Ngā Tohuwhenua Mai Te Rangi: A New Zealand Archeology in Aerial Photographs
In the early nineteenth century Taranaki was a major channel for the movement of iwi between the central and south-western North Island. The Waikato elements of these movements have already been considered. The Mōkau River was a key route in gaining access from the inland Waikato to Taranaki. It was the site of considerable fighting in several incidents from 1820 to 1835 between Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Toa (from the inland and coastal Waikato, respectively) and Taranaki tribes. 15 The river flat on the north side of the river was the site of a Methodist (Wesleyan) Mission settlement under the Revd Cort Schnackenberg from 1844 to 1858, whose activities at north Aotea we reviewed in chapter 8. The pā, Te Puia, was the scene of fighting in the 1830s between Ngāti Maniapoto and Ngāti Toa under Te Rauparaha in the course of the latter's southwards migration from Kāwhia. 16 It consists of a very large transverse ditch and bank running from a stream gully to the coastal cliff and cutting off a distinct point formed on the high coastal terrace at the southern entrance of the Mōkau River.
Pukerangiora, on the Waitara River about 6 km inland from Waitara township
The site complex consists of a pre-European section on the crown of the hill, Te Arei (in the form of the British redoubt of 1864) right of centre, and the final section of a sap created by the British forces in 1860-61 (obscured by the line of low native shrubs at bottom left by the road). The view is to the south-east and the whole complex is some 350 m long.
The pre-European pa was occupied in the 1820s and 1830s in the course of the musket wars. The redoubt, Te Arei, was first built by Maori in defence against the British attack of 1860-61. The Maori forces also occupied the cliff edge above the Waitara River, forward of the Te Arei position itself, hence the location of the sap some distance off the cliff edge. Maori gun pits can be seen at the cliff edge, one only a few metres from the end of the demi-parallel.
The original pre-European pā, Pukerangiora.
The view is to the north-west. The pā was probably occupied as a fallback position in the course of the fighting in 1860-61, but features little in contemporary narratives. It does not appear to have commanded positions flanking or forward (westwards) of Te Arei, hence its relative tactical insignificance. The exact function of the large ditches and banks is not clear, but they appear to have enclosed the cliff edge (to the right) and the hilltop (foreground, this side of the fence). Just above the fence running across the foreground, and running at an acute angle to it, is a line of rifle trench with returns, possibly defending the rear of the Maori positions (including Te Arei) against the British attacks of 1860.
The line of the British sap in front of Te Arei
Running out to the right to the forested slope is a demi-parallel, apparently designed partly to enfilade the Maori positions on the cliff edge (out of view, bottom right) and to present a line of solid fire against Te Arei (which is beneath the camera viewpoint). The view is to the north-west.
Te Arei was stockaded and entrenched on the crest of a low rise in the ridge (which does not show well in the aerial photograph), and the sap has been made up through ground very exposed to the defenders' fire. Gabions (wicker baskets) hold up the walls of the traverses and the demi-parallels (at left). The value of the demi-parallels in offering a full line of fire against Te Arei is obvious. The modern road follows a line somewhat to the right of the horse track and must have damaged the right flank of the British redoubt built on the site of Te Arei in 1864.
The British forces, moving towards the general line of the ridge, came under Māori fire from cover at the top of the cliff to the Waitara River and from Te Arei itself, a relatively small enclosure defended by rifle trench and a stockade. They were forced to sap their way for some 2 km in two different sections, incorporating several redoubts along the course of the sap. Artillery was also brought up through the sap and emplaced in a 'demi-parallel' at very close range (about 120'ni) to Te Arei, the Māori entrenchments. A 'demi-parallel' is a trench placed more or less parallel to the line of the defenders' fortification, and at right angles to the sap. This opened up a broad field of fire to the attacking force, who could not shoot effectively from the sap. At Te Arei, it also gave access from the sap to the cliff-edge to the east, enabling clearance of the Māori rifle pits and other positions there.
Surveying the area south-west of Waitara in the 1920s, James Cowan 20 remarked that it was 'studded with the ruins of British redoubts and Māori entrenchments'. Today only a few of these sites, British or Māori, have survived, 21 but they include the scene of the final action. These are the site of the traditional pā, Pukerangiora, at the crest of a prominent cliffed hill above the Waitara River; the 1861 Māori defensive position, Te Arei, later worked into a redoubt by European forces; and the final section of the sap constructed by the British and colonial attacking forces. The principal areas of the site along the cliff to the east survive in good condition, although the road and the adjacent farming have destroyed the true western extent of the main defensive perimeter. 22 Preserved as historic reserves (probably instigated by S. Percy Smith) through much of the era of European settlement, in the 1930s and again in the 1950s they were planted in pine trees, which were both protection and menace. The pine trees protected the site from rain and stock erosion, but if allowed to grow too big they would have destroyed the sub-surface features. After a second crop of trees was removed carefully by the Department of Conservation in recent years, the archaeological features showed in very well-preserved form.
The aerial photographs shown here, probably the only ever taken of this site, show the last 200 m of the sap, its uphill end finishing within 100 m of Te Arei, the Māori position. The sap is of double width, with traverses (internal walls) from either side to prevent enfilading fire from the ridge crest ahead of the sap. The demi-parallel still shows clearly in the aerial view, as do the defensive Māori positions and the older 1830s and pre-European pā.
The expense in terms of labour of the British method of attack attracted some derision from the European settlers confined in New Plymouth, who saw them as expensive military follies, although it was defended strongly by the British military. 23 The British military evidently sought to avoid casualties from the first of the significant engagements in Taranaki. The virtues of this debate are not for an archaeologist to judge, except to note again the lessons of the Northland campaigns of a decade and a half before, the Crimean experience and the unfolding events of the American civil war, where the advantage of entrenched defence became obvious. 24 The overall importance in New Zealand history of the Waitara events of 1859-61, culminating at Te Arei, is immense. Keith Sinclair has noted that:
it was a main cause of the later campaigns, for the way in which it began confirmed the Māoris in their worst fears. ... an idea that this was the first of a series of operations intended to deprive them of their land. 25
A subsequent offensive phase was designed to secure the Taranaki region west of New Plymouth for European interests. Ngāti Maniapoto (Waikato Kingites) had been involved on the side of Te Atiawa in all these events. Their association led inevitably to the Waikato phases of the New Zealand Wars, the region where Māori strength was perceived to be greatest. Following the Waikato wars, there was further armed resistance by Māori in Taranaki. European forces in the Second Taranaki War of 1864 completely dispersed Māori settlement from the Waitara River valley. Te Arei was reoccupied during the course of these events, and the existing 'redoubt' survives in the form modified by Europeans in this campaign. 26
Kākāramea Redoubt, near Pātea, built in 1866
The redoubt is pentagonal in layout with bastions on two sides (at right and left) and flanking angles (at the other corners). It is about 50 m across in its greatest dimension. The trench running out to the right of the photograph is a communication trench to huts dug into the slope at right. The site was part of the military settlement of this part of south Taranaki.
Oika, a pā of the period 1865-68 in South Taranaki
This pā is on the edge of the high terrace landform on the south side of the Whenuakura River (to the left) and just above the state highway (below the viewpoint). The view is to the west. The use of regular traverses in the perimeter rifle trench was designed to prevent enfilading fire (fire along the length of the trench). The use of traverses on the lefthand side of the pā is problematic since the site does not appear to be commanded from outside on this line. The traverses in the trenches would nevertheless have some value if the attackers had been able to enter the pā. The defensive perimeter is about 50 m long by 20 m across.