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te pakanga

the war

after the treaty came conflict

Te Winika was born for war, and she saw her fair share of battles. Even after the three local chiefs you see carved [at the entrance of Port Waikato Holiday Park] signed the Treaty of Waitangi, Aotearoa saw great land wars and much suffering of our people.


During the Port Waikato invasion of the 1860s, many Māori carvings were burnt as a British act of war. So when invaders cut Te Winika from her moorings at Rangiriri, leaving her to drift to Port Waikato, the chiefs ordered the carved fragments of Te Winika be removed and hidden. But where would our tipuna hide them?

Te Pakanga - The War
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It takes many hands to build a waka taua like Te Winika. She was built with the hard work of carvers from Ngāti Tipa, Ngāti Maru, and Ngāti Mahanga. But it was the kaumatua of Ngāti Tipa who would be her guardians for the next 80 years. 


Buried here beneath the swamp Totomoaka hid her taonga: the elaborate carvings of her tauihu and taurapa... safe from the flames of invading forces.


Hidden away for decades, it would be some time before this once regular voyager would reappear on the Waikato river...

Te Tārehutanga - Buried
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a chiefly welcome

As you enter Port Waikato Holiday Park, you are welcomed by carvings of three of our Ngāti Tahinga tipuna who signed the Treaty of Waitangi. 

After the initial Treaty signing in February 1840, British delegates worked across Aotearoa to gather signatures from Māori leaders in other areas. Kiwi Ngārau, Tūnui Ngāwaka, and Kāmura Whareroa (whose carvings, names, and signatures are pictured here) were leaders among the Ngāti Tahinga hapu who signed the Waikato-Manukau Treaty sheet in late March or early April of 1840. You can see the Treaty sheet for yourself here.

Curiously, of all the Treaty sheets circulated around the country, the Waikato-Manukau one was the only one written in English. Reverend Robert Maunsell, who held the meeting where our tipuna signed, explained "the word ‘sovereignty’ in the English treaty as meaning that the rangatira (chiefs) would keep their rights over their land, while the English queen would gain the power to make laws". Within 25 years, this promise would be broken.


crossing the line

Frustrated by the Kiingitanga, which he saw as an obstacle to land acquisition, in 1863 Governor George Grey issued a demand to Māori: to yield to Queen Victoria. Before the message could even be received, he sent Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron and his forces to cross the aukati (the line, the border) – the Mangatāwhiri Stream.

Outnumbered and outresourced, the Kiingitanga fought fiercely to protect their whānau and whenua. Our tipuna were clever strategists, and sought to tip the balance in their favour through strategically placed defensive pā like the ones at Meremere, Rangiriri, and Pāterangi.


Our Māori defenders were able to fall back from Meremere before the battle took too high a toll, but sadly the same could not be said of the battle of Rangiriri.


Heaphy, Charles, 1820-1881. [Heaphy, Charles] 1820-1881: Naval attack at Rangiriri [1863]. Ref: A-145-004. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22571035

The battle of Rangiriri took place on the 20th of November, 1863.

The fortifications of Rangiriri pā were engineered by Pene Te Wharepu to enable easy movement of defending fighters, and lull invaders into a false sense of ease. The pā was positioned behind difficult to cross, swampy terrain, and trenches were far deeper than they appeared at a distance. This made them an effective defence against British artillery, and hard for invading foot soldiers to scale - especially with defenders firing at them.

A pā the size of Rangiriri took significant manpower to defend. Short on numbers, the rear defenses were abandoned. The British forces seized this opportunity to cross into the pā, and heavy fighting ensued (as shown here), eventually reaching a stalemate.

Our ancestors were able to evacuate many of our people that night, under cover of darkness. The next morning the remaining defenders were captured after a white flag was raised - an attempt to parley that was unintentionally communicated as surrender.


In the end, many of our people were wounded or killed. Even after the surrender, British forces continued to fire upon women and children as they fled to waka waiting in what became known as lake Kopuera - named 'those who were shot', after the lives lost there.

The battle of Rangiriri was a turning point in the British quest to take Māori land.

te winika and the war

Waka taua could carry many warriors, making them a significant naval asset in times of war. 

Recognising this potential boon to the defenders, once General Cameron's troops crossed the Mangatawhiri stream, forest ranger Major Gustavus Von Tempsky took action. He cut Te Winika from her moorings at Rangiriri, so our tipuna would not be able to use her in the battles to come.

Left to the currents, Te Winika drifted all the way from Rangiriri to relative safety in Waimate Bay at Port Waikato, where she beached herself – an incredible distance for an unmanned vessel.


In their quest to expel Māori from their lands, British forces took to burning anything that 'looked Māori' - even precious taonga like our carvings.


Knowing this, when Te Winika landed in Port Waikato, local kaumatua took possession of her tauihi (bow) and taurapa (stern) carvings and hid them, burying them in swamp Totomoaka. That which cannot be found, cannot be destroyed.


Her hull lay at Waimate bay for decades, where it was adopted as a makeshift equestrian hurdle by locals. The paddles still remain today in the guardianship of local kaumatua. ​


the aftermath

The Waikato wars fundamentally changed the make-up of Aotearoa. Hundreds of lives taken, and hundreds more again wounded or captured - all for the sake of claiming approximately 1.2 million acres of land.

After retreating to what's now known as King Country for decades, King Taawhio and the Kiingitanga finally returned to Ngāruawahia in 1920. In order to establish Tūrangawaewae Marae, they had to buy back land which had been stolen from them during the war.


Two Māori Rangiriri veterans at the memorial unveiling, 1927. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-12563-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22337655

In 1927, a memorial was unveiled at Rangiriri to remember those who were lost. Every fifty years, the people of Rangiriri hold a commemoration to honour the Māori defenders who fought and lost their lives that day in 1863.

132 years after the invasion of Waikato, in 1995 Queen Elizabeth signed an apology on behalf of the Crown. The apology acknowledged the Crown's representatives had breached the Treaty of Waitangi by invading Waikato, and expressed regret for the loss of life, land, and social development that Waikato iwi had suffered because of it. 

To make amends, the Crown returned what little confiscated land it still held and paid a settlement worth $170 million. The minimum estimated value of the lands confiscated, at the time of the settlement, was $12 billion.

Following the settlement, Te Whakakitenga o Waikato Inc was established to use the settlement proceeds for cultural, social and economic advancement for Waikato-Tainui people. Following the principles of the Kiingitanga, they seek to create the best possible future for generations to come.

"[I want the world to know why Waikato was invaded.
It was to annihilate us.

More importantly, I want the world to know,
they were unsuccessful. We survive. We live on.]"


Brad Totorewa (Ngāti Naho Rangiriri), New Zealand Land Wars - The battle of Rangiriri, Waka Huia, 2014. (Translated from Te Reo to English)

related videos


A reenactment of the 1864 Rangiriri Wars, performed to commemorate the 150th anniversary.

Video courtesy of Waka Huia.

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