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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 371

FOR A FEW weeks in the winter and early spring of 1869 active hostilities were suspended, and Te Kooti made the most of the peaceful interlude by recruiting among the Ngati-Tuwharetoa Tribe and visiting the Waikato and Ngati-Maniapoto at Tokangamutu (Te Kuiti). He secured the adherence—not altogether willing—of Te Heuheu Horonuku, the hereditary head chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, and most of the members of his tribe at Tokaanu and Waihi, on the southern shore of Lake Taupo. At the northern end of the lake the majority of the people under Poihipi Tukairangi, of Tapuae-haruru, and Hohepa Tamamutu, of Oruanui, were friendly to the Government. Te Kooti made Tokaanu his headquarters, and his followers revelled in the soft waters of the hot springs there, and the abundance of food after their short commons in the Urewera Ranges. At the northern end of the lake Captain St. George commanded the friendly natives, whose post was the palisaded pa Tapuae-haruru, on the western bank of the Waikato River at its point of exit from the lake. A little later a redoubt (which is still well preserved) was built by the Armed Constabulary on the opposite side of the Waikato; it was the nucleus of the present township of Taupo.

After Colonel Whitmore's departure for Wellington, in ill health, Colonel Harrington, with headquarters at Tauranga, was given command of the Bay of Plenty district. Harrington's first act was a grave blunder. He ordered the Armed Constabulary to abandon the redoubts at Matata, Fort Clarke, and Fort Galatea, and instructed the whole force to fall back on Tauranga, where he intended to put them through a course of drill for a few months. Lieutenant Preece had been sent to Patea with a new contingent of Ngati-Porou who had been enrolled for service in the Armed Constabulary on the West Coast. After handing the men over to Major Noake at Patea he returned to Wellington and there received instructions to go to the Bay of Plenty with Colonel Harrington.

Te Kooti, having more or less compulsorily recruited Te Heuheu and his people, went on to Tokangamutu, in the King page 372 Country. A Turanganui chief named Wiremu Kingi, of Te Aowera hapu of Ngati-Porou, who was compelled by Te Kooti to accompany him throughout the war and who was captured at Maraetahi (on the Waioeka) in 1870, gave Lieut-Colonel St. John and Captain Porter an account of the meeting at Tokangamutu with Waikato and Ngati-Maniapoto. Wiremu said:—

“We had about two hundred people in our party which visited the Maori King's country. At the meeting the chief Manga (Rewi Maniapoto) welcomed us, and chanted a song which appealed to the people to hold the land and keep up the fighting. Concluding, he handed Te Kooti a sword, with which he was to sever Manga-tawhiri and Hangatiki (i.e., to beat the Europeans out of the Waikato). Te Kooti answered: ‘Here is the sword; take it back. It will remain in front of the King. If he gives the sword I shall take it; if not, let him keep the sword and I will go elsewhere. The King is in the centre with his sword and I am on the outside.’ Te Kooti's reason for going to the Upper Waikato was that he wished to gather all the tribes—the people of Waikato, of the Wairarapa, of Wanganui, of Taranaki, of Tauranga, of Hauraki, and of Ngapuhi; then to consider and determine upon the matter of attacking the white man until he should be quite destroyed.

“By the mouth of Tamati Ngapora (King Tawhiao's cousin) came the answer to the words spoken by Te Kooti to Manga and others of the King's representatives. The answer was a refusal. The words were that the people did not consent to Te Kooti's proposals; that his purpose in coming amongst them was to lower their chieftainship, and to destroy their Atua, their god, and that they would not bow down to his Atua. But when Tawaio heard of the reply he was wroth. He asked, ‘Why did you not agree with Te Kooti? What are his crimes? You have robbed me of my dignity as King. My duty is to rise in hostility against the white man.’”

Then, according to Wiremu Kingi (not to be confused with the celebrated Taranaki chief of that name), there was mention of white men who were in active sympathy with the Hauhaus.

Te Kooti asked if there was not a European in correspondence with the King. The custom of this pakeha was to be in opposition to the Queen. His name was ‘Hakara Mihara,’ and he was chief of the Irish, of the French, and of the Germans! The Mataura Ngati-Porou, living on the Coromandel Peninsula, where the European mentioned had leased some native land, were the bearers of his messages. These are enemies of the Queen, and said they would join Te Kooti. The white man was with Te Hira, whom he asked to concede the land at Ohinemuri to dig for gold, which would make the Government jealous, and afford a pretext for his people to rise up against the whites.”

page 373

“Later,” Wiremu continued, “Te Kooti had correspondence with the pakeha mentioned. After we left Tokangamutu some few men of Ngati-Porou arrived from Mataura bringing gunpowder and percussion caps, with a message from the pakeha. Te Kooti wrote to him, and the letter was sent to the kainga of Hera te Kaki. It was in consequence of the letter that the men brought the powder and caps. They were sent back again. The King and Te Hira acknowledged Te Kooti, and consented to worship his god, and Te Kooti wrote and sent presents of clothing. The King wrote to Te Kooti, ‘Go and do your work. You are a man of labour. There are two men in the Island: one is a man of labour, the other is a man of idleness.’”

By the “man of labour” Tawhiao meant Te Kooti; the other was himself. In this fashion the Maori King encouraged Te Kooti to continue the fighting. As for Rewi Maniapoto, or Manga, as he was more generally known then among the Maoris, he accompanied Te Kooti back to Taupo, intending—if conditions were propitious—to join him in the campaign in the district south of the lake. Few of Rewi's people, however, supported him in his warlike plans.

