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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume I (1845–64)

Chapter 41: Arawa Defeat of East Coast Tribes

Chapter 41: Arawa Defeat of East Coast Tribes

page 414

THE MAORI KING movement had gained strong support among many of the tribes of the East Coast, along the shore of the Bay of Plenty from Matata to Opotiki, and thence round the East Cape as far as Turanganui (Gisborne) and the Wairoa. By the end of 1863 a formidable crusade in aid of hard-pressed Waikato and their kin was set on foot on the coast, and half a score of tribes joined in a strong contingent of reinforcements. The design was to gather at a point in the Bay of Plenty, and thence march through the Arawa country to the Upper Waikato plains, passing Rotorua on the way. By January of 1864 the plan of campaign was matured, and a war-party which swelled to the proportions of a small army was soon assembled at Matata, the headquarters of the Ngai-te-Rangihouhiri, for the advance upon Waikato, where General Cameron was temporarily blocked by the heavy entrenchments on the Paterangi ridge. It was now that the Arawa people definitely ranged themselves on the side of the Queen as defenders of their territory against the Kingites.

From 1856 to 1863 the majority of the Arawa Tribe were scattered over the North Auckland country digging kauri-gum. By their industry they had acquired a fleet of small cutters and schooners, which were engaged largely in the carrying trade between Auckland and the East Coast ports. In 1863 they had spread up north beyond the Bay of Islands. Then rumours began to reach them of the intention of the East Coast tribes to send a large force through to support the Waikato Kingites. These reports became so alarming and urgent that the Arawa exhumed the bones of their numerous dead in various parts of the gumfields of the north, and setting sail in their small craft early in January, 1864, they arrived at Maketu to defend their ancestral soil. In their eagerness to get into action some of them drove their vessels ashore; others dropped anchor out in the stream at Maketu and hastened ashore without taking time to stow their sails. During the six or seven years' fighting that followed, all the vessels sank at their anchors or rotted on page 415 the beach. Another result was that sandbanks formed round the sunken vessels and quite ruined the little harbour of Maketu.

Now it became known that about seven or eight hundred hostile natives of the Bay of Plenty and the East Cape were on the way to the Rotorua district. By this time the contingent of Ngati-Porou and other Tai-Rawhiti tribes had been swelled by the addition of the Whanau-a-Te Ehutu, Ngai-Tawarere, Te Whanau-a-Apanui, the Whakatohea, Ngati-Awa, Ngati-Pukeko, and other clans, and finally the Ngati-te-Rangihouhiri at Matata. Te Puehu visited the Arawa country as a herald, asking the lakes tribes to permit them to pass through to help Waikato against the whites, but permission was peremptorily refused. Had the Tai-Rawhiti tribes been allowed to pass through to join the King party the addition of several hundreds of well-equipped warriors would obviously have exercised a powerful influence on the fortunes of the campaign, and would at least have prolonged the war. The Arawa found themselves in this position: that, never having expected any war, they had neglected to provide themselves with arms and ammunition and the necessary equipment for a campaign. They had not followed the example of the other tribes, who all eagerly set to work purchasing guns and ammunition on the relaxation of the arms restrictions by Gore Browne in 1857.

When the plight of the Arawa was realized, with the invaders only a few days' march away, several delegates of the tribe were despatched from Rotorua to Maketu, where they interviewed the Civil Commissioner and asked him to supply them with arms to defend their land against the Queen's enemies. The request was declined. Fortunately, Mr. William Mair (the interpreter at Orakau), who had lately been appointed Magistrate at Taupo, arrived at Maketu at this juncture, and, seeing how necessary it was that these people should receive help, he returned to Tauranga and begged the Imperial military officers there to give him the whole of their sporting ammunition for the loyal Maoris. He succeeded in obtaining about three hundredweight of powder, several hundredweight of shot, and a large quantity of percussion caps. He went to the local storekeepers, and they even emptied their chests of tea and gave Mair the lead. At Maketu the timely munitions-supply was given to the Arawa, who took their warlike stores inland to Mourea, the village on the Ohau Stream, which connects Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti; there all set to work making cartridges.

