Topic: Pene Taka Tuaia (c1809-1889)

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Pene Taka Tuaia [Penetaka] was taken prisoner during an attack on Mauao in 1820. He was taken up north, but returned to Tauranga during an exchange of prisoners in c1828. Pene Taka used his military engineering experience up north to design the complex defences of Gate Pā at Pukehinahina which contributed to the British defeat. Story by Debbie McCauley.

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It is thought that Pene Taka Tuaia was born in approximately 1809. A cousin of Rawiri Puhirake Tuaia, he was from Ngāi Tūkairangi (of Ngāi Te Rangi) and Ngāti Tapu.

Pene Taka was a child when he was taken prisoner during an attack on Mauao in 1820. He was taken up north with Puhirake Tuaia and Hakaraia. In c1828 they were returned to Tauranga during an exchange of prisoners.

Pene Taka married Umukaraka from Ngāti Rangi, a Wairoa hapu of Ngāti Ranginui. He fought during the Ngāpuhi invasions of Tauranga in the 1830s, and during the 1835-45 war with Te Arawa.

From the 1850s Pene Taka became a Tauranga Moana rangatira (chief). He designed a pā called Poteriwhi, which was situated high above the east bank of the lower Wairoa River.

Pene Taka learnt military engineering during the Northern War of 1845-1846 and used his experience to design the complex defences of Gate Pā at Pukehinahina. This new pā design made extensive use of anti-artillery bunkers (rua). It withstood the shock of a day long bombardment and the concealed trenches lulled the British into a false sense of security when they stormed it, contributing to the British defeat.

After the Battle of Gate Pā, some Maori rested briefly at Poteriwhi. The pā was later destroyed by the British and a temporary redoubt built in its place.

A month after Māori were defeated at the Battle of Te Ranga groups surrendered to Greer at Tauranga, with the main body of warriors coming in on 25 July 1864. That day lieutenant Horatio Gordon Robley (Te Ropere) of the 68th Durham Regiment sketched a portrait of Pene Taka, which shows him in a forage cap with a finely detailed moko.

 Pene Taka Tuaia (?-1889)

Fig. 129.—The engineer of the Gate Pa. — (Moko; or Maori Tattooing)

Following this Pene Taka lived with Ngāi Te Rangi at Papawhare, on the east bank of the lower Wairoa River. This was opposite a flour mill (built in the 1850s) which they were operating.

At a meeting in Tauranga on 26 February 1866, Pene Taka said,

When you have taken these lands you will keep returning and taking more and more’ (Stokes, p. 101).

Pene Taka took up arms again with Rawiri Tata (of Pirirākau) during the Tauranga Bush Campaign of 1867. This was Māori response to the surveying of confiscated land. Pene Taka also stated that he was seeking revenge for the death of his cousin Rawiri Puhirake at Te Ranga.

On 17 January 1867 a warrant was issued for the arrest of Pene Taka and other Māori.

Pene Taka would continue to protest for the rest of his life. He died at his village at Te Puna on 3 July 1889. His wife died in 1911. Her death notice reads:

‘A very old Native woman, named Umukaraka died at the Wairoa settlement a few days ago. Deceased was the wife of the late chief, Penetaka who was associated with Hone Heke in the old days as an engineer in the building of fortifications, and was principal director and engineer in the construction of the famous Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), which was regarded as one of the best Maori fortifications at the time in New Zealand’ (Bay of Plenty Times, 14 June 1911, p. 2).



Bay of Plenty Times (4 July 1889, p. 2).

Bay of Plenty Times (14 June 1911, p. 2).

Matheson, Alister (1990. Updated 30 October 2012). Pene Taka Tuaia. (Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand). 

McCauley, Debbie (5 August 2011). Identity and the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina), 29 April 1864 (Tauranga Memories: Battle of Gate Pa, 1864 kete).

Robley, Horatio Gordon (1896). Moko; or Maori Tattooing.

Stokes, Evelyn (1990). Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana: The confiscation of Tauranga Lands (pp. 100-101, 117).

Stokes, Evelyn (1997). The allocation of Reserves for Maori in the Tauranga Confiscated Lands (Vol 1, pp. 259-260). 

Waitangi Tribunal. (2004). Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana: Report on the Tauranga confiscation claims. Wellington, New Zealand: Legislation Direct (p. 241).

How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2012). Pene Taka Tuaia (c1809-1889). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2012)


This page archived at Perma CC in March of 2017:

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Pene Taka Tuaia (c1809-1889)

First Names:Pene Taka
Last Name:Tuaia
Date of Birth:c1809
Country of birth:New Zealand
Date of death:3 July 1889
Place of death:Te Puna, New Zealand
Occupation:Ngai Te Rangi warrior, military engineer, and land protester
Spouses name:Umukaraka
Spouses date of death:June 1911
Spouses place of death:Te Wairoa, Tauranga, New Zealand
Military Service:New Zealand Wars

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