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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

Waiapu Ablaze

Waiapu Ablaze

June, 1865, was a red-letter month for the Ngati-Porou people. The rebel Kingites, together with the Hauhau section, hived off from the Queenites, occupied separate pas and set about to make aggressive preparations. So quickly did the rebellion spread that but few of the chiefs dared to resist it. Among those who did so were: Iharaira te Houkamau, at Te Araroa; Mokena Kohere, at Rangitukia; and Henare Potae, at Tokomaru Bay. With a party of Taranaki Hauhaus and some Bay of Plenty converts, Patara contrived to slip past Te Houkamau at Te Araroa. He was joined by some of the disaffected Ngati-Porou, and they all made off for Waiapu. Mokena was the first of the Queenite chiefs to attract their fanatical wrath.

Major Ropata (Waiapu Native Land Court minute book, No. 8) says that he and his sub-tribe (Te Aowera) were at Popoti pa on 9 June, holding a feast in connection with the new church [the Church of St. Michael] at Tuparoa. Next day the Rev. Mohi Turei brought word that the rebels had arrived at Waiapu. The Aowera reached Te Hatepe that evening. In the morning they went to assist in fighting the rebels at Mangaone. Tuta Nihoniho's father and Makoare were among the eight loyalists who were slain. It was believed that the rebel losses came to 13. After the loyalists had retreated, Patara and his party left on their return to Opotiki.

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Elated over their victory, the Waiapu rebels occupied the whole of the Pukemaire tableland. The reinforced loyalists encamped at Tikitiki. Slight skirmishes at Te Rahui and Taraketiti followed. On 21 June, whilst the loyalists were reconnoitring near Pukemaire, they were surprised by the rebels, who chased them back first to Tikitiki and then to Te Hatepe. At Tikitiki, the rebels butchered Huaki (one of Mokena's relatives) and carried off some women and children, besides four kegs of ammunition.

As the rebels around Te Araroa were numerous, Te Houkamau moved to Hicks Bay, where he built a pa which he named “Makeronia” (“Macedonia”). Mokena made Te Hatepe his headquarters and the rebels built a second pa at Kairomiromi, about two miles from Te Hatepe. The loyalists between Waiapu and Waipiro Bay were served by a pa at Tuparoa. In the Tokomaru Bay district Henare Potae built a pa at Mawhai and the rebels occupied a fort at Pukepapa. Between Tokomaru Bay and Poverty Bay the natives generally were well disposed towards the Crown.

None of the Colonial forces engaged on the other side of the island could be spared to assist Mokena. However, Mr. McLean sent a consignment of arms and ammunition; it reached Port Awanui on 21 June. He also recruited a force of 70 Hawke's Bay Military Settlers (under Captain Fraser) and 50 Hawke's Bay Volunteers (under Captain Biggs). It landed from H.M.S. Eclipse at Port Awanui early on the evening of 5 July and reached Te Hatepe just before midnight. Next day the rebels attacked Te Hatepe. Standing close in, the gunboat joined in the fray, but, as two of her shells dropped near the loyalists' pa, she was signalled to cease firing. After slaying one loyalist, the rebels retired. A further rebel attack on 18 July also failed. The loyalists lost two men and the rebels seven. Engagements at Tikapa and Te Horo followed on 31 July. Te Houkamau was attacked shortly afterwards, but Makeronia pa proved impregnable.

The Crown troops, with their native allies, marched in two columns, by different routes, to make a surprise attack on Pa Kairomiromi at daylight on 2 August. Fraser's force attacked from the front and Biggs's contingent went round to the right. The pa was taken and destroyed. Rebel losses were 19 killed, besides many wounded and 30 taken prisoner. Only eight of the attackers became casualties. This sharp and very successful engagement did much to restore the prestige of the Crown. The Waiapu rebels now took refuge in Pukemaire pa.

The southern rebels unsuccessfully attacked Potae's pa at Mawhai on 17–18 August. In turn, Potae, on the 20th, drove page 221 them out of their pa at Pukepapa. He reattacked them at Tahu-tahupo (on the Hikuwai Stream) on the 24th and at Pakura (inland from Anaura) on the 25th. Among the 11 rebels slain at Tahutahupo were two women, who had been mistaken for men, and also Paora Haupa, a Poverty Bay prophet. On 28 September, whilst Potae was absent in Poverty Bay, the rebels reattacked Mawhai pa, but without success, losing nine men. On that occasion the pa was garrisoned by only a small number of old men and by some women led by Mere Arihi (one of Potae's cousins), who became the wife of Hati te Houkamau. They were assisted by three whalers—Robert Waddy, John Anderson (not “Henderson,” the name which appears in some accounts) and Cassidy. Earlier in the day the rebels had slain Anderson's son Henry whilst he was out with George Gilman (another half-caste lad) looking for their horses. Anderson senior, who was shot in the face during the attack on the pa, died whilst being taken to Auckland.

Reinforced by 45 Forest Rangers under Captain Westrup, the Crown troops attacked Pukemaire on 3 October, but their efforts were spoiled by incessant rain. On the 9th they returned to the pa, found it deserted, and set it on fire. A crowning stroke on Fraser's part followed on the 11th, when he forced the rebels to surrender their new stronghold at Pukeamaru after 20 had been slain. Ropata distinguished himself during this attack. When the force got back to Te Hatepe, Mokena hoisted two Union Jacks, placed an open Bible beneath, and compelled the prisoners (about 200) to take the oath of allegiance and salute the flags. They were then placed on parole. A guard of 30 Military Settlers was left at Port Awanui to assist Mr. Campbell, R.M., in supervising their conduct.