Meanwhile some Taupo men had arrived under Rawiri Kahia and Hohepa Tamamutu, and this contingent joined Ngati-Whakaue at Ohinemutu. The allied force crossed the lake in a flotilla of large canoes—“Te Arawa,” the largest, could carry page 416
The Battlefields at Lake Rotoiti, Maketu, and Kaokaoroa

The Battlefields at Lake Rotoiti, Maketu, and Kaokaoroa

nearly a hundred men—and combining with the others at Mourea the whole force, some four hundred strong, swept down Lake Rotoiti in true ancient warlike state to meet the advancing Tai-Rawhiti army, who were marching up from Otamarakau by way of Rotoehu and Hongi's Track through the bush to the east end of Rotoiti.

The fighting which followed occurred on the 7th, 8th, and 9th April, 1864. The great war-party of the East Coast tribes emerged from the forest and encamped at Tapuae-haruru (“The Beach of the Resounding Footsteps”), with the forest in their rear and the beautiful wooded range of Matawhaura lifting above them like a wall on their right. The Arawa made the Komuhumuhu page 417 pa, a palisaded village on the south side of the lake, their headquarters, and from there advanced along the shore now traversed by the main road from Rotorua to the eastern lakes and Whakatane. The three days' skirmishing ended in the complete repulse of the invaders. The fighting began at Ngauhu, near Wai-iti. On the second day a hot battle was fought on the Taurua ridge and the lake-edge between Komuhumuhu and Wai-iti. About twenty of the invaders were killed, including the chief Apanui, who fell at Te Tu-arai, the wooded headland near Emery's house at Taurua. The Arawa lost three of their men. The enemy retreated to the sea-coast, announcing that they would next invade Maketu; to which the Arawa chief Te Mapu te Amotu replied, “That is well; we shall finish our battle there.”

Maketu and Kaokaoroa

The Tai-Rawhiti expedition was reinforced at Otamarakau, the ancient pa of Waitaha, on the sea-coast, by a company of sixty Tuhoe and Ngai-Tama, also by a section of Ngati-Makino and some Ngati-Porou. The large flotilla of war-canoes was drawn up on the beach at the mouth of the Waitahanui Stream, below the massive earthworks of Otamarakau. Towards the end of April they marched on Maketu, and their advance-guard surprised two officers, Major Colvile (43rd Regiment) and Ensign Way (3rd Waikato Militia), who were out duck-shooting in a canoe on the Waihi Lagoon, two miles east of Maketu. The officers had a narrow escape. By this time there was a small body of troops, under Major Colvile, in occupation of Maketu, and Pukemaire, an ancient pa on the hill above Maketu, was converted into a redoubt, in which two field-guns were mounted. Major Drummond Hay and Captain T. McDonnell had also arrived with a few men of the Forest Rangers and the Colonial Defence Force to organize the Arawa defence. Skirmishing followed for two or three days at Kakiherea and Te Rahui, on the high land overlooking the Waihi estuary and the sea, and the invaders dug themselves in on the tableland called Te Whare-o-te-Rangi-marere, about a mile east of the Maketu Village. There the line of rifle-pits is still to be seen. Then two warships appeared, H.M.S. “Falcon” and the colonial gunboat “Sandfly,” and these vessels, and also the guns on Pukemaire, opened fire on the Tai-Rawhiti, and soon drove them out of their entrenchments. They recrossed the Waihi Lagoon and occupied the sandhills on the opposite side, but their position was gallantly stormed by McDonnell and his Rangers and Te page 418 Pokiha Taranui (afterwards known as Major Fox) and his Ngati-Pikiao under a very heavy fire.

By this time the main body of the Arawa had arrived from the lakes, and some three hundred of their best men pursued the Tai-Rawhiti along the beach toward Matata, while the “Falcon” and the “Sandfly,” steaming along close to the coast, shelled the retreating force. A heavy shell from the “Falcon” killed several men of the Whakatohea in a group at the mouth of the Waeheke Stream, near Pukehina. At this place the Arawa skirmished with their foes, and drove them toward Otamarakau. Next day the invaders attempted to launch their fleet of about twenty war-canoes lying at the mouth of the Waitahanui. While so engaged the Arawa came upon them, drove them off, and seized the canoes; some of the long waka-taua had broached to in the surf and were smashed.

