Topic: Ōtūmoetai Pā (Tauranga)

Topic type:

Ōtūmoetai Pā was the most significantly populated site in the Western Bay of Plenty between 1600 and 1865. It was considered the 'main stronghold' of Tauranga Māori with early estimates of Ngāi Te Rangi at Ōtūmoetai Pā put at around 2,000 warriors, women, children and older people in 1827. Sea-going vessels ranged from large waka to fishing canoes. Like all pā, by 1844 Ōtūmoetai had undergone modifications to cope with the advent of muskets into warfare. As it was situated on land confiscated by the government after the New Zealand Wars of 1864, the people who lived at Ōtūmoetai Pā were forced to leave their ancestral home. Story researched and written by Debbie McCauley.

According to Historian Trevor Bentley, Ōtūmoetai Pā is of particular significance to NZ and New Zealanders for 4 reasons:
Firstly, in February 1832, it was the scene of the largest intertribal artillery siege of the Intertribal Musket Wars. The Ngapuhi predatory raider Titore Takiri campaigned from the Bay of Islands with between 600 and 800 warriors and a siege train of ten ships' guns which were a mix of cannon and carronades. The missionary leader Rev Henry Williams, who  accompanied the expedition in the hope of making peace between Ngapuhi and Ngāi Te Rangi, recorded the events surrounding the siege in detail in his (published) Journal. On 16 March 1832, the Ngapuhi gunners subjected the pā to an intensive day long bombardment before settling in for a two week siege which proved unsuccessful. Ngāi Te Rangi, who had at least two cannon in Ōtūmoetai Pā, bombarded the Ngapuhi gunners and Hans Tapsell's vessel which turned up in the harbour during the siege to supply Ngapuhi with six extra cannon and munitions. Titore the took his taua down harbour to bombard Maungatapu Pā before giving up and returning to the Bay of Islands.

Secondly, Ōtūmoetai Pā was the destination for the largest Māori amphibious expedition of the Musket Wars. According to Williams, the Ngapuhi fleet that voyaged south to the Bay of Plenty in 1832 comprised a mix of 80 canoes and sailing cutters (Williams only identifies the cutters owned by the chiefs Titore Takiri, Arama Pi and Wharepoaka).
Thirdly, Ōtūmoetai Pā is of special interest as it was one of the earliest 'gunfighter pā' described by Europeans (Henry Williams), during the Musket Wars and it was certainly one of the strongest. Modified to resist and, by 1830, to deliver cannon and musket fire, its defenders resisted at least five attacks by musket armed invaders between 1818 and 1832 and unusually for these times, the pā of course, was never taken in battle. (In 1835 the Rev William Wade described Ōtūmoetai as 'the largest pā I have yet seen.')
Fourthly and most importantly, Ōtūmoetai Pā in March 1832, was the location of New Zealands largest artillery battle. More artillery pieces were accumulated and fired during siege (18 guns) than were assembled by General Cameron (17 pieces) for his great bombardment of Gate Pā 32 years later.
Reference: Bentley, Trevor. 'Tribal Guns, Tribal Gunners,' M Phi thesis in History, University of Waikato, 1997, pages 164-177.

  • Ōtūmoetai Pā represents an important period in the history of Tauranga. The pā was an economic, political and religious centre between 1836-1865.
  • Together with Oreanui, and  Matuaiwi, it is one of three pā located on the Ōtūmoetai peninsula. Each supported a large population.
  • There is a very old titoki tree on the pā. According to Māori tradition the titoki is one of the most important species. Chiefs were buried under this tree or their bones were hung to dry on the branches.
  • The peace stone, a large flat stone that is rough on one side and smooth on the other, is significant because Ngāi Te Rangi and Arawa made peace over it in September 1845, after a decade of warfare.
  • In 2004 the last remnant of the pā, 1.99 hectares (nearly 5 acres), was purchased by Tauranga City Council from Alister Hugh Matheson (1925-2011), whose family had lived on the land since 1865.
  • The Park was officially opened to the public in 2012 with the blessing of the Waharoa (gateway).


