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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 96

MANY OF THE men most actively concerned in the murder of Mr. Volkner and Mr. James Fulloon took refuge in the natural fortresses provided by the almost impassable swamps and islanded lagoons of the Rangitaiki, on the east side of the Matata settlement near the mouth of the Awa-a-te-Atua. This Rangitaiki Swamp—now unwanted by the Government drainage-works and in process of profitable settlement—was then accessible only by the tracks along the seaward sandhills, or by canoe along the Tarawera River, the Awaiti-paku, and the Orini River (connecting the Awa-a-te-Atua with Whakatane Harbour) and by the labyrinth of reed-fringed waterways, navigable in small canoes, winding among the islets that rose above the water a few feet and made camping-grounds for eel-fishers and wildfowl hunters. The first fortified positions of the Hauhaus—consisting of Whakatohea, Ngati-Awa, Ngai-te-Rangi-houhiri, and some Urewera—were the palisaded pas Parawai and Te Matapihi, on the west side of the Tarawera River, and when driven out of these they took to their island-like forts in the great swamp. The Government despatched Major William G. Mair, R.M., who had served in the Waikato War as ensign in the Colonial Defence Force Cavalry and as staff interpreter, to organize a force of the Arawa Tribe and engage the Hauhaus, and endeavour to capture the principal men concerned in the murders at Opotiki and Whakatane. Major Mair, after initiating a Maketu column and arranging Matata as the rendezvous, assembled his force at Rotorua for the Matata campaign. It consisted of detachments from Tuhourangi, Ngati-Tuwharetoa, Ngati-Whakaue, Ngati-Rangiwewehi, Ngati-Uenukukopako, Ngati-Rangiteaorere, Ngati-Tuara, and the smaller clans of the Arawa. Crossing Tarawera Lake to Tapahore pa, a considerable number of Ngati-Rangitihi were enlisted for the expedition, and Mair's force now numbered about four hundred men. He marched down the valley of the Tarawera River, skirmishing on the way, to Matata (Te Awa-a-te-Atua). The position at Parawai was too strong to be taken by assault, so page 97 had to be passed by. On reaching Matata the column was augmented by the force from Maketu, made up principally of Ngati-Pikiao and Ngati-Whakaue. The skirmishing which followed on the western side of the river and then among the islands of the great swamps, followed by the siege of Te Teko pa, occupied nearly two months. At Tiepa-taua and other places a few miles inland from Matata Mair and his Arawa cut the Hauhaus off from their cultivations on the slopes west of the Awa-a-te-Atua. Te Parawai pa was taken. Here, says a native who served in the contingent, Major Mair set a bold example of courage by working right up to the palisades and firing his rifle through the fence. The capture of the strong position at Te Matapihi was the next operation, and the Hauhaus were forced into the swamps. The friendlies settled themselves comfortably in the captured village at Matata Island, where there were many large whares, and expeditions went along the beach dunes and maintained a heavy fire on the enemy. Among the Arawa was the warrior woman Heni te Kiri-karamu, who had distinguished herself by her bravery and her humanity to the British wounded at the Gate Pa in the previous year, and who was now fighting on the Government side, with her uncle Matenga te Ruru. She was armed with a Minie rifle, and proved herself a good shot. One day, at fairly long range, she killed a Hauhau who was poling a canoe across a lagoon. The fighting grew closer, and for several days there was sharp skirmishing and sniping at a range of about 100 yards until the Hauhaus were driven out. Mair and Heni Pore had the only rifles in the force. The Arawa were armed chiefly with double- and single-barrel shot-guns; some had only old flint-locks and Tower muskets.

The swamp strongholds, Oheu, Otamauru, and Omeheu, inland of the coastal belt were all trenched and palisaded, and in these retreats the Hauhaus, like Hereward the Wake and his Saxons in the fens of Ely, considered themselves safe from conquest by their foes. Mair took them in the rear by quietly and swiftly landing a hundred Ngati-Pikiao on Otamauru, a large strongly trenched and palisaded pa about five miles up the Orini Stream in the direction of Whakatane; the stream bounded its east side. The war-party from Matata Island first marched along the sea-beach, under cover of night, taking care to walk just within the edge of the water (it was flood tide) so that their footmarks would not be seen by any Hauhau scouts. The attackers then struck inland, crossed the belt of sandhills, and swam the Orini River, with their guns held high and their ammunition fastened on their heads. They completely surrounded the Otamauru pa and took the garrison prisoners. This broke the resistance in page 98 the Rangitaiki swamps. Omeheu pa, on an island east of the Tarawera River, some four miles inland, was the last place abandoned. The Hauhaus retreated up the Tarawera River in their canoes, and thence paddled along the Motumotu Creek, which then connected the Tarawera with the Rangitaiki River; it ran parallel with the Orini.

