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Reminiscences of The War in New Zealand

Chapter LXIII. — Operations at Waikare Moana

page 342

Chapter LXIII.
Operations at Waikare Moana.

On his arrival at Opotiki, Ropata found out from one of his prisoners that Te Kooti had a store of reserve ammunition concealed in the forest near Maraetahi, and by dint of threats he made the man conduct him to it. Eight quarter casks of powder were discovered, but this did not satisfy Ropata, and, after much questioning, he discovered a second plant was known to another of his prisoners, whom Rapata placed in charge of a strong escort, with orders to bring the powder or return without the man. By this means twelve more casks of powder and a barrel of bullets rewarded the escort for their trouble, and saved the guide's life. On the 11th of April, Wanganni, anxious to return to their homes, were shipped on board a steamer via Wellington, and did not again take part in the war, they feeling that, as their own district was quiet, it did not become them any longer to interfere within the boundaries of other tribes. Ngatiporou also left for their homes on the following day, but only to organise another expedition against Te Kooti. The doings of the third column, which should have acted from the Wairoa upon Waikare Moana, was of small account. To this force the armed constabulary stationed at Wairoa were ordered to give every assistance short of joining the expedition, to occupy a few posts on the line of supply, keep open the communication, &c. After considerable persuasion on the part of Messrs. Locke and Hamlin, 200 semi-Hauhaus of the Kurupakiaka and Kahu tribes were got together, and started on the 6th of March for Tekapu. The following day a small party scouted the Wairoa valley to Te Maruruaru, where they managed to walk into an ambush of Te Waru's men, who killed the leading file; this so cooled their ardour that they page 343fell back, leaving their dead behind them. The following morning, Mr. Hamlin proceeded to the scene of the ambush, and found the enemy had decamped, but he followed their trail for some distance, until it entered the Ruakiture gorge, when the gallant Wairoas thought they had gone far enough, and compelled Mr. Hamlin to return to Tekapu. It was his intention to proceed up the Waiau river to Waikare Moana the next morning, but his men declined, having had quite sufficient, and so the campaign was finally abandoned, Hamlin exclaiming in his disgust, "O that mine enemy might yet command a Maori contingent!"

A few days after, news arrived of the success of the last expedition under Kepa and Ropata, and had a favourable effect on the Wairoa natives; for in their eyes Te Kooti was no longer an invincible hero, protected by his own particular deities, so they also were anxious to have a fling at the dying lion. Such being their frame of mind, Messrs Whitty and Hamlin hastened to strike while the iron was hot. News arrived that Ropata would start about the 1st of May, and the Wairoas, being excessively jealous of their ally, started on the 25th of April in two columns, one under Hamlin by way of Whataroa, the other, composed of the Mohaka tribes under Ensign Whitty, went by way of Putere, with the intention of working round the southern end of Lake Waikare and attacking the Tiketike pah. The first attempt was made by the Ruatahana track, which, as usual, lay in the bed of a river (Waiau), but a freshet stopped the party and they had to return. Nothing daunted, Whitty next tried to march round the end of the lake; at any time a work of difficulty, but in winter nearly an impossibility, the shores being precipitous, and covered with masses of rock and boulders, over which ten miles would be a long day's journey, and from the very irregular form of the lake its coast line must extend for nearly 200 miles. But Whitty overcame all difficulties, until his column arrived at the neck of a narrow branch of the lake, which he expected to find fordable, as in the page 344summer it is a mere lagoon, whereas now the winter rains had so flooded it, that to cross it without canoes was impossible, and to march round it would have taken many days more than they had rations for. Under these circumstances, Whitty returned to Te Wairoa, and reported the failure of his expedition; the Mohaka tribe returned to their homes by way of Putere, while Whitty, with a few of the Wairoa natives, followed Hamlin's track at the foot of the Pannikiri range, expecting to overtake him on his way to Waikare Moana. Shortly after starting, the tracks of three men were seen, and at Putahi their horses were discovered; some distance further on, at Te Poho, their oven, with the stones quite warm, showed they had just left, and our men followed in hot pursuit, until the tracks entered the Waikare Moana bush. Here Whitty's men declined to go farther, but he at last persuaded four men to accompany him, and in a potato-plantation he captured the Uriwera chief Pataneana, and a woman. The chief, who was partially blind, did not see his captors until escape was impossible. He denied all knowledge of the three persons whose trail they had followed so long, which exasperated Whitty's men to such an extent, that he had enough to do to prevent their shooting the chief. During the next morning the trail was found again, and followed through the bush over the Panikiri range to the margin of the lake, where the original three had been joined by two others, and all had crossed the lake in a canoe. Thus, after five days' clever tracking, our men had to return to Te Wairoa with one prisoner as the sole trophy of their expedition.

