Story: New Zealand wars

Rangiriri prisoners

This remarkable photo was probably taken by the Reverend John Kinder in December 1863. It shows Māori prisoners captured after the battle of Rangiriri, the crucial encounter of the Waikato war. The photograph has been pasted onto a clipping from an Auckland newspaper which describes the escape of the prisoners from Kawau Island in September 1864.

The group were held without trial or any charges laid against them in an old hulk in Auckland Harbour. They were then taken to Kawau Island, where they were allowed to use boats for fishing, with the oars and rowlocks locked up at night. Homesick, and fearing that they were about to be taken out to sea and drowned, the 200 prisoners crowded into boats one night and rowed across to the mainland using shovels and boards shaped into paddles. They climbed up the high hill of Ōtamahua and built a protective trench with a view over the surrounding country. Ngāpuhi fed them, and the government decided not to attempt to capture them. Eventually they crossed over to the Kaipara Harbour and made their way home to the Waikato.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: E-395-037
Photograph by John Kinder

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Danny Keenan, 'New Zealand wars - Waikato war: major battles', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 October 2022)

Story by Danny Keenan, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 8 Feb 2017