The battle of Gate Pā (Pukehinahina)
In March 1864 the Tauranga Moana tribes challenged British troops, stationed at Te Papa in Tauranga, to battle. The soldiers had been sent there to block any support for the Māori King movement in Waikato. The first challenge went unheeded, so the field of battle was moved closer, and fortifications were built at Pukehinahina, now known as Gate Pā.
Rāwiri Puhirake of Ngāi Te Rangi was the chief in charge at Pukehinahina. Hēnare Taratoa, a Christian minister, wrote a code of conduct for the battle, imploring that the enemy be cared for and not ill treated when wounded.
Fighting broke out on 29 April 1864, when 1,700 soldiers faced 230 Māori. Their artillery levelled the pā. Three hundred soldiers then stormed the ruins, but were caught off guard as the defenders, safely hidden in bunkers, opened fire and decimated their ranks. With the troops in disarray, the victors abandoned the pā.
The soldiers’ revenge for Gate Pā came a few weeks later, on 21 June 1864 at Te Ranga. While the defenders were building a new fortification, they were attacked and many were killed. In Māori terms this was considered a treacherous act, as great kindness was shown the British wounded at Gate Pā.
This spelt the end of fighting in the Tauranga district, and the beginning of the confiscation of thousands of hectares of Tauranga Moana land, for which tangata whenua have been seeking redress ever since.
Victory from the bunkers
The battle of Gate Pā was one of the few outright Māori victories against the British during the wars over land. The Māori waited in reinforced bunkers strong enough to withstand the bombardment. The pā itself was designed as a trap to draw in the British troops. After the wars were over, the British army used the fortifications at Gate Pā as a model, and some have said that such fortifications were a precursor of the ‘trench warfare’ of the First World War.
Waitaha settled its historic treaty claims on 20 September 2011. The financial value of the settlement was approximately $12 million. It included funding for an historical account of Waitaha and its prophet and ancestor/tupuna Hakaraia, and an endowment fund in his name.
Ngāti Ranginui’s treaty settlement, valued at approximately $38 million, was signed on 21 June 2012. It included the vesting in the tribe of 13 sites on public conservation land of cultural and spiritual significance to Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Ranginui.
Tapuika, a tribe closely related to Waitaha, settled its historic treaty claims on 16 December 2012. The settlement included a framework for co-governance of the Kaituna River through a new statutory body, Te Maru o Kaituna (the Kaituna River Authority). The total cost of the settlement was $6.5 million.
Ngāi Te Rangi and the related tribe of Nā Pōtiki settled their historic treaty claims on 14 December 2013. Ngāi Te Rangi received a financial settlement of $26.5 million, and Ngā Pōtiki $3 million. Six scenic and wildlife reserves totalling 212 hectares were vested in Ngāi Te Rangi.
In addition to these individual iwi settlements, the Tauranga Moana Iwi Collective signed a Deed of Settlement on 21 January 2015. This included the transfer of 528 hectares of Athenree Forest valued at $618,000, and the establishment of a Conservation Partnership Forum to co-manage public conservation land in the tribal area.
Tauranga Moana today
In 2013 there were 24,066 Tauranga Moana tribe members. They strive to maintain the legacies of their ancestors, and to secure a better future for their people. Tauranga is one of the fastest growing cities in New Zealand, and the pressure on natural resources is increasing rapidly. The challenge to save the language and culture and to protect tribal mana continues.
Their tribal proverb is a spiritual anchor:
Ko Mauao te maunga
Ko Tauranga te moana
Ko Ngāi Te Rangi, ko Ngāti Ranginui me Ngāti Pūkenga ngā iwi.
Mauao is the mountain
Tauranga is the sea
Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Pūkenga are the tribes.
This serves to remind Tauranga Moana people that they, like their mountains and waters, shall never be lost.