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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)



Working from the Opotiki side, Captain J. R. Rushton had some most arduous bush marching in search of Te Kooti. His last expedition was early in 1872, when he and Wiremu Kingi, chief of the Ngaitai Tribe, with a war-party scoured the wildly page 464 broken forest country forming the watershed between the Bay of Plenty and Poverty Bay. Captain Rushton writes: “My friend Wiremu Kingi, of Torere, informed me he had heard that Te Kooti with a few men was hovering about the high country near the Upper Motu and Maunga-tapere Range and Te Wera forest. I knew that some of his best men had left him and were now living with the Ngaitai at Torere. I forthwith informed Sir Donald McLean, Defence Minister, and he at once despatched the Government steamer, commanded by Captain Fairchild, with stores for an expedition to start early in pursuit of the rebel. Wiremu Kingi agreed to raise a party, and with about fifty very good men we marched for the Upper Motu. It was extremely rough work penetrating those trackless forests and ravines. We got on Maori tracks on the Upper Motu, and followed the trail, often finding the last camp-fires still warm. It was most trying work in that broken bush country. We knew the rebels often doubled back on their tracks. However, they had made off through the Urewera Country, and we did not come up with them. The awful marching had its effect on some of our men; Wi Kingi and a number of his Ngaitai got very lame. I think it was on the fourteenth day out that I made up my mind to try and get down to Gisborne. I took two of our best Maoris—Hotene was one—and after hard bush marching got out to the Ormond settlement. There I found two of my old comrades, Majors Pitt and Richardson. Next day I reached Gisborne and sent a message off by mounted orderly to Sir Donald McLean at Napier asking for a steamer to return the force to Torere. Wi Kingi and his men came out, and we were all taken back to the Bay of Plenty by the steamer. So ended my last expedition in search of Te Kooti.”*

The chase after Te Kooti was not abandoned while any possibility remained that he was still hiding in the unpeopled parts of the bush country. In another effort to find his trail Captain Preece set out from the Rangitaiki Valley on the 19th April, 1872, with his No. 2 Company of Arawa. This proved to be the final expedition of the war. The route taken was that by way of Ahi-kereu and Maunga-pohatu. The column marched right through the mountains to Puketapu, where Captain Ferris's trail was found on the 27th after very hard page 465 travelling in continuous rain. Preece then worked out to Marumaru, and from there went on the Wairoa River to Wairoa for rations and a fresh supply of boots for his men. Having news that Te Kooti had crossed the Maunga-pohatu and Ruatahuna track and was making for Waiau, he marched rapidly for Waikare-moana through Whataroa, and found that Captain Ferris had started from the Marau end of the lake with ten Armed Constabulary and ten natives. It now became evident that Te Kooti was making for the Kaingaroa and Waikato, so Preece communicated with Captain Mair advising him to move up to Heruiwi, and instructed Lieutenant Way to bring ten men from Fort Galatea to watch from that side.

On the 10th May, 1872, Captain Preece left the Waikare-moana and marched southward towards Te Hoe River, a tributary of the Mohaka, over the ground he had travelled in February. Precipitous cliffs about 300 feet high were encountered of the upper part of the proper left bank of Te Hoe Stream, and the men could find no means of descending them, so Preece had to work down towards Ngatapa [not to be confused with the Ngatapa which was the scene of the siege of 1869]. This Ngatapa was an old Maori fortress on the junction of Te Hoe and Mohaka Rivers near Maunga-haruru, where Te Kooti had spent some time in the summer. Finding no trace of him there, Captain Preece determined to work out to the Armed Constabulary post at Te Haroto, on the Napier-Taupo Road, and then make a forced march round by road to co-operate with Captains Ferris and Mair from the Heruiwi side. On his arrival at Te Haroto and Tarawera he sent Sergeant Bluett ahead with a small party to get rations from the Runanga Armed Constabulary station and then work through the edge of the bush towards Ahi-kereru and try and strike the trail there; the captain was unable to push ahead himself owing to a bad leg. However, on the 17th May a telegram arrived from Mr. McLean, the Defence Minister, stating that Te Kooti (who had eluded the Kaingaroa Plains patrols) had got through to Arowhena, in the King Country, a settlement near the Waikato River west of Waotu, on the 15th, and left for Te Kuiti, Tokangamutu, on the 16th. Thus unsuccessfully ended all the expeditions after the outlaw. Captain Ferris had followed the trail through dense bush as far as Heruiwi, but arrived there too late; Lieutenant Way, who met Captain Preece at Tarawera, had seen nothing of the trail.

“Captain Ferris,” said Captain Preece, “deserved great credit for the persistent way in which he had followed the trail, from the time we handed it over to him at Whataroa, through to Te Reinga and the bush country at the back of Nuhaka, where page 466 Te Kooti doubled on his own tracks, thence striking his old hiding-place at the head of the Waiau beyond the western end of Lake Waikare-moana, through dense bush in rugged country and up the beds of rivers, and ultimately reaching the open country above the Kaingaroa Plains unfortunately just too late to capture Te Kooti. He never received proper credit for this very arduous service, and it is only proper that, although he has ‘gone west’ many years, his good work should be recorded.”

Captains Mair and Preece worked well together. There was never any question of seniority between them; they consulted one another on every detail, and jointly served their country with zeal and loyalty in a very trying time, giving every assistance and information to other officers who were operating against Te Kooti from different points. Captain Porter and Lieutenant Large, too, gave particularly valuable service in their arduous expeditions with Ngati-Porou, tirelessly scouring the most formidable mountain region in the North Island.

In the safety of the King Country, chiefly at Tokangamutu and Otewa, Te Kooti spent the next eleven years. His pardon in 1883 enabled him to move abroad again, but he was not permitted to return to his old home at Poverty Bay, and he died in 1893 on a reserve at Ohiwa, at peace with the Government he had defied and eluded so long.

So ended, in 1872, the Maori campaigns which began on the Waitara in 1860—a war that at one period necessitated the employment of more than ten thousand troops, and which was brought to a close by native contingents with a few European officers. From war on the grand scale under Imperial generals, with horse, foot, and artillery, and elaborate transport arrangements, the operations had gradually been reduced to a kind of guerrilla warfare in which the men carried all their supplies on their backs and fought the hostile bands in the Maori manner, tracking them through the forests and practising the bush-fighting tactics of surprise and ambuscade.

For eleven years almost continuously the North Island was disturbed by war and alarms, and the expenditure incurred remained a heavy load upon the resources of the young colony. The loss of life was heavy in some of the engagements and sieges—in particular Rangiriri, Orakau, the Gate Pa, Te Ranga, Te Ngaio (Kakaramea), and Ngatapa—yet considering the long period over which the campaigns extended the aggregate of page 467 casualties was not great. From the opening of Heke's War in the North in 1845 until the firing of the last shots in the chase after Te Kooti in 1872 the total death roll of the British and colonial troops engaged was 560; the wounded numbered about 1,050. The bodies of friendly natives serving on the Government side lost in the same period about 250 killed. The hostile Maoris lost far more heavily. More than 2,000 were killed, and probably about the same number wounded, but the exact figures could not be ascertained, as it was native policy to minimize their casualties as much as possible.