Tauranga Moana iwi commemorated 159 years since the battles of Gate Pā and Te Ranga
Published: Friday, 10 November 2023 | Rāmere, 10 Whiringa ā-rangi, 2023
In April 1864, approximately 200 Māori went up against 2,000 British troops at Gate Pā – and won. The history books use words like ‘a famous Māori victory’, ‘a triumph of military construction for the Māori’ and ‘a disaster for the British’. Ngāti Rangi were also acknowledged by the British as “an enemy anything but despicable, either in intelligence or courage.”
Ngāti Rangi Leader Pene Taka Tuaia
This is partly because of the defensive ingenuity of Ngāti Rangi leader Pene Taka Tuaia and compassion of Hēni Te Kiri Karamū who tended to injured British soldiers.
Tuaia outwitted British soldiers by cleverly constructing the Gate Pā with numerous underground rifle pits set within a maze of trenches. Protected in the underground defence works, Māori were able to shoot many of the British infantry when they entered the Pā, forcing them to retreat in panic and confusion.
Under the cover of night Ngāti Rangi Māori retreated leaving an empty Pā for soldiers to attack the next morning. In June, eight weeks later at Te Ranga, the British avenged their shame - killing more than a hundred Māori warriors who they caught digging trenches.
During October, Tauranga Moana iwi held a range of events attracting thousands to commemorate the battles of Gate Pā and Te Ranga. Pukehinahina, aptly named after the native ‘hinahina’ or fennel grass – pre-1864, is now known today as Gate Pā
Tours of Gate Pā and Te Ranga
Matua Matakokiri Desmond Tata shared intimate kōrero during bus tours at both sites, describing in detail key events that transpired for many whānau and hapū across Tauranga Moana and further, including Ngāti Ranginui, Waitaha, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Hinerupe, Tūhoe and Whakatōhea.
“Both sites were upheld with honour and quiet remembrance of historical events that occurred across Tauranga Moana," said Rangitamoana Wilson, Te Puni Kōkiri Waikato-Waiariki regional director.
“You could feel the wairua of our tupuna as you stepped foot on both pā sites,” said Jamal McGruer, Te Puni Kōkiri Waikato-Waiariki regional advisor. “Always an honour being in the presence of knowledgeable kaumatua that are still able to share our histories."
Community Leader Charlie Rahiri said he expected about 2,000 people to take part in the planned events including a mass haka at Gate Pā involving more than 500 warriors, and many attending just to watch with whānau.
“There is a desire in the community to learn the region's history, especially among young people and the commemoration enabled Māori to tell their own stories which would create a stronger sense of nationhood,” says Charlie.
He believes as a nation we are on the precipice of change and initiatives like Te Pūtake o te Riri, and teaching Aotearoa New Zealand’s history in schools, contributes to our maturity as a nation.
“Our children will know the true history of this country and will understand each other a lot more,” says Charlie.
Remembering the past and strengthening relationships across the community was the focus of the ‘Te Weranga’ evening event held at Waikato University.
Guest speakers included Des Kahotea (Ngā hapū katoa o Wairoa), Tawharangi Nuku (Ngāti Hangarau), Maru Tapsell (Waitaha), Des Heke-Kaiawha (Ngāi te Ahi, Ngāti Hē), Matakokiri (Des) Tata (Ngāi Tamarawaho, Ngati Ruahine, Māeneene), Grant Ranui (Taumata), Koro Nicholas (Pirirakau).
In 1867 Forces of the day attacked the Māori villages of Whakamārama, Waiwhatawhata, Te Irihanga and Taumata, as part of their ‘Tauranga Bush Campaign’ – Te Weranga (the burning). It’s purpose was to drive out ‘rebellious Māori’ who continued to resist the surveying and confiscation of their lands by burning houses and extensive cultivations. This had a devastating impact on Tauranga Moana.
Panel members represented Tauranga Moana hapu and shared their different perspectives and experiences of their tupuna during Te Weranga. This was the first of its kind to be held in Tauranga where the history of Te Weranga and the devastation and mamae caused was shared.
“An emotional and confronting evening but needed in order for our local history to be heard and understood,” says Jamal.
Historian and writer Buddy Mikaere closed out the commemorative events with a talk about the aftermath of the Battles of Gate Pā and Te Ranga in 1864 and how that experience has shaped the Tauranga of today.
He spoke of his ancestor Te Auetu, who helped take injured soldiers via horse to the hospital, and said that there are lots of stories like this, that relates to the story of Gate Pā.
He also spoke about the proposed Gate Pā cultural centre to be built on the Gate Pā Recreation Reserve. The centre is intended to tell the story of the Wars and Conflicts in Aotearoa New Zealand including of course those in Tauranga Moana.
Te Pūtake o Te Riri | Wars and Conflicts in New Zealand Fund
The Fund supports whānau, hapū and iwi to initiate, promote and deliver activities and events that commemorate the New Zealand Land Wars.
The aim is to increase awareness among all Aotearoa New Zealand Citizens about our local history, significant landmarks and people including strengthening relationships and partnerships. It is also about building nationhood and pride among all citizens, increasing mātauranga and value for local history and increasing bi-lingual resources.
The wars and conflicts in New Zealand are important historical narratives which contributed to the shaping of our nation. Sharing different perspectives of the impact of these wars builds wider understanding and awareness, will better enable all those affected to heal, and move forward towards broader reconciliation.
More information can be found on our website.