Timeline (unless otherwise stated, Ōtūmoetai refers to the general area where the Ōtūmoetai Pā was located. Ōtūmoetai is now a Tauranga suburban area):

  • 1713 Possible date that the Tapu Titoki tree at Ōtūmoetai Pā was a seedling.
  • 1826 Population of Ōtūmoetai estimated at 2,500 by Rev J. A. Wilson who was aboard the Herald. He also estimated the number of canoes between Ōtūmoetai Pā and Te Papa at 1,000 (Stokes, 1980, p. 45).
  • 1828 The siege of Ōtūmoetai Pā: The pā comes under heavy musket fire by Ngati Maru under Te Rohu.
  • 1832 Ngapuhi again unsuccessfully attack Ōtūmoetai Pā. The whaling ship New Zealander fires its cannon in support of Ngāi Te Rangi as they lay siege to Ōtūmoetai Pā. A few months of fighting ensue. Pakeha trader Hans Tapsell of Maketu (married to a Ngapuhi woman) provides assistance to Ngapuhi (led by Titore Takiri) against Ngāi Te Rangi. Missionary Henry Williams persuaded to enter Ōtūmoetai Pa and propose peace, but a few days afterwards Ngapuhi and Te Rarawa launch another attack. Williams leaves the area upset at Titore's treachery.
  • 1835 CMS School started at Ōtūmoetai.
  • 1838 A. N. Brown takes up permanent residence at Te Papa Mission Station. Three schools in Ōtūmoetai with 80 pupils.
  • 1840 Arawa attack Ōtūmoetai Pā. Missionary Alfred Brown receives a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi on 1 April. Hori Tupaea refuses to sign Treaty of Waitangi brought by Major Bunbury to Ōtūmoetai Pā. Many other Ōtūmoetai chiefs refuse to sign. John Lees Faulkner settled in Ōtūmoetai. R. C. Mission established.
  • 1842 July 17: Ensign Best describes Ōtūmoetai Pā as follows; 'Part of the pā is on the sea beach and part on the top of a cliff or steep bank 40 feet [12m] high. By its position naturally strong it is rendered more secure by a strong palisade and on the land side and flanks it is further protected by a deep and wide Ditch having a Stockade on its exterior side... Well defended its intricacy alone would render it formidable but at present there are not men in it to defnd on fifty of its great extent... (as cited by Stokes, 1980, p. 67)
  • 1843 New Anglican Chapel built at Ōtūmoetai.
  • 1845 September 23: A meeting took place beneath the Tapu Titoki which signified the end of ten years of warfare between Ngāi Te Rangi (Tauranga) and Arawa (Rotorua & Maketu). This meeting was witnessed by Archdeacon Alfred Nesbit Brown (1803-1884), Reverend Thomas Chapman (1792-1876) and Reverend Christopher Pearson Davies (1812-1861). A large stone from Mauao was placed on the spot over which the chiefs made their peace by each placing a foot on it, shaking hands, rubbing noses and smoking the pipe of peace (one also placed at Maketu). The ‘peace stone’ remained as a token of peace between the tribes until it was later split. It is now held at the Tauranga Museum and the Tapu Titoki is protected and maintained by the Tauranga City Council.
  • 1847 New Catholic chapel built at Ōtūmoetai.
  • 1848 Hori Tupaea baptised by Rev A. N. Brown.
  • 1852 Ōtūmoetai Pā described as a 'considerable village' by Lieutenant T. M. Jones from the Royal Navy survey ship Pandora (Stokes, 1980, p. 70),
  • 1859 Ōtūmoetai Anglican Chapel blown down.
  • 1864 Battle of Gate Pā. Ōtūmoetai Pā deserted by Māori. 
  • 1865 Farm lots of 50 and 100 acres laid out in Ōtūmoetai and surrounding districts.
  • 1869 Robert Matheson purchases a 109 acre block which he called Fairview from the Foley family who had bought it from Tomika Te Mutu in about 1866.
  • 1870 Robert Matheson purchases and 11 acre block at Ōtūmoetai from the Government.
  • 1879 Dr Joseph Henry leases 210 acre farm (Harvey & Kirk).
  • 1881 Robert Matheson purchases nearly 3 acres from Hori Ngatai and Renata Toriri.
  • 1882 Death of John Lees Faulkner.
