Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century:
It will be remembered that Te Wera Hauraki had settled down with some of the Ngati-Kahungunu tribe at Te Mahia Peninsula, Hawke Bay, and had married women from that tribe. Here he lived from 1824 to the time of his death, about 1841–3, much respected by the numerous tribes of his neighbourhood for his bravery and justice. His contingent of Nga-Puhi armed with muskets was looked on as a tower of strength by the surrounding people. page 470 Even refugees from Taranaki driven by the repeated invasions of the Waikatos to the south of the island, settled for years under Te Wera’s protection, as did a very large number of the Wairarapa natives. But in those troublous times anything but peace was the rule. At a date which I have found it quite impossible to fix, but which lies somewhere between 1825 and 1830, Te Wera rendered effectual assistance to his neighbour at Poverty Bay, Te Kani-a-takirau, by attacking and taking the Ngati-Porou stronghold of Tuatini, which led to further enmity between the latter tribe and Nga-Puhi. But the enmity came to an end in 1836, when we find the two tribes making common cause against the Whanau-a-Apanui tribe of the Bay of Plenty, brought about by a common suffering.
On the 19th December, 1833, the Rev. W. Williams* left the Bay in the schooner “Fortitude” for the purpose of conveying stores for the new station at Puriri, and also with the object of returning to the East Cape some Ngati-Porou who had been at the Bay for some time; who had been brought there by a trading vessel, on board which these people were trading when off Waiapu, near the East Cape. A gale of wind coming on suddenly, the vessel had to run for the Bay of Islands. Amongst them was a chief, Rukuata, and Tohia-kura, who had learnt a great deal of the new religion whilst at the Bay, and now came back to his people and much assisted in introducing Christianity. They arrived at Hicks Bay on the 8th January, 1834, and were soon in communication with the natives, who were then preparing for war with the people of the Bay of Plenty, no doubt in retaliation for Omaruiti. Mr. Williams mentions† that at Rangitukia, the outer pa of Waiapu, whither he went on the 9th, the natives said the pa mustered 560 fighting men. On the 10th he visited Whaka-whiti-te-ra, another large pa containing, it was said, 2,000 fighting men. These figures show the numbers of people inhabiting those parts at that time, though only two pas are named. After a visit to Te Wera at Te Mahia, the party returned to the Bay, having paved the way for a Missionary, and the Rev. page 473 W. Williams himself occupied the ground by removing to Poverty Bay in January, 1840.
In consequence of events referred to above, it was decided by Te Kaka-tarau, a chief of Ngati-Porou and Te Wera to organise an expedition to attack Te Whanau-a-Apanui and other Bay of Plenty tribes at their stronghold at Te Kaha point, situated on the east coast of the Bay of Plenty. Messengers were sent down the east coast, and in March, 1836, the forces assembled at Hicks Bay. Ropata Wahawaha says: “All the tribes of the east coast were called on. They came from Waiapu, from Turanga, from Nuku-taurua, from Wairoa, from Ahuriri, from Wai-rarapa—even from the South Island. They assembled at Whakawhiti-te-ra, Waiapu, and then proceeded to Toka-a-kuku, at Te Kaha.” One of the Ngati-Porou leaders appears to have been Taumataa-kura, mentioned above; he had only agreed to join the force on condition that no cannibalism should take place. Mr. Williams says he went into battle Bible in one hand, his musket in the other, and that the few casualties on Ngati-Porou side were believed by them to be due to Taumata’s god. The force proceeded to build pas to invest Toka-a-kuku, and in the meantime messengers were sent off by the besieged to gather the coastal tribes of the Bay of Plenty to their assistance, contingents coming even from Whakatane, numbering, it is said, 1,800 men, of whom 200 came by water and succeeded in getting into the besieged pa. page 474 The rest marched overland, and as soon as they were observed approaching, a sortie was made from the pa to distract the attention of the besiegers. This brought on a general engagement at Pu-remu-tahi, not far from the pa, where a great fight took place, the Nga-Puhi guns being used with great effect. A complete rout of the Bay of Plenty forces followed, the pursuit extending as far as Te Awa-nui, some fifteen or sixteen miles distant. In the meantime the sortie from the pa had also failed. Ropata Wahawaha says the siege lasted for six months, but the pa was not taken in the end, though the Bay of Plenty people suffered very severely—there are said to have been 140 killed in the first battle, amongst whom were the chiefs Rangi-patu-riri, Te Kaka-pai-waho, Te Hau-to-rua, and Tu-terangi-noti. Provisions running short, this great taua eventually abandoned the siege, having obtained sufficient utu for their slain relatives, and returned to their homes. No man was eaten during this war, but the prisoners were hanged on whatas in sight of the besieged. Soon after the return of the taua proposals of peace were received from Te Whanau-a-Apanui by the Ngati-Porou, and this was finally cemented in 1837.
This was one of the last great east coast fights of the century, for Christianity was fast spreading, and the various tribes were getting exhausted by wars. Although the causes mentioned were those which immediately led up to page 475 Toka-a-kuku, the Whanau-a-Apanui and Ngati-Porou had been at enmity for generations past. I heard whilst at Te Kaha in 1900 that Ngati-Porou often came over the exceedingly mountainous country lying between Te Kaha and Waiapu by two well-known war-trails, and raided the shores of the Bay of Plenty. These latter people sometimes met and fought them in the mountains. Some years prior to Tokaa-kuku, Te Pori-o-te-rangi, grandfather of Te Hou-ka-mou, the present chief residing at Hicks Bay, raided along the coast to near Te Kaha, where a battle was fought in which Te Pori fell. He was recognised by his assailant, who desired to spare his life, but others coming up killed him. This was a great blow to Ngati-Porou, and it was partly to avenge this that Ngati-Porou assembled their allies to attack Toka-a-kuku. The reason why this pa did not fall was due to the fact that it was so large that the people had cultivations inside and plenty of kumaras stored, for Te Kaha is celebrated for the growth of that tuber. Moreover, as provisions became scarce, they managed to send away canoes by night, which pulled straight out to sea until daylight, then steering for the south, and landing at Taumata-apanui and other places where there was plenty of provisions. The people of Te Kaha look on the abandonment of the siege as a victory for them.
At the same time this siege was in progress, the celebrated fall of Te Tumu pa, near Maketu took place—this was on the 9th May, 1836.
* Afterwards Bishop of Waiapu.