It was early in September, 1969, before active measures were taken to deal with Te Kooti, who had returned from the King Country to Tokaanu. Lieutenant Preece had been sent up from Tauranga to Tapuae-haruru to join Captain St. George in command of the friendly natives, and soon after his arrival there it became known that a large war-party of the Ngati-Kahungunu Tribe, under Renata Kawepo and Henare Tomoana, was advancing from Napier, and also the Armed Constabulary field force under Colonel Herrick, withdrawn from Wairoa. Colonel Thomas McDonnell had now been appointed to the command of operations in the Taupo country, and there was general satisfaction among the Europeans and Maoris at the prospect of fighting under so energetic an officer.

In September Captain St. George and Lieutenant Preece were ordered to cross Lake Taupo by canoe and co-operate with Colonel Herrick's Constabulary and the Ngati-Kahungunu at the south end. Henare Tomoana, however, pushed on with his men—about one hundred and twenty, all mounted—and marching from Runanga reached the old pa at Tauranga-Taupo on the east shore of the lake on the 9th September, and were attacked by Te Kooti and his Hauhaus before the Tapuae-haruru contingent arrived. The canoe flotilla under St. George and Preece and the chiefs had been delayed by adverse winds. Te Kooti's men assailed the Ngati-Kahungunu entrenched position on three sides, but after several hours firing withdrew with the loss of three killed. The fighting was renewed next day, but was inconclusive, and Te Kooti page 374
From a photo, about 1883]Te Heuheu Horonuku (Died 1888.)

From a photo, about 1883]
Te Heuheu Horonuku
(Died 1888.)

To Heuheu, the paramount chief of the Ngati-Tuwharetoa Tribe, of Taupo, joined Te Kooti in 1869, but made submission to the Government shortly after the fight at Te Porere. In 1887 he presented to the Crown the summits of the volcanic mountains Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu, his famous tribal peaks, forming the nucleus of the Tongariro National Park.

then returned to Tokaanu, taking with him all the horses of the Hawke's Bay contingent. St. George joined up with Tomoana soon after this skirmishing. By the middle of the month McDonnell and Herrick, with all the Constabulary and the Maori contingents, were in camp at Tokaanu. Te Kooti had retired southward over the Pononga saddle to the west end of the lake Roto-a-Ira. McDonnell moved round the east end of the Pihanga Range and fixed his field headquarters at Poutu, on the east end of Roto-a-Ira, where he built a defensive work. With McDonnell were the old chief Renata Kawepo and a party of Hawke's Bay natives who had come up via Moawhango.

Te Kooti's force took up a position on the crest of the Pononga ridge, the steep saddle of land, mostly covered with page 375 forest, which connects the Kakaramea Range with the extinct volcanic mountain Pihanga, forming the divide between the south end of Lake Taupo and Roto-a-Ira. On the morning of the 25th September the scouts discovered the presence of the Hauhaus there, and were fired on from a spur closely commanding the track from Tokaanu across the flat. Lieutenant Preece, hearing the firing, immediately moved out with the Arawa and Taupo contingents. Captain St. George had ridden out to Poutu to meet Colonel McDonnell. Preece did not think at first that the Hauhaus were in force, but on crossing a swamp and ascending the north face of the Pononga Hill, which was covered with high fern, he found that the enemy were numerous and were entrenched in rifle-pits at the edge of the bush. A sharp engagement followed. Henare Tomoana came up with his men, and, advancing in skirmishing order, the Hauhaus were driven back from point to point. Captain St. George now came hurrying up with reinforcements and gave the order to charge. The skirmishing Hauhaus were driven back on their line of rifle-pits, where Te Kooti made a stand, but Lieutenant Preece with his Taupo and Arawa Maoris charged them in dashing fashion and cleared the entrenchments. Several lay dead in the rifle-pits, and others about the ridge. Among the Hauhaus killed was Wi Piro, Te Kooti's near relative. [The spot where he was shot is pointed out by the Taupo natives, close to the left-hand side of the horse-track as one rides over the crest of the Pononga saddle from Tokaanu to Roto-a-Ira, just before the bush is entered.] Wi Piro had escaped from Chatham Island in the “Rifleman” he had been conspicuous in every raid and engagement since the landing at Whare-ongaonga, and was one of those who took a savage delight in slaughtering prisoners. The Government force had two killed and four wounded. One of the fatal casualties was Maniapoto, a young chief of Ngati-Hineuru; he had been a Hauhau and fought at Omarunui, near Napier, in 1866, when he was one of the very few who escaped from the field.

This fight at Te Pononga, in which only Maori troops were engaged, carried important consequences, for it stripped Te Kooti of much of the military mana which he had acquired in the Taupo country, and it convinced Rewi and some of his Ngati-Maniapoto, who were awaiting the result of the battle, that the Government forces were likely to come out victors in the inland campaign. Rewi went home to Tokangamutu, and renounced all intention of assisting Te Kooti.

Colonel McDonnell came up in time to see the end of the fighting on the Pononga Range and to congratulate St. George and Preece on their success. On the return to camp at Tokaanu it was found that No. 2 Division Armed Constabulary, page 376 under Captains Scannell and Northcroft, had arrived from Napier.

Shortly before this encounter Te Kooti had ordered the execution of four scouts sent out by the friendly chief Hare Tauteka, who were captured in a whare near Roto-a-Ira. They were killed, mutilated with tomahawks, and thrown into a swamp, where the remains were found.