Topic: Ngai Te Rangi and the Battle of Pukehinahina (Gate Pa)

Topic type:

Ngai Te Rangi and the Battle of Pukehinahina (Gate Pa)

Ngai Te Rangi is a Mataatua tribe. We have a rich history which began from our journeys from the East Coast. After many battles and conflicts, Ngai Te Rangi resided in Whangara, then Opotiki, and through intermarriage and many gruelling battles, finally settled where we are today in Tauranga Moana. Our historical journey is known as Te Heke o RangihouhiriWe were originally called Ngati Rangihouhiri but after our ancestor Te Rangihouhiri died in one of the country’s most bloodiest battles at Poporohuamea, his brother Tamapahore, led and renamed us Ngai Te Rangi.

Te Heke o Rangihouhiri 

With the arrival of Europeans to this region, it was the Battle of Gate Pa which changed our city forever. Our leaders of that time Rawiri Puhirake, Penetaka and Henare Taratoa were at the forefront of the Gate Pa war, and lost their lives fighting for our people, and our survival. Their leadership is a characteristic we retain to this very day.

Ngāi Te Rangi Prior to Battle of Gate Pa

The Ngāi Te Rangi hapu of Ngāti Tapu and Ngāi Tukairangi also known then as Te Materawaho, who share descent from the ancestors Te Rangihouhiri a Kahukino and Hinewa, occupied the land from Otamataha downtown to Gate Pa.  They probably had positive expectations when in 1838 and 1839 they made agreements with Archdeacon Brown to allow the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) to establish in Tauranga, in a reciprocal agreement with mutual benefits.  These hapu had in 1840 joined with members of Ngā Potiki and Ngāti He in signing the Treaty of Waitangi.  Crown officials at the time gave assurances that Maori land would be protected. Merely 23 years later, after the Crown invaded the Waikato, the Crown proclaimed, “they will forfeit the right to the possession of their lands guaranteed to them by the Treaty of Waitangi”.

 Many in Ngāi Te Rangi were quick to join the Kingitanga with its principle of land retention.   Hori Tupaea of Te Whanau a Tauwhao was one of the candidates for consideration as the first Maori King.  Wiremu Tamihana (the Kingmaker) and his father Te Waharoa had close ties to Ngāi Te Rangi such as at Motuhoa, Matakana and Rangataua. Te Moananui of Ngāi Tamawhariua under instructions from Tamihana built the Tawhitinui Pa at Whakamarama as a possible battle site. Reweti Manotini of Ngāi Tukairangi was the secretary of Tamihana.

Sketch in trenches, Gate Pa (30 April 1864) 

Reweti Manotini is the cental figure in this painting by Robley

 Ngāi Te Rangi fought at Hunua, Wairoa Ranges, Meremere, Rangiriri and Hairini near Te Awamutu.  They were at Te Tiki o te Ihingarangi when they heard troops had landed in Tauranga and returned home, 19 from Ngāi Tukairangi including Hori Ngatai, 30 from Ngāi Tamawahriua and 60 from Te Whanau a Tauwhao fought in the Waikato.

 The New Zealand Settlements Act was presented to Parliament in October 1863.  The Act sought to place 10,000 settlers from Australia, Great Britain and other countries in New Zealand.  They all required wages, fares, accommodation, the building of roads, hospitals, schools and telegraph lines - all to be paid for by the sale of confiscated land. The Colonial Treasurer, Reader Wood had left for England 15 days before troops had arrived in Tauranga and over three months before the Battle of Gate Pa to offer confiscated Tauranga land as part collateral and as a means for repaying a 3 million pound loan.

The Government had continually pushed the war through the Waikato when it was clear that Waikato would surrender. The battle of Gate Pa was fought after the Waikato war had finished.  Government Ministers accused Tauranga Maori of supplying food and ammunitions to the Waikato Maori as they had accused other Maori before invasion.  There has never been any proof that this happened.  It seems the only reason for the battle was to justify the Government's plans of land confiscations.  Ngā Te Rangi had originally willingly welcomed European settlement - but now they were having confiscation and war forced on them as a consequence.

