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Ngā Tohuwhenua Mai Te Rangi: A New Zealand Archeology in Aerial Photographs

9 — Bay of Plenty and the Taupō Region

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Bay of Plenty and the Taupō Region

This region covers the area from Cape Runaway in the east to Waihi in the west, and runs south to-include Lake Taupō and the vicinity of the Tongariro National Park. It is bounded by the Raukūmara and Huiarau Ranges in the east, and the Mamaku Range in the west. These ranges set the limits of human settlement in the past, as they do today. Themes to be covered in this chapter are the traditional landing sites of several major canoes, pre-European pā and horticulture, later nineteenth-century fortifications dating from the period of Pai Mārire, and one of the last Māori fortifications of the New Zealand Wars, Te Pōrere, defended by Te Kooti Arikirangi in 1869.

The tribal rohe (boundaries) of the region are set by the saying of Mātaatua descendants (for example, Ngāti Awa): 'Mai i Ngā Kuri-a-Wharei ki Tihirau', meaning 'From the dog of Wharei to Cape Runaway'; 1 and the saying of Te Arawa: 'Mai Whakaari ki Tongariro' or 'Mai Maketū ki Tongariro', 'From White Island or Maketū to Tongariro'. Writing of this area and the East Coast in 1769, Joseph Banks regarded it as one of the most populous and productive in the whole of New Zealand. 2

Within the region, volcanic products of various forms from the Taupō and Okataina vents dominate the superficial landform. 3 Relatively sterile landscapes were created by the molten volcanic materials that have erupted from the Taupō caldera (now the site of the lake) over many thousands of years. This material has low fertility and formed both the inland plains, which are very prone to frost, and the ranges at the western and north-western margins towards the Waikato and Tauranga Harbour. The southern Waikato high country, the Mamaku Range, the low hill country inland from page break
Mayor Island, Tūhua, a major source of obsidian, from the west

Mayor Island, Tūhua, a major source of obsidian, from the west

The view looks into the crater of the volcano. There are pā (imperceptible) on the ridges formed at the edge of the crater. Some of the most important obsidian quarries lie in drifts on either side of Te Rangiora Bay, foreground.

the western Bay of Plenty, and the Kāingaroa Plains, were the principal areas formed in this way. 4 In the pre-European period, it was a shrubby grassland that had little capacity for human settlement. In the east around Kawerau and Whakatāne, the edge of the sheet of the volcanic debris thrown out by the Taupō volcanic eruption forms the southern hilly margins of the Rangitāiki Plains. The Raukūmara, Huiarau and Urewera Ranges are much steeper landforms of sedimentary geological origin. As a general rule, few of these volcanic or steep landforms have had much human settlement, except on the coastal or valley fringes. Airfall ash and the acidic rain after the Kaharoa eruption, early in the fourteenth century from the Okataina vents, may have rendered large areas unsuitable for human settlement in the pre-European period. These events were much larger in scale than the eruption in 1886 of Mt Tarawera, the severest eruption in recent centuries. 5
Apart from the well-known active volcanic areas throughout the western part of the region, there are also extinct volcanoes or volcanic lava domes such as page break
Whangaparāoa River, traditional landing place of Te Arawa, Tainui and Mātaatua canoes

Whangaparāoa River, traditional landing place of Te Arawa, Tainui and Mātaatua canoes

The view is to the north-west. The canoe landing places are near the estuary of the Whangaparāoa River at top left. On the right is the Potikirua Block while in the far distance right is Tihiraumaitawhiti, an important reference back to Hawaiiki, and here applied to the mountain forming Cape Runaway.

Entrance to the Maketū estuary, landing place of Te Arawa

Entrance to the Maketū estuary, landing place of Te Arawa

The monument to the canoe is at middle right.

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Papamoa pā from the south-east

Papamoa pā from the south-east

The pattern of the pā is somewhat obscured by the farm roads, particularly the one entering the defensive perimeter on the eastern ridge. The pā is some 250 m long and the total length of the defensive perimeter is about 800 m. The highest defended platform (left) is about 20 m wide and 70 m long. The long, lower platform (centre) with multiple transverse ditches and banks along its length continues through a curve out to the right. There is another pā on the broad ridge in the distance. In 1947 in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, G. Blake-Palmer described this pā complex, the first published aerial photograph of an archaeological site in New Zealand.

page 129 Motuhorā (Whale Island), near Whakatāne; Putauaki (Mt Edgecumbe); parts of the Papamoa hills near Te Puke; Tuhua (Mayor Island), offshore; and Maunganui, the hill forming the eastern point of the entrance to Tauranga Harbour. These mountains are all important traditional sites—dominant features of the regional, not just local, landscape.