The present road between Matata and Whakatane traverses the low-lying country which was the scene of Mair's difficult swamp campaign. Matata Island, once a large and populous place, is passed on the east side of the new mouth of the Tarawera River. Te Matapihi is on the west bank of the Tarawera, about a mile above the present punt-crossing, a short distance from the ocean-beach. The square scarped hillock of Oheu, in the raupo swamp, the smallest pa of the series, is seen a little way from the road, on the inland side. In the siege of this stronghold Major Mair shot a Hauhau through the forehead from Te Rangatai, on the opposite bank of the Tarawera River.*

The coastal parts cleared of the Hauhaus, the Arawa went on a foraging expedition to Whakatane by canoe along the Orini River—it was then a deep navigable waterway, but has now been rendered useless by the Rangitaiki drainage-works. Loading their canoes with great quantities of kumara, taro, and maize from the deserted cultivations on the lower Whakatane, they paddled back to their base at Matata, and prepared to take the field again.


Intelligence had now reached Major Mair that the principal body of the Hauhaus had taken up a position at Te Teko, some twenty-five miles inland, where they had entrenched themselves strongly on the Rangitaiki River. The war-canoes were manned and the force was moved up against the strong current, and presently sat down in front of Te Teko and considered the strength of the enemy. The position occupied by the Hauhaus was a large pa, with the usual firing-trenches and a stout double line of palisading, abutting on the steep west (left) bank of the Rangitaiki, a mile and a half above the large settlement Kokohinau. page 99
From a drawing by Major-General Gordon Robley, in “Illustrated London News.”] Matata Pa after its Capture by the Arawa, 1865

From a drawing by Major-General Gordon Robley, in “Illustrated London News.”]
Matata Pa after its Capture by the Arawa, 1865

In the background is the niu, the Hauhau mast of worship, with a carved rupe, or dove, on the truck.

The lines of the fortification can still be traced in a grass paddock about 200 yards in rear of the present hotel and store at the small township of Te Teko, on the main road from Rotorua to Whakatane.

On reconnoitring the Hauhau stronghold Mair saw that it was not practicable to take it by assault, and he therefore decided to approach it by sap. He had closely observed the military engineers' methods in the sap at Orakau in the previous year, and proceeded to apply them to the reduction of Te Teko. His examination of the pa showed that the position had been very skilfully fortified. The main palisade, the kiri-tangata, stood about 10 feet high, composed of split totara timbers set closely together, and practicably unassailable by a storming-party. The main gateway in the fort faced west. At the rear there was a well-designed covered way to the water, cut obliquely down the bank of the river, here about 20 feet high. It was excavated out of the bank, and it sides were reinforced with strong totara posts; it was roofed over with slabs, which were then covered with earth. There was also a small palisaded dockyard for the canoes at the page 100 foot of the river-bank connected with the river gate. The position of the Hauhaus was made doubly strong by the support of a small pa, called Pa-harakeke, erected on the opposite bank of the river, within close range of Te Teko. The garrison of Te Teko totalled about one hundred and seventy men and youths; with them were a large number of women and children. Mair's force, drawn from the principal tribes of the Arawa, and including some of the Ngati-Tuwharetoa from Taupo, was between four hundred and five hundred strong.

In approaching the pa by sap Major Mair profited by what he had seen at Orakau—and, indeed, improved upon it. He observed that an old river-bed of the Rangitaiki, considerably higher than its present channel, described a great arc westward of the pa, curving round from south to north and meeting the river again some hundreds of yards below the enemy's position. This depression he selected as his base of attack. Five lines of sap were opened on the eastern brink of the old river-course (now marked by a grove of tall eucalyptus). Each sap was allotted to a tribe or large hapu, and the rivalry thus engendered produced intense competition in the trench-digging. The most southerly line of sap was given to Ngati-Pikiao, the strongest section of the Arawa engaged; and, although it was somewhat longer than the other trenches, it reached the palisades first. It was carried in a zigzag course in a line between Mount Edgecumbe and the south-west bastion of the pa. After commencing this sap Mair set his men to work on a trench parallel with the front face of the pa and about 100 yards distant from it. This parallel served as a base communication trench, and from it four other saps were opened out at varying distances.