 Ngāi Te Rangi involvement in Pukehinahina and Te Ranga

 As tension began to build, it was obvious that the Crown’s plans were to destroy Ngāi Te Rangi with artillery, then storm the pā.  On the 29th April, for over 8 hours - the artillery bombarded the pā.  The Crown had by far the most powerful artillery ever used in New Zealand dropping 30 tons of shot and shell.  That is roughly twenty times the weight of shell fired by the British per square yard at Gate Pa as they did in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  Ngāi Te Rangi underwent a heavier bombardment in one day than the Germans did in seven. 

 Ngāi Te Rangi’s strategy was to negate the artillery by building underground bunkers, to allow the Crown troops to enter the pā and then trap them. The Crown troops launched their advance at 4pm. Rawiri Puhirake, of Ngāi Tukairangi hapu, had instructed them “not to utter a word or fire a shot until the proper time came for the order.

The Gate Pa. 28th-29th-30th April 1864. Penetaka, engineer of these works ... flag placed outside ... route of night march 68th L[igh]t Infantry..  

Penetaka is accredited as being the designer of the Pukehinahina defences

 When the Crown troops entered the pā, it looked deserted.  One soldier actually reported to Cameron that the pā was taken, not realising that Ngāi Te Rangi were concealed underground.  When the order was given the Ngāi Te Rangi opened fire and shot the Crown troops from under their feet.  The troops were only able to see the musket muzzles. They panicked and retreated with heavy losses.

 Rawiri Puhirake’s instructions were, “take heed to my word.  Respect the wounded; do not injure them when they fall. Not a hair of their head shall you touch.  You may take their firearms with you but touch nothing else”.

 Ngāi Te Rangi abandoned the pā that night, half the Ngāi Te Rangi dead were killed in battle and half died in the swamp trying to escape or from getting water for the wounded soldiers. 

 Ngāi Te Rangi dead were recorded as - Te Kau (Tuhua – Urungawera), Rotohiko (Tuhua – Urungawera), Keni, Te Kani (brother of Rawiri Puhirake), Te Motupuka (Tamawhariua), Ihau Hoani (brother of Henare Taratoa, Te Ngare), Petarika Te Kanae      (Te Matewaitai), Timoti (Tamawhariua), Kohamo (Urungawera), Eruera Taratikitiki (Matekiwaho), Ihaka, Puharangi, Te Tera and Iraihia te Patuwiti.

 Ngāi Te Rangi wounded were recorded as - Reweti Manotini - who died May 8th 1864, Eruera Puhirake – who died May 7th 1864, Hone Taharangi, Te Ipu, Atewera, Enoka Te Whanake, Waiari, Te Moananui, Rerekaipuke, Wi Heti Wharetaiki and Renata.

 Other Ngāi Te Rangi at Gate Pa included Taipari (Johnnie McLeod), Te Ninihi, Te Hawa, Rawiri, Tuaia, Mahika, Timoti, Panepane, Reweti, Nirai, Netana and Retireti.

Battle of Te Ranga

On 21st June 1864, a messenger arrived with a challenge from Puhirake to Colonel Greer “to come and fight...him atTe Ranga in three days”. Greer answered “ka pai (good) - I’ll go...the messenger was scarcely out of the barrack yard when he issued orders for an immediate advance.”

 Ngāi Te Rangi were taken by surprise and lost many men including their religious leaders of Rawiri Puhirake and Henare Taratoa.  In less than 25 years from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Ngāi Te Rangi had to fight to defend their lands and rights guaranteed in the Treaty.

Marble freize on Rāwiri Puhirake New Zealand Wars memorial (1914) 

Rawiri Puhirake pictured standing over Colonel Booth while someone fetches water

(This article was first published in the Bay of Plenty Times on Marth 25th & 26th 2014)


Published on May 24, 2014

The finale of the Waka Huia Land Wars Series tells the astonishing story of Gate Pa, as told by Tauranga Moana elders on the eve of the 150 year anniversary. A battle won, a war lost.




To look at TV1 News report on 150th celebration CLICK HERE

To look at Te Kaea report on 150th celebration CLICK HERE

To see full coverage of the 150th Celebration of Pukehinahina CLICK HERE

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion