The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 69
It is not only in the traces of Titanic fortifications which the earliest settlers found on every hill that we find proof of the steadily diminishing number of the population. There is also most unmistakeable evidence that vast tracts of country which the first European visitors found bare and desolate had once been fully cultivated. Ditches for draining the land were still traceable, large pits were to be seen in hundreds in which kumaras were once stored, and that in places which had lain wild time out of mind. Those most competent to form an opinion have calculated that long before the era of colonisation, the population had at one time been very dense.
Among other most striking proofs of this we may instance the road leading from Tauranga to Oropi, on the way to Ohinemutu. For miles after leaving Tauranga every hill bears the marks of former extensive fortifications, but what strikes the observer even more forcibly is the immense accumulation of shells which cover large patches at short intervals until the bush is reached at Oropi, some thirteen miles from Tauranga, and all these heaps of shells represent the cooking places of hapus which have long since vanished from off the face of the earth.
As an instance of the rapid rate at which extermination was carried on, in 1828, what the missionary schooner Herald, in which were Messrs. H. Williams, Hamlin, and Davis, visited Tauranga, the place was densely populated. There were three large pas, Otumoetai, Maungatapu and Te Papu. The fighting men of the tribe Ngaiterangi mustered at least 2500, and a thousand] canoes, great and small, were counted on the beach between Otumoetai and Te Papu. When the missionaries returned to Tauranga, after an absence of ten days only, they were surprised to find Te Papa destroyed, its chief killed, and about one-third of the Tauranga people annihilated. The Ngatimaru chief Te Rohu had been there with a strong force of Ngatimarus. Only twenty-five persons, who managed to slip out of the pa when the attack was made, escaped.
But of all the curses with which New Zealand was afflicted, in the era immediately preceding that of colonisation, the greatest was the famed chief Hongi Hika, he who, we have already seen, first introduced missionaries into the country. Born in the year 1777, near the Bay of Islands, Hongi was a chief of illustrious descent of the great Ngapuhi tribe. He early distinguished himself in battle, and was soon known as the greatest fighting chief of the Island. Even while protecting the Rev. Mr. Marsden, and encouraging the spread of Christianity, he was immersed in warfare, and successfully ravaged the Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Whangaroa, and Hokianga. In 1820 Hongi and the chief Waikato embarked for England. There he made great outward professions of Christianity, assisted Professor Lee, of Cambridge, in the construction of a vocabulary and grammar of the New Zealand language, and created a favourable impression on all who met him.
Before returning he collected large stores of guns and ammunition, and in 1822 he converted the greater part of the North Island into vast shambles by his slaughters. Scarcely a tribe escaped his attacks.
It has been computed that at least 30,000 lives were sacrificed in Hongi's great raids between the years 1822 and 1827, and he left behind him the fame of having been the greatest warrior that New Zealand had ever seen.
The last great intertribal war of the Maoris before the colonisation of the country was the Rotorua campaign of Te Waharoa of Ngatihoua against the Ngatiwhakaue, which lasted from 1836 to 1839, with varying success and great slaughter on both sides. There were many most exciting and even romantic incidents in this great campaign but sufficient space has been devoted to the blood-stained annals of Maori warfare.