Next day (28th April) the pursuit was continued along the wide sandy beach called the Kaokaoroa (“Long Rib”), extending from Otamarakau to the mouth of the Awa-a-te-Atua River at Matata. The fight, lasting all day, raged over the sandhills and the kumara and taro plantations between the sea and the high sandstone cliffs. The principal Arawa chiefs engaged, beside the energetic Pokiha Taranui, were the old warrior Tohi te Ururangi (also called Winiata Pekama, or “Wynyard Beckham”), Matene te Auheke, Te Waata Taranui, Te Mapu, Rota Rangihoro, Henare te Pukuatua, Te Araki te Pohu, Te Kohai Tarahina, Paora Pahupahu, and Kepa te Rangipuawhe: these men represented all sections of the Arawa people. The arms used were chiefly old Tower muskets, flint-locks, and double- and single-barrel shot-guns. The porera bullets—twelve to the pound—fired from the Tower muskets inflicted smashing wounds. The Arawa had not at this time received Enfield rifles.

The spot where the Tai-Rawhiti warriors made their final stand is near Pua-kowhai Stream, about two miles west of Matata. They took cover under the bank of a small water-course trending down through the cultivations of kumara and maize. About four hundred of the enemy resisted the Arawa here, with others in reserve. The Ngati-Awa and Whakatohea fired heavy volleys from their double-barrel guns, but the Arawa, advancing in quick rushes after the volleys, got up within 30 feet of them. Then a daring chief, Paora Pahupahu, armed only with a taiaha, dashed at the enemy's line and cut his way through, followed by the advance-party of his tribe. Meanwhile Tohi te Ururangi, standing on a low sandhill nearer the sea, was directing the movements of his warriors, shouting and pointing with his taiaha, when a volley laid him low. The enemy broke and fled. Most of them retreated along the beach; Hira te page 419 Popo, of Ngati-Ira, from Waioeka, Opotiki, and his detachment of the war-party escaped up a gully on the cliff-side. About fifty of the rebels were killed in this fight. The Arawa closely pursued the fugitives, and killed Te Ringa-matoru and several other chiefs of the Whakatohea on the sandhills near the place where the Matata Railway-station now stands. Te Arawa carried their wounded chief Tohi to the Pua-kowhai Stream, and he died there that evening. In revenge for his death his widow shot Te Aporotanga, a chief of the Whakatohea, who had been taken prisoner.

The pursuit ended at Matata. The invaders retreated in canoes to Whakatane along the Orini River, running parallel with the coast and connecting the Awa-a-te-Atua with the Whakatane. The Orini, then a fine deep waterway, is no longer navigable. About half the flotilla of canoes in which the Tai-Rawhiti warriors came had been left at Matata in readiness for return. The Ngati-Rangitihi, the present owners of Matata, give the names of some of the war-canoes: the “Tu-mata-uenga,” a very large waka-taua belonging to Ngati-Porou; the “Uekaha,” “Whanga-paraoa,” “Tararo,” and “Urunga-Kahawai.” All the canoes were decorated in warlike fashion and bore carved figure-heads.

Te Kauru Moko, a venerable fighting-man of the Urewera or Tuhoe, of Te Rewarewa Village, Ruatoki, stated (January, 1921) that the Tuhoe and Ngai-Tama company of the Kingite contingent numbered sixty. Te Kauru and Netana Whakaari, of Waimana—both tattooed warriors of the almost extinct type—are two of the very few survivors of this war-party; both fought at Maketu and the Kaokaoroa. The late Tamaikowha, of Waimana, was also in the company; others were Hira Tauaki (Te Kauru's brother), Paora Whenuwhenu, Te Whakaunua, and Turoa Tuhua. The Urewera joined the contingent contrary to the counsel of their tohunga, Te Kaho (father of Te Tupara Kaho, of Ruatoki), who prophesied their defeat if they attacked the Arawa.


