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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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European Contacts

William Colenso visited Waikaremoana and Ruatahuna in December 1841, and the Rev. G. Preece from 1847 until 1852 maintained a mission station at Te Whaiti. Many rebels sought refuge in the Urewera during the Maori Wars. In 1863 the Ngati Kahungunu took advantage of the Waikato Wars to invade the district in an attempt to seize Lake Waikaremoana. Late in 1867 Colonel St. John led an expedition into the Urewera in search of Kereopa, Volkner's murderer. From 1868 until 1871 Te Kooti used the Urewera as a base for his guerilla campaigns. As a result, Whitmore invaded the district in 1869 and reached Ruatahuna, while Ropata's Ngati Porous raided Maungapohatu in March 1870.

After the wars the Urewera, like the King Country, remained closed territory to Europeans. In the early 1890s, because of land difficulties and the rumoured discovery of gold in the district, the local chiefs asked Seddon to have the Urewera boundaries permanently determined. The district was officially defined in the Urewera Native Reserve Act of 1896. Survey work began in 1895, but met such strong opposition from the Maoris that troops were sent to Ruatoki and Te Whaiti, and Sir James Carroll intervened to prevent war. In 1895 Elsdon Best settled at Ruatahuna, where he recorded many of the local traditions in his Tuhoe – Children of the Mist. Ten years later Kenana Rua founded his cult, Te Wairua Tapu, at Maungapohatu. This event brought the Urewera to the brink of civil war and peace was not restored until 2 April 1916, when a police expedition went to Maungapohatu and arrested Rua after a half-hour gun battle.

Over the years the importance of preserving the forests of the Urewera has been recognised, with the result that in 1954 an area of 121,000 acres around Lake Waikaremoana was constituted a national park. Three years later a further 334,000 acres were added, making Urewera National Park the second largest in New Zealand.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.