The several lines of approach by sap were allotted to the tribes in this order, beginning with the southernmost trench directed towards the south-west angle: (1) Ngati-Pikiao, Ngati-Uenukukukopako, and Ngati-Tarawhai (of Maketu, Rotoiti, and Rotorua); (2) Ngati-Whakaue, of Ohinemutu, Rotorua; (3) Ngati-Rangiteaorere and some of Ngati-Uenukukukopako (Rotorua); (4) Ngati-Rangiwewehi (of Awahou, Rotorua); (5) Ngati-Tuwharetoa (from Taupo) and Tuhourangi (Te Wairoa, Tarawera). A large number of Ngati-Rangitihi were incorporated with the various trench-parties.

As these saps were advanced towards the stockade, demiparallels about 10 feet in length were opened out at short distances apart, on either side alternately, and marksmen took post there to cover the work of the trench-diggers. The main communication trench was also filled with musketeers. The head of each sap was just wide enough for one digger; three or four would be behind him deepening it to about 4 feet, while the rest of the page 101 people were engaged in keeping down the Hauhaus' fire from the pa. Women as well as men toiled and fought. Among the Ngati-Uenukukopako hapu who joined with Ngati-Pikiao in driving the southern sap diagonally towards the pa was Heni te Kiri-karamu (Heni Pore). When she was not digging she was firing in one of the covering-parties. Another dauntless wahine was Ana Pene, from Te Ngae, Rotorua. She was conspicuous for her fearlessness in exposing herself to fire and urging the warriors on. “While the saps were being dug,” narrates Heni, “each tribe and hapu striving furiously to be the first to reach the foot of the palisade, Ana Pene and several of the other Arawa women climbed on to the roofs of the whares built on the level ground outside the trench-lines, and loudly encouraged their men by chanting battle-songs and urging them to be strong and brave. High above all the noises of the battlefield we heard the penetrating voice of Ana Pene. When the firing was hottest she stood on top of a hut, heedless of the Hauhau bullets, shouting ‘Riria, e te iwi, riria!’ (‘Fight on, O tribe, fight on!’) and similar inspiring calls that heartened us all up and gave more vigour to the diggers' arms. Ana's husband and two brothers were among the fighters.”

Another exciting scene was a daredevil demonstration made one day by an Arawa named Hakawa. This man, a tall tattooed old fellow from Ohinemutu, came to Mair and asked for some yards of white calico. (This material was used for making bands, which all the Arawa wore about their brows to distinguish them from the Hauhaus when in action.) The commander gave him 4 yards of the stuff. Hakawa stripped naked, painted himself all over with kokowai (red ochre mixed with shark-oil), tied the white calico round his head, leaving the great part of it streaming out behind him, and completed his alarming outfit by sticking turkey-feathers in the turban band all round his head. Then, painted like a Red Indian, he rushed out to the open and went dashing at the top of his speed up and down in front of the pa, within close range, leaping from side to side, shouting words of insult at the enemy, and uttering short sharp yells or thrusting his tongue out in derision and defiance. Bounding furiously from side to side, he went the length of the pa-front several times, his calico head-streamer flying behind him like a pennant. Hundreds of shots were fired at him under the foot of the outer stockade by the astonished Hauhaus in their trench, but he escaped untouched. Major Mair, hearing the cheering and laughing and the great fusilade from the pa, went out to discover the cause of the uproar, and with difficulty recalled Hakawa, who was hugely enjoying himself. When Mair demanded the meaning of the remarkable exhibition the old warrior explained, with an amusing. page 102 naïveté, that his object was to induce the enemy to waste all their ammunition firing at him, so that the Arawa presently would be able to storm the place. He was surprised when Major Mair vetoed his spectacular tactics. Mere crazy bravado as it seemed, however, Mair privately recognized it as a really brave bit of self-sacrifice. Hakawa used to declare afterwards that the rebels wasted three hundred cartridges on him.

It became necessary to silence Pa-harakeke, the small fort on the opposite bank of the Rangitaiki, whose garrison kept up a harassing fire on the sappers approaching the angles of the main stronghold. Major Mair called for volunteers for the task, and a party of about twenty of the best fighters of Ngati-Pikiao crossed the river—several in a small canoe which Mair had captured, and the rest by swimming, using one hand to swim and carrying their loaded rifles, muzzles down, in the other, gripped half-way up the barrel to keep the charges dry. Three of the warriors—Te Pokiha, Mita te Rangi-tuakoha, and another man—on reaching the western bank under the pa, went up and demanded the surrender of the place, wishing to obtain peaceable possession of it if possible in order to avoid the necessity of shooting several of their kinsmen who were among the garrison. Maraki, a connection of the Ngati-Pikiao chiefs, was in charge of the pa. He and his companions surrendered. Freed from the annoying fire across the river, Mair's sappers pushed on more rapidly. When the fifth sap had passed the north angle of the pa (the end nearest the present road) Major Mair worked down the bank and towards the covered way which led to the river and succeeded in cutting off the garrison from their water-supply.

The sappers of Ngati-Pikiao, being the most numerous clan, were the first to carry their trench close up to the stockade. They were within a few feet of the south-west flanking salient, and prepared for the assault. Strong ropes of flax were plaited, and stones of 4 lb. or 5 lb. weight were made fast to them, with the intention of throwing them over the palisades and hauling down sections of the fence by united pulls. In the other saps the men were working away furiously, while the covering-parties continued their heavy fire on the stockade. The defenders of the fort were now running short of ammunition, and they were troubled also by the difficulty of obtaining water.

All was ready for the assault when Te Pokiha (Major Fox, the principal fighting chief of Ngati-Pikiao) called out to the garrison from the head of the sap, “Where are the Tawera?” He wished to give that hapu a last chance to escape the slaughter. “Come out, Te Tawera, that you may be saved!” The effect exceeded Pokiha's expectations. A white flag was displayed, and the whole garrison surrendered.

page 103

Major Mair ordered the Hauhaus to file out and lay down their arms. As they came out of the gateway one by one, headed by their dejected chiefs, their heads bowed in humiliation, the Arawa sprang up from their works, hapu by hapu, and leaped into the action of a furious war-dance, with choruses of tremendous volume. Ngati-Pikiao and their related hapus chanted, as they danced, the ancient battle-song beginning “Koia ano te peruperu,” accompanying their tremendous rhythmic shouting with appropriate action, raising their guns, held horizontally in front of them, up above their heads and down again, in time to the words. Then they chanted, in another measure, the famous old war-song “Kia kutia, au au!” The Taupo men, with the Tuhourangi, burst into their great battle-song. “Uhi mai e waero,” to the action of a leaping performance in which they jumped in perfect time high off the ground, their legs doubled under them like birds on the wing, facing this way and then that, with their guns gripped by the barrel, uplifted at arm's length. Then the tribes united in one grand war-song of triumph, delivered with terrific leap and stamp, in front of their silent captives.

Several of the Hauhau garrison had been killed in the three days siege, but the Arawa lost no men. Major Mair had a narrow escape. Towards the end of the fighting he was in the head of the Ngati-Pikiao trench, within 5 yards of the outer palisade, when a man fired at him from the trench inside the main stockade. The bullet probably struck a post of the pekerangi (the outer stockade) and was thereby given a jagged edge, for in its course it was momentarily entangled in Mair's long beard and tore some of his whiskers out by the roots. The shock and the excruciating pain caused Mair to imagine at first that part of his jaw had been carried away.

The prisoners were escorted down to the Arawa headquarters camp at Matata, where another war-dance of victory celebrated their arrival, and then Major Mair marched about a score of the principal offenders to Opotiki for trial by court-martial. Among the men captured was Horomona (Solomon), one of the Paimarire prophets from Taranaki, the chief instigator of the murder of Mr. Fulloon. He was a venerable man with long snow-white hair and beard, a mystic and sage of the ancient type. Horomona was born at Moturoa, the present site of New Plymouth. Other Hauhaus captured included the chief Te Hura, and Kirimangu and the boy Penetito who had been concerned in the death of Fulloon. Heni Pore described a lively incident which followed the arrival of captors and prisoners at Matata. When the force marched into the headquarters pa, Te Hura was attacked by the Arawa chieftainess Puhou, of Maketu, whose nephew Tamarangi had been killed at Mana-Whakatane, opposite Te page 104 Matapihi, in the swamp skirmishing. Puhou, in a furious state of rage and grief, declared that she would have revenge for her young relative's death. Clothed only in a waist mat and armed with a whalebone patu, she rushed up to the captured chief Te Hura as he sat on the marae. She caught him by the hair, violently rated him, and would have killed him with the sharp-edged club had she not been prevented forcibly. Te Hura said not a word, and made not a move all the time, says an eye-witness; he sat there like a statue.

The Arawa expeditionary force followed up their success by scouring the Hauhau country in the Whakatane Valley and looting horses and other property and foraging for food. They returned along the Orini Stream to Matata with canoe-loads of potatoes, kumara, and taro. The Ngati-Rangitihi clan and a section of Tuhourangi and Ngati-Tarawhai occupied Matata, which was given them for their military services, and Ngati-Pikiao and the other hapus marched home to Maketu and Rotorua.

The trial of the principal captured Hauhaus took place in Auckland, and on the 17th May, 1866, five of the prisoners—Horomona the prophet, Mikaere Kirimangu, Mokomoko, Heremita Kahupaea, and Hakaraia te Ruwhi—were executed in Mount Eden Prison. Young Penetito and Hekara, who had been sentenced to death, were reprieved on account of their youth, and later were pardoned. Penetito in 1922 was living at Te Teko. He served under Captain Preece in the last campaign (1871–72).

Te Uhi, a Whakatane chief with a reputation as a worker of witchcraft, was one of those who surrendered to the European force at Opotiki. For his complicity in the cutting-off of the “Kate” and the killing of Fulloon and the crew he was sentenced to imprisonment. Te Uhi died at Opotiki in 1886; he imagined he was makutu'd, or bewitched, by a more powerful tohunga, and his fears killed him.

The southern trench at Te Teko, which was the longest, is the best marked of all the lines of sap to-day. In spite of repeated ploughings it is easily traceable in a line from the south-west bastion of the pa towards the volcanic peak of Mount Edgecumbe, which dominates the landscape. A large blue-gum tree is growing in the older war-sap, about 60 yards from the pa. The south-west flanking bastion towards which this trench was directed is the most distinct section of the pa-lines. The line of the main communication trench in the grove of eucalyptus, and two of the other four lines of sap dug towards the stockades, are also still traceable on exploring the ground.

page 105

Captain Preece in the early “seventies” occupied Te Teko as a military post with his No. 2 Company of the Arawa Flying Column, and built a redoubt.

Mr. F. Burt, who for many years farmed the Matapihi Block, with the pa on it, in the low-lying Matata country, writes as follows on the subject of the fortified places in the great Rangitaiki Swamp: “I have inquired of the natives and they state that Te Matapihi and Oheu are the places to which the Hauhaus went after the Battle of Kaokaoroa. The brother of Wharepapa (of the Tawera Tribe) was killed at Oheu. He was shot by Major Mair as he stood up on the parapet of Oheu pa. Major Mair was at a spot called Rangatai. Tamarangi climbed up a peach-tree at Mana-Whakatane, opposite Matapihi (westerly), and was shot from the pa; the distance would be half a mile at least. These Maoris must have had some ‘go’ in them in the old days. From Matapihi to Tiepataua they had a good solid road made. One part ran through the swamp, which was fairly deep, starting from the pa, across to Mana-Whakatane. They had a road made across, and a bridge near the end to let the water through; the piles are there now, totara and puriri. I cut a piece off to see what it was like, and the timber is as good as the day it was put there. Evidently they made the foundation of the road with large pumice blocks and then put earth on top (there is even now a great quantity of pumice boulders round about these parts), but how they carted the earth I do not know. This part of the road is about half a mile long; it is now fairly dry on account of the dredge-cut the Government put up to tap the Awakaponga Stream. I have found the remains of guns and revolvers on Matapihi. The natives tell me when they were spearing eels near the Kohika Lake they came across the remains of an old pa, so there was evidently one between Oheu and the Kohika. Omeheu Island is about three or four miles from the Rangatai, and I should say it must have been a great stronghold in the old days, as it is (or was) entirely surrounded by swamp.”

* Regarding this man shot by Major Mair, Captain Gilbert Mair said: “The Tarawera bounded the western face of the pa, and the body floated down that river into the Rangitaiki and was picked up three days afterwards. The man had been shot fair through the forehead, and on word being sent to the enemy a message came back to say that their man had not been killed but had fallen in and been drowned through a magic spell wrought by an evil atua (god). The Major told the messenger that the atua had made a curious hole in his head. However, they were ashamed at having told lies, so declined to send for the body.