The Bay of Plenty has many places prominent in canoe traditions. The most famous is Whangaparāoa at the far eastern end of the Bay of Plenty. Here the coast thrusts north-east towards the rest of Polynesia, before it takes an easterly and southerly direction. The canoes that made landing here, carrying on elsewhere, were Mātaatua, Arawa and Tainui. 6 Mātaatua also landed at Whakatāne, and then sailed to Northland. 7 Further west, Maketū Peninsula is among the important traditional' sites of the Bay of Plenty. The Arawa canoe lies in its final resting place at Maketū at the mouth of the Kaituna River. Here I have illustrated the peninsula in two aerial photographs taken 38 years apart, the first in 1948. They show the extent of damage that coastal urban development has done to some sites in this extraordinary historic landscape. The photographs show very large pā on high terrace landforms, the traditional papakainga, Maketū, and also, in an oblique view, the nearby landing place and memorial to the Arawa canoe.

In this region there flourished the largest populations of pre-European New Zealand, with rivers, lakes, and coastal dunes and terrace lands forming the main focus of human settlement. Within the coastal districts, the important areas for settlement were the terrace landforms. They also occur inland in the lower courses of the river valleys; here they are intricately linked with the older landforms of the region such as the Urewera and Raukūmara Ranges. The ranges are generally too high and too steep for human settlement but were settled on their margins and on the terrace lands of the major valleys. In the coastal districts, virtually every headland, ridge or cliff adjacent to a stream has a pā built on it. 8 Isolated coastal remnants of the terrace landforms such as the Maketū Peninsula and Motiti Island were also densely settled. Inland on the rivers, the terrace country provided important tactical locations of pā, taking advantage of the low river-cut cliffs as natural defence. 9 The most important inland valleys were those of the Whakatāne, Rangitāiki and Whirinaki Rivers, with settlement as far inland as Ruatāhuna and Te Whaiti, 60 km from the coast. Particularly dense settlement has been recorded at the entrances to the enclosed river valleys at Tāneātua and Ruātoki.

The earliest radiocarbon dates commence about 1250, although there is some evidence of burning before this time in Rangitāiki Plains swamp deposits. 10 Whale Island (Motuhorā), Maunganui and Papamoa were heavily settled with pā and other living areas. The complex at Papamoa, lying on hill country standing well out into the coastal plain just to the east of Tauranga, consists of several separate ring-ditch pā. On the highest point is an extraordinary pā, lying clearly in view in grass. Its compound defences cover many hundreds of metres of ridgeline, culminating in a central ring-ditched platform at the highest point. It was one of the sites published for the first time in Blake-Palmer's paper on archaeology and aerial photography in New Zealand. 11

The terrace landforms of the coastal Bay of Plenty were flat enough to remain covered with the volcanic ash deposited by eruptions spanning millennia. With slight slopes of northerly aspect, they were well suited for gardening. Prominent areas of horticultural importance are the Maketū Peninsula and the eastern Bay of Plenty; an example from the latter area is the Te Kaha locality, illustrated in chapter 2. Motuhorā (Whale Island) is one of the few areas of the Bay of Plenty where horticulture was practised on stony (as opposed to ash) volcanic soils. Here, stone rows and mounds similar to those found on the northern volcanic cones, and on the Wairarapa coast, have been recorded. In all these localities, the soils were fertile, warm and easily cultivated. Inland, the forest edge also provided access to a wealth of forest resources.

Another reason for the population density was the advantage of the swamps which were very extensive on the coastal strip and the low alluvial plains of the eastern Bay of Plenty. They were a source of eels and fowl, and they could also be capitalised on for defence. On levees and dune remnants gardening was possible and there were many settlements on the lower reaches of the rivers such as the Whakatāne, Rangitāiki or Tarawera. Settlement clustered on the lakeshores in inland districts much as it did on the ocean coast. There were many pā, and although these inland lake areas were frost-prone, kūmara horticulture was undertaken in climatically suitable localities, including the shores of Lakes Taupō and Rotoaira—an extreme in climatic adaptation for the kūmara. 12

The Bay of Plenty has few storage pits that are read- page break
Photographs of the base of the Maketū Peninsula, taken 38 years apart

Photographs of the base of the Maketū Peninsula, taken 38 years apart

Above left. A photograph taken in June 1948, when magnificent pā, now largely destroyed, with complex ditches and banks occurred on the headlands immediately to the north of the estuaries on either side of the peninsula. On the terrace immediately above the coastline are some six pā, very large examples with many platform divisions (close to the Kaituna estuary at left) and Herekaki and Owhara at right above the Waihi estuary entrance. Fort Colville (formerly a pā, Pukemaire) was the principal British base in the fighting against Tai Rāwhiti Kingites in 1864.

