Topic: Pathfinder: doing your own research

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The Battle of Gate Pa has been considered the event that really began what is modern day Tauranga. As such it is a critical piece of our local history. The following is a pathfinder, or guide to help you do your own research on the 1864 Battle, with an emphasis on helping you understand and find the most primary of resources. You'll get ideas on how to best make use of the Tauranga City Libraries Catalogue, Papers Past, physical and online encyclopedias, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives and Artworks of the era as well as strong secondary sources such as the Waitangi Tribunal Claims documents as the Office of Treaty Settlements. Although the emphasis is on Gate Pa, the pathfinder could equally be applied to the Battle of Te Ranga.

Looking wrong? Archived version here.

What are primary sources?

The definition of primary sources and secondary sources changes slightly from discipline to discipline. To see reliable examples, construct a search for the term primary sources (and perhaps include the term definition) within websites from educational institutions. Note that this means sites with ".edu/" in their url for some counties and ".ac" for others.

Example from Google (as at 2014, this may change over time)

  • Google: site: .edu/ "primary sources" AND "definition" (optional)
  • Google: site: "primary sources are"

A good New Zealand understanding of "primary source" can be found at the National Library of New Zealand's Services to Schools page (or Google  "primary sources"). Here the National Library states a primary source is a record which has been:

  • recorded after (or as response too) an event or
  • a memoir of a person who was at the event or
  • created by witnesses who experienced or viewed the event


Possible examples include:

  • letter, diary, newspaper, document, (eg: poster)
  • photograph (including digital), video recording
  • manuscript, journals, speeches, interviews, email
  • documents produced by government agencies
  • audio recordings, research data
  • physical artefacts, such as paintings, clothes, tools and buildings.  



A Caution.

Be aware that this definition is a little Eurocentric. It favours cultures that write their records down and make them available for all to read. For the time period around the Battle of Gate Pa the technology for meeting this criteria heavily favoured the British world and therefore primary sources from a British perspective tend to be more plentiful. 


Standard works. 

Two major authors that used primary sources and eyewitness account in their histories are James Cowan and Gilbert Mair. You can read about their lives from The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography available at many public and university libraries as well as online.

Within Libraries

  • Search catalogues by title, note there is a similarly titled book call A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography which is not the same.
  • Some libraries have different Collections (lending and non lending or General Reference and New Zealand Reference etc). Within one of these collections, use the Dewey Address 920.01 DICT to locate the three volumes.


  • Go to Te Ara, The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand at
  • Select Biographies
  • Browse alphabetically for Cowan, James and Mair, Gilbert


James Cowan.

Born in 1870 and died in 1943 James Cowan was a prolific journalist and historian writing some 40 years after the battle of Gate Pa (Colquhoun, 2013). James Cowan used both Māoriand Pakeha oral sources alongside his own research to write The New Zealand wars: a history of the Māoricampaigns and the pioneering period (1922–23). It could be considered a secondary source but contains within it many primary sources. It is in two volumes and it is the first volume that covers the Gate Pa and Te Ranga battles.

It can be found:

    1. In many Public Libraries(usually) in the Non-Fiction or Reference sections at 993.022 COW. (click here to see this on the Tauranga City Libraries catalogue)
    2. Online at Victoria University of Wellington's Electronic Text Collection (Vol I here)
      1. Go to
      2. Search for James Cowan
      3. Refine results by Subject: New Zealand Wars History 1845-1872 

James Cowan at his desk, writing.. Ruscoe, Ivan, fl 1990s : Photographs relating to James Cowan. Ref: PAColl-5877-5. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. 


Gilbert Mair

Born 1843 and died 1923. Throughout his life at various times he was a surveyor, interpreter, soldier, and public servant (Savage, P., 2013). Not present at the Battle of Gate Pa or Te Ranga but a leading figure in events that followed. He had excellent relationship with Te Arawa , whom mostly aligned with the British against the Gate Pa defenders. Mair wrote an article on June 14th., 1924 published in a Special Issue of the Bay of Plenty Times. It’s popularity resulted in him publishing a fuller account in booklet format entitled The Story of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864  in 1937. This is full of firsthand accounts and can be considered a primary resource containing other primary sources . Of particular interest is an account from Chief Hori Ngatai of the Ngai Te Rangi’s perspective. Ngai Te Rangi chief Hori Ngatai’s account of the battle has been translated by Mair himself. It can be found:

    • In many Public Libraries in the Non-Fiction or Reference sections (993.421 MAI).
    • Online at Victoria University of Wellington's Electronic Text Collection.
      1. Go to
      2. Search for Gilbert Mair
      3. Refine results by Subject: New Zealand Wars History 1845-1872

(above) Gilbert Mair in military uniform. Ref: 1/1-017971-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.



Primary resources


Tauranga's Museum Collection

The Tauranga's Museum Collection has 30,000+ artefacts in storage and includes an undisclosed number of objects from the two battles. The Museum has been closed but the collection remains and is maintained by a skeleton staff. Their contact email is .


