The Story of a Maori Chief
Fall of Hungahunga-Toroa
Fall of Hungahunga-Toroa
After the evacuation of Pukemaire by the rebels the loyalist force was divided into two. Captains Fraser and Biggs and Ropata Wahawaha pursued the rebels by the inland track while Westrupp and Mokena Kohere took the beach route via East Cape. The other party came up to the enemy strongly entrenched at Hungahunga-toroa. The terrace was about 200 feet above the bed of the Karaka-tuwhero River. On the east and west were deep gullies, and on the north were precipitous high cliffs.
The white troops and the friendly natives made a frontal attack, but it proved ineffective for the reason that the defenders were on a higher ground. It was left to Lieutenant Tuke to conceive the idea of scaling the precipitous cliffs behind the stronghold, and from that point of vantage to enfilade the enemy within the pa. Lieutenant Tuke took with page 57 him fourteen Maoris, who after a while succeeded in posting themselves where they could directly fire into the pa. The rebels were so confused that 500 of them surrendered, but not before the arrival of Mokena Kohere and Westrupp. The chief took in the situation at a glance, and saw that the rebels were indeed in a bad way. Amongst the enemy were about 500 of his fellow tribesmen, the Ngati-Porou. He asked that firing might cease while he negotiated with the rebels.1 He sent in Heni Kahiwa and another woman to ask the Ngati-Porou defenders to come out of the pa, otherwise they would be slaughtered without mercy. There was no response to the kindly request. A stubborn man, called Hare Paraone, had placed himself in the gateway, blocking all exit, and warning others not to trust the loyalists. Mokena Kohere once more sent in the two women, and this time the Ngati-Porou tribesmen came out, throwing down what firearms they possessed. The rebels from Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and elsewhere knew they were doomed, so they cunningly followed close on the heels of the local tribesmen, and without ado slid down into the deep gullies and got safely away.
This ended the actual fighting in which Mokena Kohere was involved. There was fighting at Tokomaru and further south. The Hauhaus made a sortie against Houkamau, entrenched in his newly-built pa, Makeronia (Macedonia). The attacking party was repulsed, leaving behind their Taranaki leader, Te Wao. The other Taranaki leader, Te Wiwini, was killed at Pukemaire, struck by a bullet fired by Hemi Tapeka, who had posted himself in the fork of a puriri tree.
1 James Cowan says: “Mokena Kohere had sent a message to Ropata requesting him to make peace with the Ngati-Porou in Hungahunga-toroa; the Hauhaus from outside districts were to be killed.” I had written this chapter before reading both Gudgeon and Cowan. Again Cowan, who had access to official papers, corroborates what I had gathered from Maori informants.