Below left. A 1986 photograph covering the same area as that of 1948. Comparison of the two shows that housing or farming has destroyed the pā above both estuaries, with a small amount of the original pā above the Waihi estuary still remaining. On the north-western headland at the entrance, site of the pā, Takaihuahua, houses have crept over an area which had been subject to ploughing in 1948. By 1986 the only pā surviving intact on the peninsula were at its northern tip. The landing-place of Te Arawa is just inside the Kaituna River entrance on the eastern side.

page 132 ily visible in the landscape. Because of the deep soft soils, rua (the fully subterranean cave pits) were the type of pit most frequently used. The surfaces within the defended perimeter of some pā surviving in the landscape are severely pockmarked by the indentations formed by collapsed rua. However, when excavated many otherwise featureless surfaces reveal extensive areas of rectangular storage pits. 13

Finally, we may consider stone resources. Tuhua, Mayor Island, another of the relict volcanoes of the Bay of Plenty, was the source of large amounts of obsidian (tuhua, hence the name of the island), a black or greyish volcanic glass with a slight green tinge, used throughout New Zealand from earliest times. 14 Mayor Island also has a number of pā but the photograph here shows only the localities of the principal obsidian drifts. 15 The pā might have been to control the valuable obsidian resource, but they do not exist in any greater numbers than other islands in the region, and less than on nearby Motiti Island, so this is debatable. Pā were part of a wider settlement pattern, not just devoted to the control of a single resource.

Nineteenth-century sites

Early in the nineteenth century, the Bay of Plenty, like the Waikato, was subject to devastating raids by Ngā Puhi from the Bay of Islands. Important sites associated with these events are Te Koko a Kuku at Te Kaha, and Puketapu at Whakatāne. 16 Subsequent fighting between the tribes of the region, with incursions from Tainui and Ngāti Porou, saw major actions on the northern and southern margins of the Urewera, at Maketū and again at Te Kaha in the 1830s. Tainui attacked Ngāti Pukenga at Maketū in 1836. 17 By the mid-nineteenth century, these attacks had diminished and there were major Māori settlements at all the coastal river mouths of the region. European traders would call at such places and hapū, using their own coastal trading vessels and schooners, took cash-crops such as wheat to urban markets at Auckland or in Australia. 18

During the course of the New Zealand Wars, the Bay of Plenty was a secondary area in terms of the size of operations, although there were several rightly famous engagements. In 1864 Gate Pā was the main action involving artillery and regular British forces. 19 The British attack and its follow-up at the nearby Te Ranga were part of a British flanking movement on the Waikato, with the aim of controlling Ngai Te Rangi who might otherwise have been in a position to support the Waikato Kingites. Despite a careful search of early aerial photography I could find no trace of this fortification, its locality built up from the 1940s. The general tactical setting, a low narrow ridge between two inner inlets of the harbour, was obvious, however. Further east at Maketū are remains of earlier engagements in the same year as Gate Pā—a combined British and Arawa kūpapa movement against Tai Rawhiti (East Coast) Kingite forces attempting to get through to Tauranga and ultimately to reinforce the Waikato. 20 The main skirmishes here were on the high terrace west of the Waihi estuary, called Te Whare ō te Rangimarere, and around the pā, Herekaki and Owhara, 21 illustrated in a photograph earlier in this chapter.