Newspaper Records

Banner to The Daily Southern Cross from Papers Past (copyrighted to the New Zealand Herald which it merged with in 1876)

 Papers Past

Papers past is the result of the efforts of the National Library of New Zealand to makes visible and searchable the New Zealand newspapers of the past. It is an ongoing project so not all papers and time periods are yet available.

Understand the bias of any newspaper

Newspapers of this era were not objective but tended to be the mouthpiece of rival political viewpoints. Colonial Office officials and Church Missionary Society members tended to find themselves in opposition to the New Zealand Company. The aspirations of the New Zealand company which are reflected in many of New Zealand’s early newspapers are summarised in the Wikipedia article “New Zealand Company”. It is useful to read the overall position of each newspaper when taking articles as a primary source.

Do this by:

    1. Going to Papers Past (
    2. Clicking Browse and then Title
    3. Selecting the Newspaper you want to learn about. Often writing about the Battle of Gate Pa are:
      • Daily Southern Cross
      • Wellington Independent
      • New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian
      • Hawke's Bay Herald
      • Press
      • New Zealand Herald

Locate articles within newspapers

To search for articles on the battle of Gate Pa:

    1. Go to Papers Past (
    2. Click the Search button
    3. Choose Exact Phrase and type in Gate Pa
    4. Date range from 1 April  1864 to that years end or further if you wish. Note that the earliest article referring to the Battle is written on May 2 but by selecting an earlier start date we are allowing for other papers that may be added to Papers Past.
    5. Set the results per page to 100 and sort results by date.

N.B By selecting one particular paper at the beginning of the search is can be helpful to isolate a particular newspapers take on a situation.

Of particular interest is The Daily Southern Cross

    • May 2nd contains report from Gate Pa by eye witness the night before the final attack
    • May the 4th contains a hand wringing report about the hopelessness of attacking a Pa
    • June 11 contains a report post Gate Pa describing the British looking for the rebels and in fear of further attack.


Other Papers

Some of the newspapers printed between 1842 and 1932 for Māori are available online :

It is a good idea to use the "commentary about this paper" link to read about the purpose of each paper. 

Archived papers from other sources can also be helpful though these are often reprints of New Zealand papers. Where they are not reprints they begin to move toward the Secondary category as as a resource for the battle itself.

    1. Google search from
    2. Searching Google using the command “Gate Pa” has in the past yielded good results but at the time of writing became unreliable and limiting results by year yielded zero results.  
    3. Use the Google News field, enter Tauranga AND 1864 and click Search Archive
    4. Another option is to repeat the above but with Tauranga AND “Gate Pa” or “Colonel Cameron” or any other particular figure you are researching.

 As an example the Ottawa Citizen - Jul 26, 1864 has lists of the dead from the battle. 


Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives

The Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR) are govenrment reports that were published yearly from 1858 onward. They can be searched or browsed,  These are a good resource for letters and reports that are official in nature. These documents are often a good insight into Government action after the Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga, for example land confiscations and military settlement plans. 

You can browse the reports by year. By selecting Browse and then 1864 you will have 58 documents. Searching for certain words like "Tauranga" or "Natives" or "Insurrection" can be more productive. When specifically looking for Māori text search for documents contain either "Translation" or "Translated" as all examples of Te Reo tabled are translated (this search usually yields results relating to other battles of the Land Wars rather than Gate Pa however).

Of particular use is the following search:

    1. Go to  
    2. Click Search and enter the following three keyword
      1. Tauranga Insurrection Taratoa 
      2. Select the "All of your words" radio button above the search box
      3. Select the date range as 1864 - 1864
      4. This will bring up one document  (E03 Further Papers Relevant to the Native Insurrection - 1864 Session 1)
        1. Note Cameron's report to Grey on May 5
        2. Note Greers report to Deputy Adjutant General on May 1
        3. Note that by viewing the Computer Generated Text option you can then keyword search the text for the words "Gate Pa".


 Manuscripts within the Research Collections at Tauranga City Libraries

    1. Go to the Tauranga Library catalogue at
    2. Search for Manuscript (this will bring back 500+ results, most not useful to us).
    3. Use the facets on the lefthand side to limit the search
      1. First under Shelf Location select the following and click the include option. This will include only the manuscripts in the non-lending  Research Collections, taking the results down to over 300 results. 
        • NZ Room Archives
        • NZ Room Local History
        • NZ Room Māori
        • NZ Room Reference
        • NZ Room Sladden
      1. Now look at the Subject facet and select the following before clicking Include. This will result in manuscripts (usually copies) from the period, many of which are useful primary resource insights into the even or the lifestyles and issues of the period.
        • Gate Pa (N.Z.), Battle of, 1864
        • Brown, Alfred Nesbit, 1803-1884-manuscripts
        • Te Ranga (N.Z.), Battle of, 1864
        • Tauranga (N.Z.) – biography – Manuscripts
        • Church Missionary Society – Missions – New Zealand
        • Māori (New Zealand people) – History
        • Māori (New Zealand people) – Social life and customs
        • Miranda (Ship)
      1. Each record can be click to learn more about it. Most will require a librarian to get the item from within a temperature controlled fireproof room for you to carefully view. Over time many of these will be digitised.


