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The New Zealand Wars: A History of the Maori Campaigns and the Pioneering Period: Volume II: The Hauhau Wars, (1864–72)



Soon after the dispersal of the Hauhaus at Puraku pa, Tarukenga (1867), Lieutenat Gilbert Mair was despatched on a scouting expedition into the forest on the ranges above the west and north-west sides of Lake Rotorua. The object was to get into touch with and capture, if possible, a body of about a hundred people of the Ngati-Rangiwewehi who were known to be lurking in the bush. These people, whose homes were at Awahou, Puhirua, and other settlements, were an important clan of the Arawa. They had been in rebellion, and although they had separated themselves from Kereopa's influence and were anxious to return and live in peace, they were ashamed and afraid to do so, and for the present camped warily in the bush hinterland above their olden kaingas. Native Commissioner H. T. Clarke, in giving Mair his instructions for the search, told him not to kill any of Ngati-Rangiwewehi if he could help it. It was desired to capture them and induce them to settle down peaceably.

Taking a party of about a hundred Arawa, Mair scouted up to the bush above the Waiteti Stream, to the north-west of Tarukenga. One cold night he came upon the secret camp of the bush people at a place known as Te Ara-piripiri (“The track through the burrs”), about a mile and a half from Tarukenga, near where the present road from Rotorua to Okoroire enters the bush. Close to the edge of the bush, not long before daylight, Mair, in advance of his men, as was his wont, suddenly found traces of habitation and smelt smoke. He passed along the word for half of his men to lie down outside the refugees’ camp, and stealthily worked round to the other side of the position with the old chief Aperaniko Parakiri (of Ngati-Manawa) and fifty men, in order to come into the camp by the rear. This operation had almost been completed, just as the faint dawning of day, when a dog barked in the hidden kainga. That was enough for the light sleepers of the bush people. The next moment there was a rush like a drove of sheep (said Captain Mair), and off the Ngati-Rangiwewehi dashed for the shelter of the forest, naked just as they sprang from their mat couches in the closely packed whares. Mair and Aperaniko ran along a track seeking to stay the rush. A tree-trunk barred the way. Mair, making to pass this tree, heard a metallic snap on the left-hand side of the bole. He leaped round the tree, rifle ready, and in the dim light ran up against the muzzle of a long single-barrel gun just as another snap was heard. He flung himself on the man behind the gun and overpowered him. The prisoner was a young fellow named Te Raho Atua. He had page 508 taken two snaps at the pakeha, but each time his gun missed fire. This Mair found, was due to the fact that for want of percussion caps the Maori had used match-heads, cut of and inserted in eyelets, as was the common native fashion when caps ran short, and this bush contrivance failed to detonate.

The expedition was successful in so far that a score or so of prisoners were taken, but the greater number escaped into the bush. However, the desired object was attained, for communication was opened up in order to induce Ngati-Rangiwewehi to come in and make amends for their defection. As for the fighting-men among the prisoners, they were very much relieved at being able to join their kinsmen once more, and they promptly were enlisted in Mair's fighting force.