GATE PA (PUKEHINAHINA)
When the Government sent troops to the Tauranga district in January 1864, the Ngai-te-Rangi built a series of fortifications to withstand the expected attack. As soon as Waoku, the strongest of these, had been completed, Rawiri Tuaia sent General Cameron a letter announcing the fact and adding that his people had built a road up to it from the harbour — a distance of 10 miles — “so that the soldiers would not be too weary to fight” when they arrived. When it became apparent that this challenge would not be accepted, the Ngai-te-Rangi decided to move to a position nearer Tauranga. In April 1864 they occupied a strong position on the Pukehinahina ridge about 2 miles from Tauranga. The site chosen was at a gate in the boundary fence between European and native land and, from this circumstance, it has come to be called “Gate Pa”.
On 27 and 28 April 1864 General Cameron moved his force to Pukereia Hill about 1,200 yards from the enemy position. The force comprised a Naval Brigade from the Esk, Miranda, and Falcon; elements of the Royal Artillery 43rd and 68th Regiments; and a movable column of 181 officers and men drawn from the 12th, 14th, 40th, and 65th Regiments, making 1,695 officers and men in all.
On the evening of 28 April, in order to cut off the Maoris' possible line of retreat, Cameron dispatched the 68th Regiment, under Colonel Greer, to occupy the narrow neck of land between two swamps, in the rear of the pa. At daybreak on 29 April Cameron began shelling the pa and, by 4 p.m., had opened a breach in the defence works. He mounted a strong assault through this breach, but his men were repulsed with heavy losses. As it was too late in the day to consider a further attack, Cameron decided to renew the engagement the following morning. During the night, however, small parties of Maoris, taking their wounded with them, slipped through Colonel Greer's lines to safety.
British casualties in the engagement were 111 killed and wounded, while the Maoris lost 25 killed and an unknown number wounded. The significance of the Gate Pa engagement was that it was the scene of the strongest artillery barrage mounted during the Maori Wars.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Maori Wars MSS 5018 National Archives
- New Zealand Wars, Cowan, J. (1955).