Sites representative of the later fighting from 1865 to 1869 include several in the Whirinaki River valley, on the main route from the central Urewera to Rotorua and the King Country, and near Lake Rotoaira south of Lake Taupō. In 1865 Pai Mārire forces based in the Urewera Ranges sought to cross the Kāingaroa Plains to reach the Waikato. However, the plains were Te Arawa territory. Any attempt by Pai Mārire forces to go to the King Country, at that time consolidating a recovery at the end of the Waikato campaigns, was strategically dangerous from the point of view of the colonial forces and Te Arawa, although only kūpapa became involved. The Pai Mārire from Whakatohea and Tūhoe on one side, and Ngāti Manawa and Ngāti Rangitihi of Te Arawa (from the eastern Kāingaroa Plains), on the other, built fortifications on or near the Te Taupiri ridgeline. One of these, known as Te Tapiri, was occupied by Ngāti Manawa for some weeks in 1865. 22 It was one of two defensive positions which faced the Pai Mārire positions about 2 km away towards the Whirinaki Valley. The Ngāti Manawa raids on the opposing positions were successful, and they were able to withdraw from their own, tactically difficult positions having prevented the Pai Mārire incursion. 23

In 1869, in the same valley, Colonel Whitmore entered the Urewera in pursuit of Te Kooti Arikirangi. 24 The defensive positions of Te Kooti's supporters were not fully manned for various reasons. One of them was Te Hārema (biblical Salem) lying just at the point in the Whirinaki Valley where the main land route (and present-day road) comes out of the main ranges. Te Hārema was a small, lightly fortified position, containing several large page break
Te Hārema, a Ngāti Whare pā near Te Whaiti, Whirinaki Valley

Te Hārema, a Ngāti Whare pā near Te Whaiti, Whirinaki Valley

This pā, occupied by supporters of Te Kooti Arikirangi, was attacked by Armed Constabulary and Arawa kūpapa in 1869. The original site recorders noted 16 rectangular depressions, indicating house floors, within the defended perimeter, but only a few can be detected in the aerial photograph. In the lower left corner of the fortification and at top are the U-shaped earth walls of a large semi-subterranean whare. The pā is encircled by a road bulldozed to mark its position in the course of forestry operations. The breastwork, largely without any form of ditch except on the top left, is of more or less rectangular shape, and lies within the perimeter created by the bulldozed road.

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Te Tapiri, a Ngāti Manawa pā of 1865 on the route from the Urewera Ranges and Whirinaki River to the Kāingaroa Plains

Te Tapiri, a Ngāti Manawa pā of 1865 on the route from the Urewera Ranges and Whirinaki River to the Kāingaroa Plains

This pā is a good example of a fortification created by a simple interior trench and external breastwork forming the defensive perimeter. The site is some 60 by 15 m in plan. Within the defensive perimeter, the U-shaped earthen walls of three whare can be seen. At the southern and northern ends there were also rifle pits (probably roofed) immediately inside the breastwork and linked by the rifle trench. Although there are some slight buttresses and traverses in the perimeter breastwork, this site would have been subject to enfilading fire from a slightly higher hill some 150 m to the south if it had not been occupied by Ngāti Rangitihi, Te Arawa allies of Ngāti Manawa.

page 135 earth-walled whare and many small ones within a perimeter breastwork, all of which show clearly in a remarkable low-level vertical aerial photograph taken in the course of a forestry burn-off.

Near Rotoaira, between Lake Taupō and Tongariro, several fortifications were built by Te Kooti Arikirangi and by European and kūpapa forces in the final stages of the land wars. One of these was Te Pōrere, named after the locality Te Pōrere a Rereao, the site of the last engagement against Te Kooti in 1869. 25 Te Wehengaiti, another pā close by, was formed by a perimeter of rifle trenches set at the edge of a low flat-topped hill, 26 illustrated in chapter 6.

Te Pōrere lies on the western flanks of the Rotoaira basin, south-west of Lake Taupō. The two main sites in the reserve complex 27 exhibit the irregular pattern of Māori trench and breastwork. 28 The upper defensive work is similar to a redoubt, departing somewhat from the rectangular plan, and was built with tall parapets and flanking angles. The photographs used here were taken by the late Ormond Wilson, a former chairman of the Historic Places Trust, not long after the site had been cleared of fern and the breastwork restored by the Trust in 1961. 29

The redoubt, taken with the loss of only four of the attacking force, appears to have been a relatively ineffective fortification. 30 Two primary reasons have been put forward. First, the poor loopholes through which the defenders' guns had to be fired did not allow for satisfactory pointing of the defenders' guns. The walls were 2.2 m high and 1 m or more wide at the top, so that a loophole towards the base would have to be very large at the interior end to accommodate the movement of the butt needed to manoeuvre the gun. The walls were too high to allow firing over the top. Second, the exact disposition of the flanking angles seems to have been defective. 31 Any redoubt built on a hill slope faces problems with identifying the perfect location—one that gives maximum field of fire without exposing the defenders. In this case, the redoubt has a poor field of view of the slope immediately to its east, but clear views to the southwest from which came the deciding offensive attack. The photographs here illustrate this point perfectly.