At Otaramarae, Lake Rotoiti (6th January, 1919), Hohapeta te Whanarere, a veteran of the Ngati-Pikiao Tribe, gave Captain Gilbert Mair and myself a narrative of the encounter at Taurua with the Kingite reinforcements from the East Coast. After describing the gathering of the Arawa force and the canoe expedition to the eastern end of Rotoiti to stay the advance of the East Coast army, the old warrior said:—

“Our first skirmish with the Tai-Rawhiti men was at Ngauhu, just beyond Wai-iti, and close to the lake-beach at Tapuae-haruru, where the track from the coast by way of Rotoma and Rotoehu comes out of the bush. We held the East Coast men there, and at last they retired to page 420 Tapuae-haruru, and on the evening of the second day we returned to our palisaded pa on the lake-side at Komuhumuhu. In the skirmishing we cut bunches of fern and stuck them in the ground for cover and fired from behind them. We chiefly had flint-lock guns (ngutu-parera) and not much ammunition.

“Next morning the East Coast tribes came up along the lake-side to attack us at Komuhumuhu. We sallied out and met them at Taurua and fought a battle there. The skirmishers spread out all over the ridge of Taurua above the point where the half-caste Emery's house now stands. We scooped out little hollows—they could hardly be called rifle-pits—for cover on the bare hill; we dug them hurriedly with our tomahawks and hands. In this fighting we lost Mohi and Maaka shot dead, Topia (Mita Taupopoki's elder brother) mortally wounded; others wounded were Piwai te Whare-kohatu (hand smashed), Matua-iti (jaw shot away), and Wi Pori. Several of us held a little parapet on the hill—I and my brothers Te Harete and Te Pere, Mohi, my cousin Te Pokiha and his brother Waata Taranui. Mohi had been standing up and firing at the enemy, and they fired a volley in return. A bullet pierced his brain, and he fell back dead on top of us. Down below us at the edge of the lake (near the present native store at the little jetty) the enemy were held in check by the hapus Ngati-Uenuku-kopako and Ngati-Kereru.

“A section of the rebels nearly succeeded in cutting us off from our pa by working up inland into the bush, and we were compelled to retire along the beach and fall back on Komuhumuhu. Two of our old chiefs, Te Mapu te Amotu and Te Puehu, would not retire although hard pressed, and it was then that the rebels took us in flank. One of our men, Kakahi, was shot through the chest. We only saved ourselves by a rapid retreat to the pa. Some of the Arawa were panic-stricken by the persistence and numbers of the enemy, and ran to the war-canoes at the beach to escape. Then, after some sharp fighting, the foe hoisted a white flag: they had had enough of it. Hakaraia, a chief of Waitaha, came towards us with a flag of truce. The enemy retreated, and we followed them up to the end of the lake at Tapuae-haruru. Te Mapu and Te Porarere (son of Te Puehu) went out and ordered them to leave the Arawa country. Te Mapu told them that they need not rejoice over the fact that they had temporarily driven the Arawa back on Komuhumuhu pa; they must retire to the sea-coast lest worse befall them. ‘E waru nga pu-manawa o te Arawa’ (‘The Arawa have eight breaths, or eight talents’), he concluded. (This proverbial saying, famous among the Arawa, is an expression to denote courage, resolution, and resourcefulness.) The rebels' leader replied, ‘I shall go and shall not return here, but I shall kindle my fires of occupation at Maketu’ (‘Ka ka taku ahi ki runga o Maketu.’). To this Te Mapu returned, “That is well; we shall finish our piece of battle (pito whawhai) at Maketu.'

“This understanding was honourably kept,” said Hohapeta. “The foe retired to the coast at Matata, and there awaited reinforcements for the march on Maketu. As for us, we returned to Mourea, where for the first time the Arawa all assembled and prepared for a campaign, and then we marched on to Maketu to meet the invaders.

“In the Rotoiti fighting we killed about twenty of the invaders. Among them was Apanui, a high chief from the East Coast. He fell at Te Tu-arai, the wooded headland just to the eastward of Emery's house, above the present road and overlooking the lake.”