Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
“We Are Paralysed”—Native Suspect Slain in Cold Blood—Mohaka Massacre Intensifies Alarm—Reward of £1,000 Offered for Te Kooti, Dead or Alive.
Early in January, 1869, when he was about to leave Poverty Bay to resume the campaign against Titokowaru in Taranaki, Colonel Whitmore believed that Te Kooti had been so badly defeated at Ngatapa that it was most unlikely that he would ever again prove a menace. In a dispatch to the Government he went so far as to suggest that the arch-rebel might have been among the rebels whom the Ngati-Porou overtook and slew after the pa was found to have been abandoned. “At all events,” he added, “Te Kooti—defeated, twice wounded, a fugitive and failing in his prophecies—is not likely again to trouble the district, or even again to assemble a band of assassins, should he survive the hardships before him, or escape the vengeance of the Urewera, who will look upon him as an impostor.”
Nothing was heard of Te Kooti and his followers for over two months. They were believed to be in hiding in the very depths of the Urewera Country. In strict fact they had moved only a short distance from Ngatapa. At a secluded spot—called by the rebels “Koraha” and now known as “Te Kooti's Clearing” —Te Kooti established a base, and built up his attenuated force to 140. Raids were made upon several settlements on the Bay of Plenty coast in March, 1869. Then, partly with the object of putting the authorities off the scent, but mainly in order to gain additional recruits, Te Kooti moved over to Ruatahuna, where he was hospitably received by the Urewera. Some of them joined him then, and others subsequently.
With Te Kooti still a grave menace on the eastern side of the North Island, and Titokowaru in charge of a large slice of Taranaki, the Government greatly feared that the embers of disloyalty in other districts would burst into flame. All the Imperial regiments (except the 18th Royal Irish, which was stationed at Auckland) had already left the colony in pursuance of a request by the Weld Government in 1864. Governor Bowen had told the Duke of Buckingham (7/12/1868) “that many competent judges believe that the entire withdrawal of the Queen's troops may lead to a general rising throughout the North Island, and, possibly, to tragedies as dreadful as those of Poverty Bay and Cawnpore.” A reply came to hand to the effect that the Home authorities considered that the colonists should now be required page 282 to rely upon their own exertions for the internal defence of the colony. However, negotiations for the retention of the 18th Royal Irish Regiment were continued.
The risk that Te Kooti might make other raids was considered so great in Poverty Bay and at Wairoa that all the settlers and friendly natives were required to hold themselves in readiness to assist in repelling an attack. Some natives in each district continued to be held suspect; from time to time marauders were reported in various localities; and numerous “scares” proved very unsettling. Life in Poverty Bay in 1869 is vividly pictured in Colonel T. W. Porter's diary, which is now in the Alexander Turnbull Library (Wellington). Among the earliest items are the following:
January 16: Natives to furnish guard at courthouse alternately with Militia.
February 12: Temporary barracks at Makaraka finished.
March 8: Working party out in bush getting posts for palisading of stockade.
March 13: Reported fires seen in the ranges and scouting party sent out.
March 22: Militia parade at courthouse at 2 p.m.; Militia Act read.
March 27: Public meeting at Bradley's [Albion Hotel] to ask the R.M. re removal of Hauhau prisoners to a place of safety; to petition the Governor on the subject; and to take into consideration the present unprotected state of Poverty Bay.
March 29: Non-com. officer in charge of prisoners notified that he is to be held responsible that they hold no communication with other natives.
April 7: Reported that seven mounted armed men were seen [at Opou] driving sheep from Captain Harris's run—supposed to be Hauhaus.
April 8: It was ascertained that the men seen driving sheep were friendly natives out pig hunting.
Writing to Mr. McLean under date 17 February, 1869, Captain Harris said:
“We are paralysed. We cannot reinstate our homesteads. We dare not live inland. Shearing, owing to the inclemency of the weather, is still unfinished. We are obliged to keep together, and always to be armed.”
Early in 1869, the Home authorities learned from newspaper reports that the Government had offered a reward of £1,000 for the capture—it was inferred dead or alive—of Titokowaru (the Taranaki arch-rebel) and £5 for the person of every Taranaki rebel brought in alive. Earl Granville, in a dispatch (25/2/1869) said that he would not pronounce any opinion, on that occasion, as to the propriety of these steps, but he must observe “that they are so much at variance with the usual laws of war and appear, at first sight, so much calculated to exasperate and extend hostilities that they ought to have been reported page 283 to me officially with the requisite information, which I should now be glad to receive.”
Premier Stafford (in his rejoinder) stated that the report was true, as also the inference that the reward would be given for the body of Titokowaru, dead or alive. “It is now right to add,” he continued, “that a similar reward on the same terms has been offered for the body of Te Kooti, the leader of the outrages on the East Coast [also Kereopa] … Their atrocities are, happily, as exceptionable as the course adopted with a view to their punishment. But the offers in question are not without precedent in the history of the mutiny in India, and even of the Fenian outrages within the heart of the United Kingdom. Every atrocity of the Sepoy Rebellion has been, paralleled and outdone in the raids, burnings, violences, tortures, murders and cannibalism of the last nine months in New Zealand with less provocation or excuse.”