Hamlin's column started from Te Wairoa the same day as Lieutenant Whitty's, but had been delayed at Makakahi for some days, awaiting the arrival of Ihaka and the Nuhaka men, who sent messengers to say they were on the road. They arrived on the 28th, seventy strong, making the column up to 200, and the march was resumed on the following day. On the 2nd of May, Te Hapimana (fighting chief of the Wairoas) took forty men and struck off to page 345Pararuru, while the main body went on to Whataroa; here perceiving smoke arising from the bush, he selected eighteen of his best men and proceeded in that direction. After some trouble, he found the trail of several men, which he followed until he came up to their camp, fired a few shots into their whares, then charged, the result being two men and a woman killed, the others escaping. On the 6th, the column reached the Waikare Moana Lake, and found that one of the boats buried by Colonel Herrick in 1869 had been removed by the Hauhaus; the place where the others were buried could not be discovered. Fine potato-plantations, sufficient to provide for the whole force, were found, but the Wairoa men had again enough of campaigning, and informed Mr. Hamlin they intended returning to their homes. On the 9th, they had reached Tukurangi, on their homeward journey; but luckily Mr. Whitty appeared, advancing to their assistance with forty men, provided with grapnels for the purpose of raising the two large boats which had been sunk in the lake. This timely reinforcement raised the spirits of the fickle Maories, a portion of whom now declared they would return to the lake. On their arrival there, a diligent search was made for the buried boats: one was discovered in a very serviceable condition, but of too small dimensions to be of any great use. The larger boats sunk in the lake could not be found, but as the enemy's pahs were all on the opposite side of the lake, and only accessible by water, the native force set to work with a will, and soon completed three large canoes. Just then news arrived that Ropata of Ngatiporou, displeased with the advance of the Wairoa men, had abandoned his expedition after capturing most of the Ngatikohatu tribe. This delighted the Wairoas, between whom and Ropata there was no great love, and confirmed them in their resolution to cross the lake at all hazards. From their position at Onepoto, the enemy could be seen daily crossing from their pahs on the opposite side of the lake, to the cultivations at Wanganui Oparau, the page 346northern arm of the lake. As this place could be easilyreached by the force, Mr. Hamlin advised that it should be immediately occupied and ambuscaded, with a view, not only of capturing some of the men, but of more importance still—the canoes of the enemy touching there. This excellent advice was combated by Paora te Apatu, a great chief, but greater coward, and consequently his men declined to go, so that we missed the chance of securing a large canoe with seven men, who were seen to go there the next day. This event happily brought the Maories to their senses, and on the following day fifty men under Mr. Whitty started for the cultivations, and, although the weather for two days was too boisterous for any canoe to cross the lake, the third saw two of the enemy approaching in a small canoe, one of whom they shot; the other ran the canoe ashore and escaped, but Whitty's men captured the canoe and brought it off in triumph. This was the first intimation the enemy had of our presence at the lake, which evidently aroused them, for the next clay eight large canoes and a whale-boat were seen to cross the lake and land nearly one hundred men at Ohiringi, with the apparent object of taking our force at Onepoto in rear. This caused Whitty to return, and aid the garrison; but the Hauhaus evidently thought better of it, for no attack was made. Hamlin then suggested that fifty men should proceed in the night, cross the lake and make a dash at Tikitiki, as the main body of the enemy were evidently at Matuahu, on the other side of the lake, in a position too distant to help Tikitiki if attacked; but Paora and Hapimana objected, and the scheme again fell through. The following day, however, Hamlin gained by stratagem what he could