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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)


page 161


IN MARCH OF 1867 a formidable attempt to invade Rotorua was made by a body of Waikato, Ngati-Raukawa, and Ngati-Haua men, acting at the instigation—or, at any rate, with the approval of King Tawhaio. The object was to exact retribution for the action of the Arawa tribes in barring the way to the East Coast army of reinforcements for Waikato in 1864. The invaders reached the western shore of Rotorua Lake, but did not succeed in their essay to attack Ohinemutu itself.

The first alarm of the Kingite-Hauhau incursion was communicated to the Civil Commissioner at Tauranga by Dr. Nesbitt, the Government agent and medical officer at Rotorua. He reported in March that a force of Waikato Hauhaus, numbering from three hundred to five hundred fighting-men, had appeared on the edge of the Mamaku Forest and had encamped at Puraku, near Tarukenga, sending parties out to Waiteti and to Parawai, near Puhirua, close to the lake. Those at Parawai were said to be under the command of Hakaraia, the Hauhau prophet from Te Puke. It was ascertained later that Kihitu was the principal leader of the Waikato and their allies.

The first to engage these raiders was Ensign Gilbert Mair, with a small body of Arawa, in a skirmish on Sunday, the 17th March, three days before the main body of Militia and Arawa reached Rotorua from Tauranga. Most of the Arawa had been in the Tauranga district fighting the Piri-Rakau and other Hauhau tribes, and there were only a few with Mr. Mair, who had just made a hazardous scouting expedition, alone, into Poripori, discovering there that the Hauhaus were making for Rotorua. As he came along the lake-shore from the Kaituna side he saw in the distance a line of blazing villages on the crest of land south of Rotorua—Paparata, Te Whetengu, and other places along the Tihi-o-Tonga, from the slopes of Ngongotaha Mountain stretching east to the Karaka Hill above the Hemo Gorge. The enemy had come down over the Hautere plateau and were making for Ohinemutu, hoping to capture the chief home page 162 of the Arawa during the absence of the fighting-men. Mair hurried on at the double, taking with him the best of his men—and there were very few who were able to keep up with this active and tireless young officer on the war-path. He reached Pukeroa pa ahead of all his men, and found only a few able-bodied warriors there; most of the garrison were old men and women and children.

The Maharo Redoubt, on the summit of Pukeroa Hill, had been built under Mair's direction before he left for Tauranga with the main body, and had been placed under the charge of Henare te Pukuatua with twenty-five men. From the western slope of the hill, at Paepae-mohoao, he could now see a long line of men, single file, advancing rapidly over a low ridge which trended across the old battlefield of Mataipuku, of cannibal fame, to the abandoned earthworks of Te Koutu pa, the terminal of the ridge, overlooking a small kainga of Ngati-Whakaue on the sandy shore of the lake. As was discovered afterwards, this war-party numbered seventy. The invading taua was headed by a woman, a circumstance reminiscent of the warlike customs in Samoa, where a high-born taupo woman usually led the march into battle. This woman of Waikato was Pare Turanga, a high prophetess and a sorceress or seer of visions (matakite).

There was not an instant to lose, for it was clearly necessary to seize and hold the pa at Te Koutu before the enemy reached it. Accordingly Mr. Mair, having called on the most active of the men in Pukeroa to join him, rushed off to forestall the invaders. He had now thirty-nine men, a small body to join issue with the strong and evidently well-equipped invading force, who looked a splendid body of warriors as they came marching at a steady walk over the plain, stripped to the waist and armed with guns and tomahawks with numerous cartoucheboxes strapped around them. Mair's men had not a rifle among them. His own weapon was a double-barrel gun; his Arawas were armed with similar pieces and with single-barrel guns and old-fashioned Tower flint-lock muskets.

The little Arawa force forded the Utuhina Stream 200 yards or 300 yards from its point of discharge into the lake. The water came up above the men's waists, and they had their guns and ammunition-boxes over their heads to keep them dry. They could hear the wild music of the Hauhaus' Pai-marire chant, a fanatic chorus, rolling up from the warriors as they marched into battle. Once across the little river the Arawa made direct for Te Koutu through the manuka scrub, here pitted with boiling springs and bubbling mud-holes, a nest of perils for an enemy unacquainted with the ground. Racing for the old hill pa, they clambered into its ditches on the south and east sides page 163 just as the enemy charged and occupied the other two sides. The pa was roughly square in shape, about 45 yards in length and the same in width; its outline can plainly be traced to-day, although the olden parepare or parapets, trench, and traverses have suffered from the hand of time and the feet of grazing stock. [Later, in the “seventies,” Captain Mair, then resident at Te Koutu as Government officer, planted rows of Pinus insignis round the ramparts, and the stumps of these trees—which, when 100 feet high and 4 feet through the butt, were felled for timber and rafted round to the Ngongotaha sawmill—remain to-day to mark the limits of the ancient fortification.]

