campaign unmarked, as far as the author is aware, by a solitary reverse on our side. There has never been a campaign like it in New Zealand, before or since. It was won for us by friendly natives and a handful of Europeans, who numbered about 120 whites. The force was led by brave officers, and chiefs who secured the goodwill, respect, and confidence of their men, European and native. By uniform courtesy and a gentlemanly demeanour towards those over whom they were placed, such men as Biggs, Wilson, and the chiefs Mokena and Rapata, found that the men would follow them wherever those officers and chiefs were pleased to lead the way. Hunger and hardships were endured without complaint by all alike; districts unknown, and hitherto deemed inaccessible, were penetrated, no matter how savage or remote; and the murderous rebel was taught, for the first time, that no place could shelter him from the consequences of his crimes. In various ways, not less than 400 natives are believed to have been killed or to have died of their wounds. From first page 9to last the prisoners were not far short of a thousand, all ages. Of these the ringleaders were afterwards deported to the Chatham Islands. The grand result was perfect safety for life and property in the lately disturbed districts; that result was obtained for the colony in the wise selection made of brave and intelligent instruments to carry out his skilful combinations, by Donald M 'Lean.