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Ed Sheeran

Te Ruapekapeka commemoration chance for wider reflection
Photo: Radio Waatea Image Database.

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As hapū involved in the 1846 battle at Te Ruapekapeka welcome manuhiri to a three-day commemoration, Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Kiri Allan says it’s a chance for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role such conflicts had in creating the nation.

She says the Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took place on January 10 and 11 1846, marked the end of the Northern War and was the culmination of the first of a series of conflicts signifying the beginning of the New Zealand Wars.

“The conflicts waged during 1845-1846 were some of the earliest occasions where relations between Māori and Europeans deteriorated into open warfare, so it is important to acknowledge and understand the impact they had.

“Marking 175 years since the Battle of Ruapekapeka provides us with an opportunity for reflection and remembrance of the events that took place there, and for the stories of our past to be shared more widely,” Ms Allen says.

She says the introduction of New Zealand history into the curriculum of all schools and kura from 2022 will help ensure the important people, places and events in our nation’s past are more deeply understood by future generations.

Commemorative activities to mark the 175th anniversary of the battle have been organised by local hapū Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Hau, Ngāti Manu and Te Kapotai, and will take place at and around Kawiti Marae in Waiomio, at other northern battle sites and on Sunday at Te Ruapekapeka.

Ms Allen acknowledged Te Ruapekapeka Trust and its former chair Allan Halliday from Ngati Hau, who died in December, for developing a powerful and memorable series of commemorative events,” Kiri Allan said.

Mr Halliday told Radio Waatea last month that the many hapū involved in the battle bring their own perspectives to the story.

He said when the ridgetop was chosen as the site to build a fighting pa, which was one of the largest and most complex pā in the country and has been described as a masterpiece of military engineering, it was the home of the Ngati Hau ancestress Hinewha.

A geotechnical survey has confirmed the existence of cultivations and house sites.

There was also at the time a hollow maire tree which housed bats – hence the name Te Ruapekapeka, the bat’s nest.

"So when the bats where fat there was a food source and they would enter into the hollow of the tree with their burning torches. The bats would fall to the ground - those were the ones that were taken, cleaned, cooked and eaten. That particular tree with the bats in it was called Te Ruapekapeka". He says.

The late Allan Halliday.

As well as this weekend’s activities, on February 3 a memorial to the British servicemen who died during the Battle will be unveiled at the British camp below Te Ruapekapeka Pā, as part of this year’s Waitangi Day activities.

The Battle of Ruapekapeka was the final conflict in the Northern War, waged between some Ngāpuhi and government troops. Fighting had initially begun in March 1845 at Kororāreka (now Russell) in the Bay of Islands.

The major causes of conflict were the concern of some Ngāpuhi that the moving of the capital from the Bay to Auckland had hurt them economically, and that the Crown was exceeding its authority in the area. Hōne Heke Pōkai and his supporters cut down the flagstaff at Kororāreka four times to make this point. Other Ngāpuhi hapū led by Tāmati Wāka Nene sided with the British.

The Battle of Ruapekapeka began on 10 January 1846, when the British forces (numbering around 1,400), supported by 300 Māori, began shelling the new pā there, built by Ngāti Hine chief Te Ruki Kawiti (who had a force of just 400-500).

On 11 January, when Māori scouts signalled that it was empty, troops rushed the pā. Fighting continued in the bush behind the pā for several hours as Kawiti tried to lure the British into an ambush.

Twelve British and approximately 20 Māori were killed during the Battle. Afterwards, the Northern War ended when Kawiti and his nephew Hōne Heke agreed peace terms with Wāka Nene.

Following the Battle of Ruapekapeka and the end of the Northern War, battles between government forces and Māori would take place in Wellington and Whanganui in 1846 and 1847, with the most sustained and widespread conflicts of the New Zealand Wars occurring later, during the 1860s.

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