The enemy were led on by Pare Turanga, the chieftainess already mentioned, a handsome young woman, tattooed on chin and lips, attired in beautiful native garments of finely dressed flax—a huaki with its double flounce of taniko pattern about the shoulders, leaving the right arm bare, and a korowai of white flax with dangling black dyed thrums around the waist. Huia-feather's adorned her luxuriant black hair. She wielded a long spear-headed taiaha, and this she handled in true warrior fashion as she came running on at the head of her warriors, perfectly indifferent to danger. Yelling their Pai-marire battle-cries, the Waikato Hauhaus made desperate endeavours to wrest the opposite trenches of the pa from the Arawa. They attempted to outflank the Lakes men, but this was frustrated by Mair and his comrades, a few of whom dashed up to the south-west corner of the redoubt and enfiladed the enemy holding a portion of the westernmost trench. Meanwhile a number of Arawa, led by Henare Pukuatua and a big black-bearded young warrior chief of the Ngati-Raukawa and Ngati-Whakaue named Arekatera Rongowhitiao, worked round the north-eastern corner and began to outflank the Hauhaus in that direction, the side facing Kawaha. Some of the enemy had crept into the pa and occupied some ruas, or old food-pits, and other depressions there, and from this cover they kept up a constant and heavy but not very well directed fire upon the Arawa, very few of whom were hit. All that could be seen of most of the enemy were the black shaggy heads popping up here and there across the 20 yards of clear ground in the interior of the pa, and a gun hastily raised and discharged.

The sharpest fighting occurred at the south-east angle of the pa. Mr. Mair and a man of Ohinemutu named Te Honiana, dashing up the hill, secured cover behind a small but thick patch of manuka a few yards from the angle, and from here kept up a steady fire. Some of the enemy had taken cover behind the traverses of the old trench, which were still in usable order Meanwhile a fine young warrior of the Arawa, a man named page 164 Werimana, of the high-born Amohau family, the favourite young chief of the Ngati-Tunohopo clan, boldly stood forth near the parapet, and singling out a foeman across the intervening few yards, shot him. Clubbing his gun he dashed forward “over the top” to despatch his foe, crying as he did so “Ki au te mata-ika” (“Mine is the first fish!”—i.e., the first antagonist slain), when he himself was shot through the lungs by Hone, of Ngati-Ahuru, and fell mortally wounded. His fall was quickly avenged by Whiripo, of the Ngati-Tuara hapu; he shot and severely wounded Hone, who, after the fight was despatched by a bullet from Rameka's gun as utu for Werimana's fatal wound.

Almost simultaneously Mair and Honiana secured a good view of a daring slim lad, conspicuous for his head of yellow-red hair, the ruddy tinge called by the Maoris urukehu. Their bullets both struck him, and he fell dead. It is believed he was Netana, of the Ngati-Haua Tribe.

Now the Arawa on the other side of the pa succeeded in outflanking the enemy holding the northern face, and these at last broke and fled with the survivors of those who had faced the fire and Mair and his immediate followers. The whole war-party of Waikato turned and made for the cover of the thick manuka, fighting as they retired. The last to leave the battlefield—as she had been the first to enter it—was the fearless chieftainess, brandishing her red feather-decked taiaha, and rolling her eyes in the warrior grimace of the pukana until the shelter of the thickets was reached.

Seven Waikato warriors were killed in and around this pa of Te Koutu; their bodies were interred in an ancient wahi-tapu, or burying-ground, which is marked to-day by an old willow-tree in the highest part of the redoubt. The Arawa, following up the retreating enemy, killed two more in a clump of kahikatea timber called Te Pa-nui-o-marama, on the flat in the direction of Ngongotaha. The pursuit ended at Te Puna-a-Tuhoe (now called the Fairy Spring), close to the base of Ngongotaha Mountain, and here two more were shot, making eleven in all; but the bodies were carried off by the retreating Waikato, who made off round the base of the Kauae spur and fell back on Tarukenga.

The Arawa lost only one man—the brave Werimana, who was carried to Ohinemutu, where he died that night. Five men were wounded. Captain Mair gives the following list of the thirty-nine men who followed him to Te Koutu: Henare te Pukuatua, Te Raika, Manahi Poihipi, Taekata, Te Warihi, Te Werimana (died from wound), Te Tupara Tokoaitua, Whiripo te Puni, Hamuera Pango, Pango Kaingamata te Ore, Ngamahirau, Reupena, Perepe Tapihana, Ieni Tapihana, Arekatera Rongowhitiao, Poniwahio Pango, Ngakuku, Hona te Ngatete, Matenga page 165 Rangi-whakairi-ao, Paora te Amohau, Te Pimara, Pirika Poihipi, Te Wheuhi Wharekiekie Ngamako, Himaera, Te Rangikaheke (severely wounded), Wehipeihana, Henare Mokoia, Te Hauiti, Te Kowhai, Te Kipihana te Keho, Te Katene Motunau, Whakatau Ngakuku, Whitiana Pako, Te Taotahi, Te Araki te Pohu, Raniera, Hema te Tua, Hori Keretumu, and Manahi te Puango.

Some of these men, such as the Ngati-Tu chief of Te Araki te Pohu—a splendidly tattooed patriarch who died some years ago nearly a hundred years of age—were elderly men, and so could not keep up with the younger warriors in the race to forestall the Hauhaus, but all arrived in time for the fight.