Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.
Expeditions Into Urewera Country—Rebels Descend on Tolaga Bay—Kereopa Caught and Executed—Te Kooti Escapes Into King Country—Rumpus Over Award of Pardon—Futile Bid to Re-enter Poverty Bay.
During 1870 and 1871 more strenuous efforts were made to capture Te Kooti and his followers. Contingents of East Coast, Hawke's Bay, Rotorua and Wanganui natives were utilised. Ropata and Porter led a Ngati-Porou force into the Urewera Country, via Wharekopae, in February, 1870. At Horoeka, Ropata's section captured Iharaira, one of the murderers of Bennett White, of Opotiki. The combined force then made a detour to Ohiwa, where it found a Wanganui contingent under Major Keepa (Kemp).
On 23 March both forces made an attack on Maraetai pa (near the junction of the Waioeka and Waipuna streams). Porter (History of the Early Days of Poverty Bay, p. 39) says that 25 rebels were killed (including 19 ex-Chatham Islands escapees, who were executed) and that 375 prisoners were taken. Other accounts give the enemy's losses as 19 slain and 73 taken prisoner. Most of the occupants of the pa were unarmed sympathisers with Te Kooti and had been lured there with their families in the belief that he intended to make it his permanent home.
When Ropata and Porter took another expedition into the Urewera Country in April, 1870, it journeyed via Hangaroa. Te Kooti and his band were then at Te Wera. All that was accomplished was that some sympathisers with the rebels were removed to the Waiapu. This expedition had been forestalled by a contingent of Mohaka and Northern Hawke's Bay natives under Ensign F. E. Hamlin and Lieutenant J. W. Witty, which had occupied Herrick's old camp at Onepoto, Lake Waikaremoana.
Witty took his section across the lake and drove Te Waru and his band through the bush into Motuahu pa, the so-called “Citadel of the Hills.” Hamlin's section then came on the scene and Te Waru's party crossed the lake and made off for Ruatahuna. Sir James Carroll—then only a 13-year-old lad—took part in the fighting and, for his gallantry, he was mentioned in dispatches, received a war medal and a grant of £50. The pa was razed, canoes broken up and crops destroyed. This expedition lasted only three months and cost only £3,000.
In July, 1870, Te Kooti, with between 40 and 50 followers, turned up in the vicinity of Tolaga Bay. For a time they camped page 290 at Waihapua, on Wigan. On the 26th they approached the township, but retired when they found that the redoubt (which stood on the north side of the Uawa River about 30 chains below the site of the present bridge) was defended by about 200 loyal natives. Among the refugees were Mr. and Mrs. A. Reeves and their infant son James, Mr. and Mrs. J. Meldrum, and Mr. and Mrs. E. Robson. Since the Poverty Bay Massacre, the settlers and loyal natives had made a practice of retiring to the pa each night and of posting sentries. The only results of the raid were that one loyal native was slain outside the pa, some sheep and pigs were stolen and a settler's whare was ransacked.
Major Westrup despatched Captain Porter and Captain Richardson, with a dozen European troopers and 80 natives, to Tolaga Bay. Heavy rain delayed the pursuit from that point for two days. En route to Arakihi ït was found that the rebels had again encamped at Waihapua. Plans were made to surround them on the following morning. Trooper J. Maynard claimed that he crept within 20 or 30 yards of Te Kooti, who was lying with his head in the lap of a woman, having his hair dressed. Just as he was about to fire, Captain Richardson, who was close behind him, forbade him. A friendly native then fired and Te Kooti and his followers dashed into the bush through the only gap that had been left in the cordon. A few days later Ropata, with 50 Ngati-Porou, took up the chase, going right through to Mangatu, but neither his force nor another under Captain W. H. Tucker (which had been sent direct to that district) saw anything of the rebels.
In November, 1870, a report reached Gisborne that Te Kooti had again raided Tolaga Bay and that some murders had been committed. Uawa natives who were attending a sitting of the Native Land Court left at once for their homes. W. Douglas Lysnar was informed, on what he regarded as reliable authority, that Te Kooti turned up one night during a tribal meeting and asked the native residents to intervene on his behalf with the authorities. As they declined to do so, he made a threat that he would return and punish them if it leaked out that he had been there. In any event, no slayings took place.