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Katikara Memorial Unveiling

Friday 14 June 2002

The deaths in battle of more than twenty Mâori in 1863 will be marked by the unveiling of a new memorial on Sunday, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard and Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs Tariana Turia announced today.

The Ministers said that the memorial was the first to be created as a joint project between Mâori and the Crown.

“139 years ago these men were killed in the Battle of Katikara, part of the New Zealand Wars,” said Tariana Turia. “They died in defence of their land and mana, and have since lain in an unmarked grave. Now the government has worked with Te Kotahitanga o Ngâ Mâhanga a Tairi, the tangata whenua, to erect this memorial.”

“New Zealanders have a strong interest in the history of this country,” said Judith Tizard. “It is important that we recognise significant places where that history has been made.”

“By examining our history, acknowledging injustice and making conciliatory gestures such as this, the descendants of both sides can relieve each other of the burdens of the past,” added Tariana Turia. “This memorial is a foundation stone for our shared future.”

The memorial is located at the gravesite at the Fort St George Redoubt Reserve at Tataraimaka. It will be maintained by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which has responsibility for looking after the graves and memorials of all those who died in the New Zealand Wars of the 1800s.

Unveiling of the memorial will take place at 1 pm on Sunday 16 June, at a ceremony to be attended by local iwi and Crown representatives.

Further information about the Battle of Katikara and Katikara Memorial follows.
History leading up to the Battle of Katikara

During the first Taranaki land wars of 1860-1861, settlers were driven off the prime Tataraimaka land block, which was bound on its southern border by the Katikara river. Governor Grey decided to return the Waitara land block to Taranaki Mâori, acknowledging that it had been wrongly purchased. However, before he did so, and without warning, Grey mobilised the Militia to reoccupy the Tataraimaka block and set up a redoubt.

Mâori saw this an aggressive act, which, according to historian Chris Pugsley in his 1998 article, is what Grey had intended, to forward his plan enticing Taranaki Mâori and their allies to war. The plan anticipated that Ngâti Maniapoto would come to the assistance of their Taranaki allies, and through them Waikato would be enticed and implicated in fighting against the Crown. This would give Grey a reason to start a war as he originally intended, with Waikato, on prime Waikato soil. The victor would then have a reason to confiscate land for settlement on the fertile Waikato river plain.

Local Taranaki Mâori plotted to kill Grey by ambushing him as he travelled the road from New Plymouth to Tataraimaka. However on May 4 1863, two officers with a small party of soldiers were ambushed instead whilst escorting a prisoner back to New Plymouth. All but one of the party were killed. This incident, known as the Oakura ambush, provided Grey with a reason to mobilise his troops again.

New Plymouth settlers called for revenge and on 4 June 1863 a regiment of 873 officers and men marched on Fort St George just north of the Katikara river. They were supported by artillery from the steamship HMS Eclipse, positioned just off shore. Governor Grey was aboard observing the bombardment by the steamship of the palisaded Mâori pa.

The cover fire from HMS Eclipse enabled the ground troops to storm the Mâori pa site. Against very heavy odds Mâori retreated from the palisades to the inner earthworks. Those who were able to flee to the bushes were fortunate. Those who sought refuge in the earthworks found themselves in a trap. The Mâori dead were later gathered and buried in a pit close to the redoubt.

History records that the warriors fought and died bravely against overwhelming odds. The memorial is a dedication to their bravery, as noted after the battle by the Militia.

The Katikara Memorial

The memorial consists of a renewed concrete slab, a large boulder and a granite tablet mounted on a sloping desk, which carries the following inscription:

4th JUNE 1863.

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