Topic: Gate Pā Address (29 April 2014) by Sir Jerry Mateparae

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Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jeremiah "Jerry" Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand, gave the following address at the 150th commemoration of the Battle of Gate Pā at Pukehinahina on 29 April 2014. The following iwi were represented at the ceremony: Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pūkenga, Ngāti Porou, Whakatohea, Tūhoe, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Rangiwewehi, Waitaha, Tapuika, Tainui, Koheriki, Ngāti Haua and Raukawa.

Introduction and acknowledgements


Tihei mauri ora 


E ngā iwi o Tauranga Moana – Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāti Pūkenga; me nga iwi o te motu

Kua hui mai nei, tēnā koutou.


Arikinui Tuheitia, me Atawhai, tēnā kōrua.

Arikinui Ta Tumu Te Heuheu, tēnā koe


To the tribes of Tauranga Moana, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Pūkenga, and all the other tribes from Aotearoa, greetings.


I greet you Kiingi Tuheitia and Atawhai.

I greet you Sir Tumu Te Heuheu.


I specifically acknowledge Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman and Hon Dr Pita Sharples, Ministers of the Crown; Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of Defence Force; Major General David Cullen of the Royal Artillery; and His Worship, Stuart Crosby, Mayor of Tauranga and other mayors from the local districts – tēnā koutou katoa.

It is a great privilege to take part in today’s events - the commemoration march and this ceremony to mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Pukehinahina/the Gate Pā.  Today’s hikoi, the haka and this ceremony give poignancy to the events of 150 years ago.  They honour the brave people who lost their lives, on both sides of the battle.  I commend Buddy Mikaere, the Pukehinahina Charitable Trust and all the volunteers who have worked to make this a memorable occasion.

The enduring image of the Battle of Gate Pā has become that of a Māori warrior risking his life to take water to an adversary, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Booth, who was mortally wounded.  That image has come to symbolise the compassion shown by the warriors in the Pā to British wounded and dying.  Today, we recall the story behind this image in an effort to understand the events which led to the battle, and its consequences.

The origin of conflict in the 1860s lay in land and mana - the increasing reluctance of Māori to give up control of their land and the determination of a settler government to wrest more of it from them.  The New Zealand Settlements Act 1863, allowed for the confiscation of Māori land from North Island tribes deemed to have rebelled against the British Crown.

And so, when Lieutenant General Sir Duncan Cameron’s Imperial and Colonial forces invaded the Waikato, the dice was cast.  Iwi on this side of the Kaimais supported the Kingitanga forces, and British troops came to the Bay of Plenty to stem that flow of support.  Rāwiri Puhirake’s pā, built here on the boundary between Māori and mission land, was intended to provoke the battle which ensued here. 

General Cameron had every reason to believe his troops would win the day[1] - superior numbers and artillery.  However, the Gate Pā’s defenders in its bunkers and concealed rifles pits thwarted Cameron’s assault plans.  The result was a resounding defeat for Cameron’s forces.[2]  

On the 21st of June, 1864, fortunes took a different turn.  Rāwiri Puhirake perished along with at least 100 of his warriors at the battle of Te Ranga, about five kilometres south of here.  Of Puhirake, history records that: “Such was their regard for him that British officers gathered to pay Puhirake their last respects when he was buried after the battle”.[3] 

On 21 June 1914, to mark the 50th anniversary of Puhirake’s death, a memorial in his honour was unveiled at the Mission Cemetery.  The memorial joined others in the cemetery which honour Māori and Pākehā who died at Pukehinahina and Te Ranga.  

History would have it that less than seven weeks later, in August 1914, New Zealand was at war with Germany.  New Zealanders, Māori and Pākehā, were to fight side by side, in support of Great Britain.  The man who unveiled Puhirake’s memorial, Colonel Robert Logan, became New Zealand’s first Administrator in German Samoa from the initial occupation on 31 August until the end of the war.  In August 1915, near Chunuk Bair at Gallipoli, Māori warriors fought for the first time as a taua - the Māori Contingent - alongside men of the Wellington, Canterbury and Otago Mounted Rifles.

Today, we share the sorrow of those whose ancestors or predecessors in the armed forces lost their lives here – we mourn them and we celebrate their example.  The spirit of the ceremony today - honour, respect and reconciliation - is also being acknowledged at a ceremony on the other side of the world.  Representatives from the Royal Navy and the New Zealand Defence Force will lay wreaths, in tribute to those who died on both sides at the Gate Pā battle, at a memorial in London.  

In coming here today, we also acknowledge the New Zealand Wars as an integral part of this nation’s story.  Remembering what happened here and paying homage to those who lost their lives gives us a better understanding of our shared past so that we can work together more effectively for a better future.

Iwi in this region have lived with the consequences of the two battles – Pukehinahina and Te Ranga - including the confiscation of 50,000 acres of land by the government of the day.  The spirit underpinning today’s commemorations and the progress of recent efforts to right these historical wrongs reflects the courage and compassion of the men and women who fought here 150 years ago.  We can look forward to the conclusion of the Treaty Settlement process here, and a stronger economic base for the iwi of Tauranga Moana.

Four days ago, I was at Gallipoli, where so many of our men lost their lives.  It is a place that resonates powerfully in our national consciousness.  To me, the qualities we associate with the Anzac spirit – courage, commitment, comradeship and compassion – and the spirit of reconciliation offered by the Turkish hero of Gallipoli – Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - are equally relevant to Gate Pā.  In years to come, as we give greater acknowledgement to the conflicts which occurred within New Zealand, I believe sites like Pukehinahina and people like Puhirake, Taratoa and Heni Te Kiri Karamu will also come to embody the quality of our national esteem – our collective mana - and have a greater meaning for all New Zealanders.

In the spirit of reconciliation expressed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of our men who were killed at Gallipoli, I say:

To the families
Wipe away your tears
Your forefathers lie here
In the bosom of our land
In peace
They are the forefathers of us all

Ki ngā whanau
Ukuia a koutou roimata
Kei konei a koutou mātua e takoto ana
Kei te poho o tēnei whenua
Kei roto i te rangimarie
Na tātou katoa ēnei mātua

No reira e nga iwi katoa e huitahi nei, tena koutou katoa.

[1] Mathew Wright, Two peoples, one land: The New Zealand Wars, p 145. The British had 1,700 troops and 17 artillery pieces and subjected the pā to 8 hours of bombardment.

[2] British casualties included 35 men dead or mortally wounded and another 75 wounded. Between 20 and 25 Māori were killed. 'Rāwiri Puhirake NZ Wars memorial', (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2013

[3] At that battle, British casualties were 9 dead and 39 wounded; there were over 100 Māori dead, including Puhirake.  'Rāwiri Puhirake NZ Wars memorial',  (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 15-Jul-2013

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