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Waikato Land Wars Commemorations Begin

Events to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Waikato Land Wars began at Mangatāwhiri Crossing, near Mercer this morning.

A dawn ceremony was held at the spot where 150 years ago Lieutenant-General Cameron’s forces crossed the Mangatāwhiri Stream to invade Waikato River and the Raupatu began.

The 10-month bloody campaign involved more than 12,000 British and Colonial forces against Māori forces unlikely to have numbered more than 2000 at any one time.

Ngā Pae o Maumahara is an initiative led by community and iwi representation covering key battle sites.  The group is contributing to and co-ordinating a schedule of commemorative events plannned to mark the anniversary.  It also seeks to raise awareness of the events to contribute to debate throughout the country on nationhood and nation building.

“We want to promote the themes of reconcilliation and transformation which we believe will resonate with all New Zealand,” Ngā Pae o Maumahara Chair Tom Roa said.

“The importance of commemorating the events of 1863-1864 for all New Zealanders is that it makes a point of marking a moment in history that was fraught with conflict and tension.

“In re-telling the stories from this past and reflecting on each other’s perspectives, we are encouraging a dialogue that relates to the process of reconcilliation that the Crown and Iwi Māori have embarked upon with much success,” he said.

Background information

About Ngā Pae o Maumahara

Ngā Pae o Maumahara is a committee led by community and iwi Māori representatives.  It is contributing to and coordinating a schedule of events and activities to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Waikato Land Wars (including Gate Pa). Its express purpose is to identify opportunities for its members to share resources and information to ensure that events and activities are supported to a successful conclusion. 

The convener of the collaboration is Tom Roa (current Chair of Te Arataura, the Executive of Waikato-Tainui). The following sites are represented: Orakau, Rangiriri

GatePa(Pukehinahina), Waiari, Hairini, Rangiaowhia, Waipa.  Ngaruawahia has engaged with Ngā Pae o Maumahara in 2013 and is now part of the information and resource sharing process.

About the Waikato Land Wars

The invasion of Waikato took place over 10 months between July 1863 and April 1864 before colonial forces moved on to Gate Pa. It was one of the major campaigns of the New Zealand Wars and involved over 12,000 British & Colonial forces against Māori forces unlikely to have numbered more than 2000 at any one time.

The Waikato campaign was a well orchestrated and deliberate land grab as the government of the time found itself under pressure to find land for a tide of “would be” farmer immigrants.  Simultaneously it was intended to undermine the status of the Māori King and eliminate any armed opposition, under the pretext of ensuring peace and security for the European settlers in the South Auckland area.

While the campaign secured vast tracts of land for European settlement, its legacy has been over 100 years of land grievances by the people of Tainui, culminating in the historic Waikato Raupatu Lands Settlement Act 1996.

Why commemorate these events?

The 150th Sesquiential commemorations across the Waikato region and culminating at Pukehinahina (Gate Pa), are an opportunity to remember the losses that occurred on both sides, create a shared awareness of our history and an understanding of the impacts that the Waikato campaign had on New Zealand nationhood.

There have been numerous wars and skirmishes on New Zealand soil between Māori prior to European settlement and the colonial wars between Māori and European forces. Each battle affected the history and development of this nation to varying degrees and has left tangible evidence such as Māori pa, European fortifications, monuments, memorials and cemeteries.

It is important to protect and interpret battlefields and sites that influenced the course of our history, to raise awareness and record their significance within the communities they are situated and to the New Zealand public in general.


Mangatāwhiri Crossing is situated off State Highway 1 between Mercer and Pokeno.  The Mangatāwhiri Stream feeds into the Waikato River and in the 1800s was recognised as a profitable portage and trading depot.

On July 12 1863, Mangatāwhiri became the backdrop to war when Crown forces crossed Te Aukati ki Mangatāwhiri and proceeded through Koheroa gateway and into the Waikato heartland, prompting Kingi Tawhiao to declare war in 1863.

This event is being commemorated in 2013, with a dawn ceremony, including the unveiling of a plaque.  The commemoration will conclude at nearby Mangatangi Marae.

What other events will be commemorated?

Other events that will be commemorated as part of the 150th anniversary are:


· Rangiriri – Wednesday 20 November 2013

· Waiari/Paterangi – Friday 14 February 2014

· Rangiaowhia /Hairini – Friday 21 February

· Orakau – Tuesday 1 April 2014

· Waipa – Friday 25 April 2014


Further details about these events will be released closer to the time

What other activities are planned?

Ngā Pae o Maumahara is currently working with other government and private organisations to develop ways of the project becoming more sustainable, in particular by co-ordinating events and activities that could contribute to a Heritage Battle Site Tourist Trail across the region.

For example, the Historic Places Trust and Tourism Waikato have already developed and launched an interactive smart phone application and audio guide, education package and on site story telling resources at the Rangiriri site and similar developments are also planned at Orakau.

Information on other activities will be released as they are developed.

Updated on 23rd July 2015