The inadequate design of the redoubt may not have been the main problem for the defenders. The confusion of the defenders and the better rifles of the attackers and their numbers, coupled with insuperable design problems such as the loopholes, may have been the decisive factors. Once under the eastern walls of the redoubt and actively undermining, the attacking forces could not be dislodged and were able quickly to force an entry. Most importantly, in respect of the tactical sense of the defenders, they had occupied, and maintained what the attacking forces described as 'galling' gunfire from, the forest-margin to the north-west of the site. The location of the redoubt on that forest margin gave it a highly effective flanking line of defence, as the photograph again shows. Indeed, tactically, the redoubt might be seen as merely a forward defence for the forest edge. Te Kooti, being well aware of the result of siege at Ngatapa, would not have occupied a readily outflanked fortification as he did there. The proximity of the bush gave the fit and healthy within the fortification a chance to slip away into cover, which they did. The redoubts at Te Pōrere were therefore only part of a solution to an immediate tactical difficulty faced by Te Kooti, and the overall sureness of his approach to his own safety and that of his inner circle cannot be doubted. His was not a war fought in set-piece fortifications.

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Te Pōrere in its landscape setting

Te Pōrere in its landscape setting

The redoubt is in the foreground. It lies on the edge of the Rotoaira basin with an excellent tactical outlook. Behind the redoubt is the forest into which Te Kooti Arikirangi escaped in the course of the fighting. The European and kūpapa forces attacked from the slopes to the right (east) and also from the south (left foreground). Supporters of Te Kooti occupied both the redoubt and the forest to the northwest of the site. The redoubt is about 30 m across and the parapets were originally just under 2.2 m high. The view is to the north.

page break

The main redoubt viewed from the north-east. Wanganui and Ngāti Kahungūnu kūpapa attacked from the left up the slope, while Te Arawa and the Armed Constabulary attacked from the right over fairly level ground. The flanking angles at opposite corners do not offer a good defensive field of fire along the eastern (left) or western faces of the parapet. Loopholes had been made through the parapet but they were too restricted in the field of fire offered. Once up under the cover of the breastworks, the attacking forces were able to undermine them and gain entry to the interior.

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The lower rifle trenches and breastworks at Te Pōrere

The lower rifle trenches and breastworks at Te Pōrere

The rather unusual plan shows some attempt to create bastions or flanking angles; the extension to the right commands much of the slope leading up to the rectangular extension on the near left, and vice versa. Otherwise this site is a characteristic if small example of the knots of rifle trenches that comprised many Maori fortifications. These trenches were relatively weakly defended at the time of the attack, with most of Te Kooti Arikirangi's force retreating to the upper redoubt.

1 Stirling and Salmond (1980: 220). The former is a landscape feature near Waihi beach.

2 Banks (1958: 67).

3 Healy (1982).

4 New Zealand Geological Survey (1972).

5 Healy (1982).

6 Stirling and Salmond (1980: 83).

7 Te A. Davis and Wilson (1990: 4-5).

8 Banks (1958: 66-68).

9 K. Jones (1986); O'Keeffe (1991: 82-88).

10 McGlone (1983).

11 Blake-Palmer (1947).

12 Newman (1988).

13 K. Jones (1991a: 149-159).

14 Seelenfreund-Hirsch (1985); Davidson (1984: 197-200).

15 Seelenfreund-Hirsch (1985: 156).

16 S.P. Smith (1910a: 265-271).

17 Kelly (1949: 40).

18 Hargreaves (1959); Van der Wouden (1984).

19 Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 421-440); Belich (1986: 177-95).

20 Belich (1986: 178).

21 Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 416-418).

22 Nevin and Nevin (1980).

23 Cowan (1983, Vol. 2: 84-95); (1980).

24 Cowan (1983, Vol. 2: 337-361).

25 Cowan (1983, Vol. 2: 371-387); O. Wilson (1961); Belich (1986: 280-284).

26 The site is in Rotoaira Forest.

27 The reserves are managed by the Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

28 O. Wilson (1961); Smart (1961).

29 O. Wilson (1961: 36, photo credit).

30 O. Wilson (1961: 47-48); compare Belich (1986: 283).

31 Smart (1961:63-65); see also comment by Belich (1986:283).