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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)



Minor Maori troubles and a tribal rising necessitated small military expeditions up to about the closing years of the nineteenth century. In April, 1895, the Urewera and Ngati-Whare Tribes turned back two Government survey-parties who had begun a triangulation survey of the so far unmapped Urewera mountain territory, and seized their instruments. One party, Mr. J. Phillip's, was stopped at Te Whaiti by Ngati-Whare; the other, Mr. Foster's, at Waiohau, between Ruatoki and Galatea. The fact was that the Government's intention to survey and road the Urewera Country had not been explained properly to the tribes, who naturally viewed with disfavour and apprehension the arrival of the kai-ruri with his theodolite, the forerunner of pakeha encroachment and settlement. The Government considered it necessary to make a show of military force, and a detachment of the Permanent Artillery at Auckland, numbering between forty and fifty, armed with carbines and revolvers, was despatched to Whakatane and Ruatoki. Police-Inspector Hickson and Lieutenant (now Colonel) J. E. Hume were in command of the expedition, and Colonel Roberts, Magistrate at Tauranga, accompanied them. It was on Sunday, 21st April, that the force marched into Ruatoki, at the page 497
Sketch by Colonel W. B. Messenger, 1864] The Urenui Redoubt, North Taranaki

Sketch by Colonel W. B. Messenger, 1864]
The Urenui Redoubt, North Taranaki

This redoubt at Urenui was built in 1864, and occupied by Captain Good and a party of friendly Maoris. It was a frontier garrison-post for many years. A peculiar feature of the work was a small bastion built in the form of a projecting balcony and carried out on timber brackets, as shown; this was used as a sentry-post.

entrance to the gorge of the Whakatane. We found all the leading men of the Urewera, from Ruatoki to Waikare-moana, assembled there, to the number of about two hundred, seated in half-moon formation on the marae. It was an ominous reception. No call of welcome; not a word from the sullen mountain-men squatting there glowering at us. When at last they did speak their speeches were decidedly hostile. They wanted no surveyors in their country; they did not see any necessity for mapping it; they feared some of their land might be taken to pay for the survey. We found, afterwards, that many of the younger men were ready and eager to fight; and practically every man had a gun and ammunition, although they did not parade their arms before us.*

However, patience and diplomacy worked wonders with the “new-caught sullen” Urewera. Mr. James Carroll, always a successful mediator in disputes of this nature, rode through from Gisborne, and after some days' discussion with Numia, Kereru, Te Wakaunua, Rakuraku, and other chiefs the trouble was settled. The Urewera permitted the survey to go on.

page 498
Sketch by Colonel W. B. Messenger, 1871] Taranaki Bush Rangers' Redoubt at Wai-iti

Sketch by Colonel W. B. Messenger, 1871]
Taranaki Bush Rangers' Redoubt at Wai-iti

After the Pukearuhe massacre in 1869 two redoubts were built in the Wai-iti Valley, close to the sea, about two miles south of Pukearuhe. One, shown in this drawing, was garrisoned by a company of Taranaki Bush Rangers; the other, on the edge of the flat overlooking a deep valley near the beach, was occupied by a detachment of Armed Constabulary. These posts and Pukearuhe, with the redoubt at Urenui forming an inner guard, protected the northern part of Taranaki. In 1871 Sub-Inspectors Capel and Crapp were the officers of the Armed Constabulary force at Wai-iti.

Similarly, at Te Whaiti, the Ngati-Whare in the end were won over to the side of progress. A covering-party of the Permanent Force was stationed at Te Whaiti for some weeks, for the protection of the surveyors, but its services were not needed. The survey went on, and there went on also the strategic road through the heart of the Urewera Country, destined to link up with the Waikare-moana side. Suspicious, inimical as these mountain-dwellers were, fearful of the pakeha's intrusion, which meant loss of independence, loss of land, they soon came to look with a friendly eye on the new-comers, and even to welcome the new road that slowly pierced the gorges and forests of their rugged country. It was the first stage in the breaking-down of the long isolation which had kept the Urewera people a tribe apart, conservative in the extreme, clinging to the old Maori ways of life.

page 499
The Pukearuhe Redoubt, North Taranaki

The Pukearuhe Redoubt, North Taranaki

More serious was an expedition three years later, this time to Rawene and Waima, in the Hokianga district. It was curious that this part of New Zealand, one of the first homes of pioneer white settlement, should be the scene of a determined rising against pakeha authority. The chief trouble-maker was Hone Toia, one of the heads of the Mahurehure Tribe, a small clan of the great Ngapuhi; their principal homes were Waima and Taheke. There were various petty grievances, some of them ridiculous to the pakeha mind. One was the objection of the natives to the dog-tax levied by the Hokianga County Council; and there was objection, too, to the native-land legislation. Toia excited the tribe by his night seances; he professed to be a spiritualistic medium, and he practised the ancient tohunga's trick of whiowhio, or whistling, in calling down the spirits of the dead, who were supposed to speak to the assembled people in a ghostly whistling voice. He so worked on the superstitions and the warlike instinct of the Mahurehure that they were soon ready for armed revolt against the pakeha, and there were threatening demonstrations against Rawene Township. The result was that the Government despatched a column of the Permanent Force, 120 strong, with two Nordenfeldt field-guns and two Maxims, to the theatre of danger. Lieut.-Colonel Newall, a page 500
Photo at Waima, Hokianga, 6th May, 1898] The Mahurehure Leaders Under Police Guard After Their Surrender (From left to right—Romana te Paehangi, Hone Mete, Hone Toia (standing), Wiremu Makara, and Rekini Pehi.)