The Durham County Records Office

The Durham Country Records Office contains many descriptions of their records which can assist in knowing who was at the Battle of Gate Pa or attached to the regiment at the time. It also assists in learning the history and background of the regiment.

    1. Go to
    2. Click Our Records
    3. Select Durham Light Infantry
    4. Locate where yuou can Search the Catalogue (takes you to the advanced search)
    5. Key word Tauranga and all the words “Gate” and “Pa”

One of their records is of Major Charles Ughtred Shuttleworth who fought at Te Ranga (reference to the record only). This exists within the Tauranga City Library as well, as a photocopy of the diaries and can be located by searching thier catalogue for the subject “Shuttleworth, Charles Ughtred, Major-Manuscripts”


The sketches of Major General Horatio Gordon Robley

Robley was Captain of the 68th Regiment at Gate Pa and an accomplished artist.. Background on his life is available in the 1966 "An encyclopedia of New Zealand" availble in many libraries and also online as part of the Te Ara website.

    1. Go to
    2. Search "Robley"
    3. Filter by clicking "1966 Encyclopedia" (Note filtering by clicking "Images" will yield some of his images.

 Wikipedia also have a good background article on his life. Search for  Horatio Gordon Robley at

A search for him by name on a Library Catalogue will yield several books with his artwork inside. In particular look for  ROBLEY — SOLDIER WITH A PENCIL (by L.W Melvin in 1957). This is also available online at Victoria University of Wellington's Electronic Text Collection.


Digital New Zealand 


Digital New Zealand finds and makes findable digital material from libraries, museums, government departments, publicly funded organisations and the private sector in New Zealand. This can make it east to find the various artwords of Robley.

          1. Go to Digital NZ (
          2. Search for Horatio Robley "Gate Pa (Note no quotes around Horatio Robley) 
          3. From the results, select Images.

This will give you images from a variety of reputable sources including 

            • Te Ara, the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
            • Te Papa Museum of New Zealand
            • Alexander Turnbull Library
            • Auckland Art Gallery


 Image: Robley, Horatio Gordon, 1840-1930. [Robley, Horatio Gordon], 1840-1930 :New Zealander. 1864. Ref: E-023-010. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.




Reliable Secondary Sources.  


Waitangi Tribunal Claims

Recent decades have seen a multitude of claims to the Waitangi Tribunal and the reports that are produced as part of this process can yield descriptions of events and their impact, if not always strictly primary, certainly more primary than most. This is because the hearings were conducted in a way (and within communities) consistent with  Māori concepts of knowledge and knowledge ownership which has allowed for the telling of Iwi memory not often told in other situations. The reports are however just a summary of these hearings. 


Background to Tauranga Moana 

It is useful to be aware of which Iwi and Hapu are in the Tauranga region. Two useful sources of information are:

It is also useful to know the boundaries of different Iwi in this area. Tauranga City Council has maps online that give these boundaries. 

    1. Go to
    2. Click "About Tauranga City" and the "Tangata Whenua"
    3. Click "Contact Details" 
    4. "Click Iwi/Hapu RMA Contacts in the Tauranga City Council Area"

Thumbnail map from the Tauranga City Council website.

Connecting the right Wai numbers with the right people

Waitangi Tribunal claims are organised by WAI numbers. Tauranga City Libraries website Tauranga Memories contains some resoruces for Tauranga Moana Tauranga Whenua, including an index to the record of enquiry for Tauranga Moana claims.

Do this by:

  1. Going to Tauranga Memories  (
  2. Selecting Tauranga Moana Tauranga Whenua
  3. Locating the Index from the front page.


Viewing the archived document referred to above here: < >

Search reports from the Waitangi Tribunal

 Many of the reports from the Waitangi Tribunal (but not all) are available on their website.

  1. Go to the Tribunals section at the Ministry of Justice website (
  2. Select "Search these reports"
  3. Enter in the Wai number that relates to the Iwi you're interested in.

 Most of these reports focus on the land confiscations that happened after the Battles of Gate Pa, Te Ranga and the Bush Campaign of 1867. 


 Search reports of the Office of Treaty Settlements

Representing the Crown this site provides reports of settlements and includes the backgrounds to many claims. Searching the site for the term "Tauranga", or "Moana" (for a start) will reveal many Settlement Summaries and  Collective Statements that related to this area. The Deed of Settlement between the Crown and local Iwi will usually contain an agreed historical account between both parties.

  1. Go to The Office of Treaty Settlements website (
  2. Use the search field to look for "Tauranga",  "Tauranga Moana" or a more specific region of the area.
  3. Search the relevant documents (particularly settlement summaries) for historical background sections



This pathfinder has a version archived at Perma CC from the Tauranga Library Wiki:

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