  • 1884 Death of A. N. Brown. H. S. Brabant sells 43 acres to H. B. Johnstone which Johnstone called Woodhill.
  • 1886 Ōtūmoetai Catholic Chapel blown down.
  • 1887 H. Crapp owns Matuaiwi Orchard.
  • 1892 Berndge on Faulkner land.
  • 1894 Tinline property described as 'central for a school' (Tollemache).
  • 1895 Ōtūmoetai School opens in Mr Herridge's house (Beach Road). Bettelheim purchases Maungawhare.
  • 1896 Brabant, Butcher, Berridge, Douglas and Lundon members of Ōtūmoetai School Committee. D. Lundon's Morningside property sold.
  • 1897 Ōtūmoetai School building ready for use (today's school site). J. Thomson purchases Morningside.
  • 1899 E. Howell purchases two properties.
  • 1900 Mumford purchases Morningside.
  • 1901 Tollemache has purchased Tinlines property.
  • 1902 G. T. Baily purchases Maungawhare property.
  • 1906 E. J. Butcher sells 10 acres to Chantry Harris late of W'tou (this land adjoined Young's). Howell purchases Willowbank.
  • 1907 Howell sells 180 acres to W. J. Bent of Gisborne. Bettelheim sells the corner of Cambridge and Katikati Roads to F. H. Wood. Sergeant William Fitzjohn's residence and 43 acres sold to A Hastings.
  • 1908 Dickey's Arawa farm of 182 acres for sale. D. M. Hickson's farm sold to W. West, a recent arrival from England. D. E. Young sells 14 acres to R. J. Russell. W. Darragh of Mt St. John purchases Mumford's estate.
  • 1909 Woodhill owned by F. H. Wood is for sale.
  • 1910 New road formed by Kingsland [Kingsbury?] to give access to Waikareao to Ōtūmoetai Road. 
  • 1911 N. Dickey sells Graham Lever Ōtūmoetai Point.
  • 1912 Discussion about need for road bridge to Ōtūmoetai. Kingsbury, Tollemache, Curruthers, Baigent, Lever and Martin on the Bridge Committee. W. Darragh owns Claremont.
  • 1913 W. J. Baigent and T. C. Maltby own Maungawhare.
  • 1914 Ashworth owns Bureta. N. Dickey sells Arawa farm to Tilby. Maltby holds a garden party at Maungawhare.
  • 1917 Telephone to Ōtūmoetai. Five houses connected. A Matheson tenders for the lease of Fairview.
  • 1918 Electric light in part of Ōtūmoetai.
  • 1919 R. H. Phelan sells 50 acres to B. K. Buchanan.
  • 1920s Matheson Homestead built.
  • 1922 Anglican Church held service in Ōtūmoetai School.
  • 1926 Metalling of Ōtūmoetai Road began.
  • 1928 Railway connection to Auckland made. Station at Ōtūmoetai. Railway bridge could be used to get in to Tauranga.
  • 1932 Electricity substation for Judea, Bethlehem, Ōtūmoetai.
  • 1949 Ōtūmoetai East and Judea added to the Borough.
  • 1950 Presbyterian Church Hall dedicated in Ōtūmoetai.
  • 1953 Ōtūmoetai Garden Club formed.
  • 1953 First export of Chinese gooseberries to Covent Garden.
  • 1955 Ōtūmoetai Plunket Mothers formed.
  • 1957 Pillans Point School opened.
  • 1959 Ōtūmoetai Baptist Church opened. Causeway across Waikareao built.
  • 1960 St Columba's Parish formed.
  • 1961 Ōtūmoetai West added to the Borough.
  • 1962 Post Office for Ōtūmoetai opened (Bureta Road).
  • 1965 Ōtūmoetai College opened. Brookfield Shopping Centre opened. Ōtūmoetai Kindergarten opened. Matua School opened.
  • 1966 Ōtūmoetai Intermediate opened. St Columba's Church consecrated. Population for Ōtūmoetai-Judea suburb 8,834.
  • 1969 Ōtūmoetai Swimming Pool opened.
  • 1970 Plunket Day Care Centre opened.
  • 1971 Brookfield Kindergarten opened.
  • 1972 Site for Ōtūmoetai Trust approved.
  • 1973 Ōtūmoetai Health Centre opened.
  • 1974 Ōtūmoetai Trust opened.
  • 1976 Population for Ōtūmoetai-Judea suburb 15,956.
  • 1977 St Stephen's Methodist Church consecrated.
  • 2004 Two hectre remains of Ōtūmoetai Pā sold by Alister Matheson to Tauranga City Council.
  • 2005 New Zealand Historic Places Trust carries out archaeological excavation under Matheson family's old home in Levers Road.
  • 2012 Ōtūmoetai Pā Historic Reserve opened.



