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150 years since the battle of Waiari in the New Zealand Wars

150 years since the battle of Waiari in the New Zealand Wars

Ministry for Culture and Heritage

10 February 2014

150 years ago on 11 February the battle of Waiari in Waikato took place. It was one of the battles of the Waikato War (1863–1864), during which between 20 and 40 Māori warriors were killed, and six British troops died. To commemorate the event a special service is being held close to the site.

The Waiari commemoration will begin at 10am on Tuesday morning with a haka waerea and karakia followed by speeches from both a Māori and Crown historian. The precise location of the battle is unknown and the service will take place in the vicinity on local farmland. Following the ceremony, guests will be welcomed on to Pūrekireki Marae.

“By knowing the facts of our past it gives us an insight into what happened 150 years ago, a time when the lives of our ancestors were fraught with conflict and tension as they fought over land Māori owned and the land that Pākehā wanted”, says Tom Roa, Ngati Apakura elder and Chair of Ngā Pae o Maumahara, the group established to commemorate and raise awareness of the war.

Ngā Pae o Maumahara seeks to contribute to debate throughout the country on nationhood and nation building. Roa says tomorrow's event will remember the engagement at Waiari as a site where lives on both sides were lost.

"It will embrace the spirit of commemoration of a sacred site where blood was shed, and that this place where lives were lost be remembered for the important role it played in the conflict from which this nation was built. By respecting these sacred sites as well as the people who played a major role there, will allow us as a nation, to 'own' our past, and learn its lessons", Roa says.

During the battle at Waiari on 11 February in 1864, Captain Charles Heaphy was almost killed while trying to rescue a wounded soldier, and subsequently received a Victoria Cross, the first member of a non-regular unit in the British Empire to be awarded such an honour.

Photographs taken at the commemoration will be uploaded during the course of the event for media use. To access, please go to the following link :

The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has developed a smartphone app featuring a driving tour of important locations in the Waikato War

Historical background:

The Waikato War was the key campaign in a long conflict which is known today as the New Zealand Wars.

The New Zealand Wars were in large part fought over land. In the decades after 1840, the European population grew rapidly. Māori land ownership was recognised by the Treaty of Waitangi, and many Māori had no wish to sell their land so newcomers could settle on it.

The Kīngitanga (King Movement) was founded in the 1850s to unify those opposed to land sales, and to assert Māori authority and mana over their land. From 1860 there was open warfare as British and colonial forces fought to open up the North Island for settlement by Europeans.

The Waikato War began in July 1863. Over the following months British forces fought their way south towards the Kīngitanga’s agricultural base around Rangiaowhia and Te Awamutu. On the way they outflanked formidable modern pā at Meremere and Pāterangi, and captured the undermanned pā at Rangiriri.

In April 1864 Kīngitanga warriors under Rewi Maniapoto were heavily defeated at Ōrākau in the last battle in Waikato. By mid-1864, 400,000 hectares of Waikato land had passed under Crown control.Up to 3000 people died during the New Zealand Wars – the majority of them Māori. And for many Māori the wars were only a prelude to the loss of their land through confiscation or the operations of the Native Land Court.

This loss of land had particularly devastating economic, social, environmental and cultural consequences for Waikato–Tainui. But the iwi always upheld its mana and asserted its right to compensation in the face of official indifference.

Since the 1990s, the Crown has negotiated Treaty Settlements to redress the historical grievances in the Waikato region and New Zealand as a whole.

In 1995 the first major settlement of an historical confiscation, or raupatu, claim was agreed between the Crown and Waikato-Tainui. The claim was settled for a package worth $170 million, in a mixture of money and Crown-owned land. The settlement was accompanied by a formal apology, delivered by Queen Elizabeth II in person during her 1995 visit to New Zealand. The Crown apologised for the invasion of the Waikato and the subsequent indiscriminate confiscation of land.

For more information about the Waikato War and the New Zealand Wars see:

David Green, Battlefields of the New Zealand Wars: A Visitor’s Guide, Penguin, Auckland, 2010

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