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Heke’s historic attack relevant today

Heke’s historic attack relevant today, says AUT historian

Hone Heke’s legendary attack on Kororareka (Russell), which sparked the first Anglo-Maori Wars 160 years ago this Friday (March 11), has significance today, says AUT historian and principal lecturer Dr Paul Moon.

Dr Moon, author of the biography Hone Heke: Nga Puhi Warrior, says it is exciting that more and more people are taking an interest in this part of New Zealand’s history.

While Hone Heke became famous for cutting the flagstaff on Maiki Hill, few people know the background to his campaign against British rule, he says. Heke’s concerns about Maori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are still relevant 160 years on.

Dr Moon, principal lecturer at AUT’s Faculty of Maori Development Te Ara Poutama, spent two years researching and writing the biography and worked closely with Hone Heke’s descendants, including the chairman of the Hone Heke Foundation, David Rankin. ‘When Paul Moon showed our hapu the final text for the book, we were very pleased that at last our ancestor’s story had been presented in a balanced and fair way,” says Mr Rankin, who completed his Bachelor of Maori Development through Te Ara Poutama.

Dr Moon is now completing work on a biography of another significant Nga Puhi leader - Hone Heke’s grand-nephew and namesake Hone Heke Ngapua. The biography of Ngapua is due to be published early next year and will be Dr Moon’s 10th book.

Unlike his predecessor, Ngapua chose to work for change within the establishment. In 1893, in his early 20s, he was elected to Parliament where he promoted the aims of the Maori unity movement Te Kotahitanga.

Dr Moon has uncovered evidence showing how Ngapua prevented two wars - one in the Ureweras, another in Northland – when he acted as an intermediary between local Maori chiefs and government troops.

* The Kororareka Marae Society will commemorate the 160th anniversary of the battle with presentations at the Russell Town Hall on Thursday, March 10, and a service by the symbolic flagpole on Friday, March 11. The Russell Museum is also putting on a display to mark the anniversary.

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