Bay of Plenty Times (3 May 2005). Historic Matua pa find spurs funds call.

Bay of Plenty Times (14 March 2007). Historic Tauranga property safeguarded (p. 5).

Bay of Plenty Times (7 December 2012). Opening of Pa recalls stirring local history.

Bentley, Trevor (1997). Tribal Guns, Tribal Gunners. M Phi thesis in History, University of Waikato (pp. 164-177).

Crosby, R. D. (1999). The Musket Wars: a history of inter-iwi conflict 1806-45. (NZR MAO 993.01 CRO).

Jenks, Harold J (1991). Forgotten Men: The Survey of Tauranga and District, 1864-1869 (NZR 993.421 JEN).

McCauley, Debbie (2013). Alister Hugh Matheson (1925-2011)

McCauley, Debbie (2013). Tapu Titoki (Otumoetai Pa).

Porter, J.P. (n.d.). The Story of Otumoetai Pa (Tauranga City Libraries: Research Collections. Sladden Māori, 993.421 POR).

Rorke, Jinty (2011). Alister Hugh Matheson 1925-2011. In Historical Review Vol. 59, No. 1 (pp. 3-4).

Rorke, Jinty (199?). James Farrow's Trading Post (Tauranga historic interpretation signs, 993.421 TAU).

Rorke, Jinty (199?). Otumoetai Catholic Mission (Tauranga historic interpretation signs, 993.421 TAU).

Stokes, Evelyn (1980). A History of Tauranga County. Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press (NZR 993.421 STO).

Tauranga City Council (2007). Otumoetai Historic Reserve.

Tauranga City Libraries: Research Collections (n.d.). Otumoetai Pa (Vertical File).

Tauranga City Libraries: Research Collections (n.d.). Papers relating to the history of the Catholic Mission Station and Catholic Church at Otumoetai (Sladden, AMS 210).


Articles from the Journal of the Tauranga Historical Society:  

  • "Arawa" Farm, Otumoetai - A.H. Matheson.  48:Ar1-18; 66:18-28.
  • Bentley Farm, Otumoetai.  28:20-21.
  • The Catholic Mission Church at Otumoetai.  45:24.
  • Early Otumoetai: Corrections - A.H. Matheson.  45:19.
  • Early Otumoetai and Judea - Kate Ainsworth.  43:17-19.
  • Hori Tupaea of Otumoetai -J.P. Porter.  45:21-24.
  • Hunting at Otumoetai - A.H. Matheson.  47:5-18.
  • List of Artifacts Found in Otumoetai Pa Area.  Appendix to "Living With the Past (Otumoetai Pa, Tauranga) - J.P. Porter.  26:21-22.
  • Living With the Past (Otumoetai Pa, Tauranga) - J.P. Porter.  26:10-22.
  • Otumoetai Catholic Chapel Site - A Correction - A.H. Matheson.  54:2.
  • Otumoetai in the Middle and Late Nineties - Kate L. Ainsworth.  13:4-6.
  • Otumoetai Pa and the Early Times in Tauranga - A.H. Matheson.  52:OT1-20; 54:OT(2)1-20.
  • The Roman Catholic Mission at Otumoetai.  2:2-4.
  • St. Columba Church, Otumoetai - A Link With an Ancient Mission - J.P. Porter. 32:37-39.
  • An Unusual Maori Stone Sinker From Otumoetai.  11:1


How to cite this page: McCauley, Debbie (2013). Ōtūmoetai Pā (Tauranga). Retrieved from (Tauranga Memories, last updated: *insert date*). In-text citation: (McCauley, 2013)


This page was archived at Perma cc February 2017

Discuss This Topic

There are 0 comments in this discussion.

join this discussion

Ōtūmoetai Pā (Tauranga)

City:Tauranga, New Zealand