not do by persuasion. He ordered eighty picked men under Ensign Whitty to go to Wanganui, Oparau, at the same time giving Mr. Whitty private instructions, that on arriving there he should induce the Maories to cross the lake, and take up a position on the other side. The stratagem was successful, for once out of the influence of their chiefs, the page 347Maories were brave enough, and no sooner had they crossed the lake than they took possession of Taumatataua, The boat and one canoe landed their men first, and as the place appeared to be deserted, the men commenced to search the whares; but while so doing they received a heavy volley from the bush, close by, which, wounded one of the men severely. His comrades, taking cover behind the stumps and logs, kept the enemy in check until the main body came up, when the Hauhaus were driven back and followed for nearly a mile in the direction of Matuahu; the force then camped for the night at Taumatataua, and sent the boat and canoes to Hamlin for reinforcements, which duly arrived the same night. The next day the enemy made another attempt, but were observed and fired on by our outlying picket, and their best fighting man, Enoka, killed, which so scared them that they did not even wait to carry off the body, but retreated in such haste as to leave his rifle and accoutrements behind. It seemed to have been the intention of the Hauhaus to have attacked us both by land and water at the same time, for now a fleet of canoes carrying at least eighty men were seen approaching; however, noticing how their comrades on shore had been driven back, they also took fright and retired without coming to close quarters. The next day Mr. Hamlin followed up his success by advancing with 250 men against the Matuahu pah, a strong position, but deserted. Here large quantities of potatoes, estimated at 100 tons, were destroyed. The enemy had evidently not expected the attacking party to cross the lake, as preparations were made for building new whares and planting fresh crops of potatoes; but now the Hauhaus seemed thoroughly alarmed, and had retreated to the extreme southern end of the lake under Huiarau, sending their women and children to Ruatahuna, while they awaited the further movements of the Government party. Te Waru and his men also retreated to Maunga Pohatu, feeling very unsafe while so near the men whose relatives they had murdered in 1868. On the 16th of June, Hamlin met three page 348of the Hauhau chiefs under a flag of truce. They expressed themselves anxious to surrender, but stated they were afraid he would make them prisoners, and send them to gaol; thus they would lose caste among their people. They then suggested that, if Mr. Hamlin and his force would return to the Wairoa, they would live peacefully for ever after. This proposition was refused, or rather declined with thanks, and they were given to understand that unless they could give some substantial guarantee for their future behaviour, active operations would be resumed. Te Makarini, chief of the Lake Hapu, was willing enough to surrender, but old Paerau, of Ruatahuna, was unmanageable. At last it was arranged that Te Makarini should cross the Huiarau range to Ruatahuna, and try to induce the whole of the tribe to surrender, Mr. Hamlin, on his part, promising to suspend operations until his return, although he seized all the canoes and destroyed all the potatoes he could lay his hands upon. Towards the end of the month, Makarini returned, having failed in his negotiations with the tribe; but he himself, with seven men and three women and children, surrendered to the Government. He stated that many more would surrender when they had got over the dread of what the Government would do to them for their share in the affair at Mohaka. The chief also said that his tribe had suffered severely during the campaign; six men had died of cold and exhaustion while crossing the snowy-covered Huiarau range, and four others, who were missing, were supposed to have met with the same fate, while two others had been drowned in crossing the lake. The surrender of Makarini ended the campaign, the friendly Maories returning to their homes; and from that time to the present the Uriweras have lived a quiet and peaceful life.