Maori Wars Battlefield Photos
Part I: Taranaki

The following page is a compilation photos and comments from my tours of New Zealand Wars battlesites. Some of the photos are a bit fuzzy, as they were all taken by myself. There are only two battlesites so far, but I intend this to be a continuing project.

Turuturu-Mokai
    Commentary
    Photos
Te Puke Rangiora - Te Arei - Pratt's Sap
    Commentary
     Photos

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Turuturu-Mokai "The Place Where Heads are Impaled on Stakes"

Commentary
This was the first Maori battlefield I visited, in July 1999. The place is just near Hawera, on Turuturu Road. There are two parts to this site. The first is is an extremely large and awe-inspiring set of Maori earthworks built in the 17th century by the Ngati Tupea, and restored in the 1930s. In pre-European times a battle was fought there between the Ngati Tupea garrison of about 1000 men and a raiding party of Taki Ruahine (a sub-tribe of the Ngaati Ruanui). A strategem was used whereby a tohunga-te-moko, or Maori tattoo artist was placed at the pa, offering to tattoo the garrison. They accepted. Maori facial and body tattooing is a long and painful operation, after which the tattooed is incapacitated for a few days. With the Ngati Tupea so rendered, the Taki Ruahine came and took the pa with great slaughter. They decapitated the Ngati Tupea dead and impaled their severed and smoke-dried heads on stakes thrust into the ground. Soon afterwards the pa was declared tapu and vacated, a tapu not removed until 1938.

At this pa, the trenches, dwelling pits, and storage pits, are still very well preserved, restored in the 1930s. As with most NZ battlesites, sheep are alowed to graze on the land, keeping the grass short. I visited the place with my family in a storm (a very chilling and spiritual experience), and took the photos you see. The trenches are about 5 or 6 feet deep and 6 or 7 feet wide.

The other part of the site is the Pakeha redoubt. The British army built a redoubt in the tapu pa during the Waikato war, which they abandoned later. When the war with Titokowaru broke out, the redoubt was reoccupied by the NZ Militia and Armed Constabulary. In 1868, the 27 defenders were suprised at night by a party of Titokowaru's tribe, and most of the defenders were killed or ran away to Waihi fort before Major Von Tempsky came with a belated relief force.

Today the earthworks of the redoubt are only about a foot deep, and bisected by an ugly wire fence, on the other side of which is dense bush. However, in the visible bastion, there is a large stone monument telling what happened there. My pictures are not that good, as it was getting dark and we were running out of film.

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Photos:


Photo Above: A trench at Turuturu-Mokai pa, north side, with yours truly to indicate size. I am about 6ft tall.


Photo Above: More earthworks and terracing at the pa and whare pits, this time on the west side.


Photo Above: The Pakeha redoubt and monument -- as you can see, there's not much left.

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Te Puke Rangiora - Te Arei - Pratt's Sap

Commentary

This is another two-part battlefield, also visited in July 1999. Te Arei was the last engagement of the First Taranki war, taking place in 1861. After the initial disasters at Waireka and Puketakaure, the new British General Pratt had the strategy of digging his way to the Maori spiritual and tribal centre at Te Puke Rangiora to avoid debacles, minimise casualties, and end the war on British terms. In the end his men suffered about as many casualties as the Maoris but accomplished their goal. Te Arei "The Barrier" was constructed as the final link in the chain of pa leading to and protecting Te Puke Rangiora, which is immediately adjacent and was the site of an epic siege in the Musket Wars of the 1830s. A brief action was fought at Te Arei between the British in their sap and the Maori Kingites before the latter surrendered, seeing that the game was hopeless.

Both pa are on a cliff overlooking the Waitara River near Waitara. Te Puke Rangiora is largely overgrown with tree-ferns and cabbage trees, but you can still see the trenches where the Maori warriors fought. You walk from the sign "Tepukerangiora Historical Reserve" (or something like that) onto a trail through the bush. After about 20 yards you reach a park bench placed within the pa overlooking a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and the Waitara River. This is a good place to have lunch if you're there at the right time (as you can see, we did). At the second part, Te Arei is little more than a few trenches on the brow of a hill overlooking the British sap, of which a small segment of trench is preserved, down in a field below. The sap is about 7 feet wide, zig-zagging along towards the pa. Looking up from the end of the sap you can see a clear field of fire, about 80-100 yards to an advanced hilltop trench and earthworks. One can imagine the final battle as the troops drew near and the Maori position became untenable.

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Photos:


Photo Above: An overgrown trench at Te Puke Rangiora Pa.


Photo Above: The picnic bench at Te Puke Rangiora, in case you go there.


Photo Above: The splendid view from Te Puke Rangiora, Waitara River on the left. One can see why the Maoris made this a spiritual centre.


Photo Above: Pratt's sap below Te Arei. You can clearly see the traverses to keep someone from shooting straight down the trench.


Photo Above: Pratt's sap again, with my Dad there shown for size. He is about 6'1" tall.

Photo Above: The view from the sap to Te Arei pa. This must have been what the British saw (minus the sheep).

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For Questions or comments, please email Web Page Author Trevor Brabyn