Photo at Waima, Hokianga, 6th May, 1898]
The Mahurehure Leaders Under Police Guard After Their Surrender (From left to right—Romana te Paehangi, Hone Mete, Hone Toia (standing), Wiremu Makara, and Rekini Pehi.)

page 501 veteran of the Maori wars, commanded the expedition. A small British warship, the gunboat “Torch,” was also sent north, and she anchored off Rawene.

Colonel Newall, on the 5th May, 1898, marched his force in over the hills to the Waima Valley, some twelve miles. The two Maxim machine guns were taken over a rather difficult road. The route ascended the Puke-o-te-Hau Range and wound through a tract of bush, with a deep gully on the right-hand side and wooded hills on the left. Here there was an extremely narrow escape from a disastrous ambuscade. Seventy or eighty men and youths of the Mahurehure were posted in the fern and bush in cunningly selected positions commanding the road; all were armed, some with rifles, most of them with double-barrel guns. Not a sign of a Maori could we see as we entered the bush; nevertheless they were there within a few yards of us. Suddenly, as our rearguard wound into the bush, two shots were fired over our heads—a tupara loaded with ball.

“Now we're in for it!” said Mr. John Webster (the veteran settler of Opononi and old-time comrade of Judge Maning), alongside whom I was riding. Every one expected a storm of lead from the bush, and had it come our column marching in close order along the road would have suffered heavily. But not another shot was fired, and soon we learned the reason. A Maori came galloping along the road shouting out to the hidden men in the bush not to fire. When he was stopped he was found to be a messenger from Hone Toia, who had at the eleventh hour decided for peace. This was due to the arrival at Waima of Mr. Hone Heke, member of Parliament for the Northern Maori Electorate, who had ridden hard across country from Whangarei just in time to dissuade his tribesmen from their suicidal folly. A little later and a fight would have begun that would have cost scores of lives. The column marched into the beautiful Waima Valley without further incident, and bivouacked at the native school. The Mahurehure would-be warriors, still in a dangerous mood, gathered that night at their village half a mile lower down the valley. Next morning I went to their kainga with one of the friendly chiefs and witnessed a scene of tense excitement when Hone Heke made an appeal to the tribe to surrender. His entreaties carried the people away with emotion, though some of the “die-hards” still talked of battle; and the outcome was that at noon that day Hone Toia and his principal men rode in and surrendered to Lieut-Colonel Newall. They were tried at Auckland for treason in taking up arms against the Government, and terms of imprisonment were imposed. Since that day there has been peace in the North, but very few people realize how much the North owed to the late Hone Heke for his page 502 strenuous efforts to preserve that peace and to prevent the Mahurehure firebrands plunging their people into a foolish little war.

So ends the long story of the Maori wars and the final military expeditions that cover the period from 1845 to the closing years of the nineteenth century—a story in which both races may find much matter for pride as well as food for regret, for if the conflicts were born in most instances of mutual misunderstandings and political blundering, the trial of strength developed to the full the virtues of courage and fortitude and self-sacrifice on both sides. Pakeha and Maori are now knit in such close bonds of friendship that they can contemplate without a trace of the olden enmities the long-drawn struggles of other years, and find a mutual satisfaction in the thought that the military traditions of the pioneer period have left appreciable lasting impression on the New Zealand national type. One thing only was needed to cement for ever the union of the races, and that opportunity the Great War brought. Maori soldiers fought and died by the side of their pakeha fellow-New Zealanders; descendants of Hone Heke's warriors, of Te Kooti's fierce followers, of the gallant Arawa, and the fighting Ngati-Porou suffered and achieved with their white compatriots on the shell-swept slopes of Gallipoli and in the trenches and red fields of France. For the fighting and working capacity of the Native Contingent Imperial and Colonial officers alike had the highest praise. Of some 2,200 Maoris who left New Zealand, 1915–18, 253 met their deaths on active service, and 734 were wounded. So in the greatest of all wars the Maori of the young generation proved his warrior worth, and showed the world that the heroic spirit and the quality of endurance which won the grim defenders of Orakau a deathless fame have not deserted the sons of the ancient fighting-race.

* The present writer accompanied this expedition as correspondent and also that to Waima, Hokianga, in 1898.