Legacy of Taranaki land wars still lingers 157 years on

Hoani Eriwata feels the legacy of war still hangs over Taranaki but there is hope for reconciliation.

Hoani Eriwata feels the legacy of war still hangs over Taranaki but there is hope for reconciliation.

It has been 157 years since the first shots in the New Zealand land wars were fired in Taranaki but the conflict's legacy still hangs over the province. Deena Coster reports.

For decades, one of the most significant sites in New Zealand's history has been home to cows and sheep.

If you didn't know its back story, the fenced-off paddocks could be easily mistaken for another scene of rural life.

Te Kohia Pa is arguably one of the most significant sites in New Zealand history.

Te Kohia Pa is arguably one of the most significant sites in New Zealand history.

But Taranaki's Te Kohia Pa is so much more.

National day to remember the New Zealand Wars to start in 2017
Historian says land wars day should be held in Taranaki, where the wars began
Taranaki leaders happy with Maori land wars national public holiday

This is where, on March 17, 1860, the first shots were fired in the New Zealand land wars. Now, 157 years later, its future promises an opportunity to move beyond the battle, to a place of reconciliation.

Hoani Eriwata, who organises an annual commemoration of the Taranaki land wars, prepares the ceremonial fire for ...

Hoani Eriwata, who organises an annual commemoration of the Taranaki land wars, prepares the ceremonial fire for Friday's dawn ceremony.

Every year to commemorate March 17, Taranaki man Hoani Eriwata visits the Devon Rd pa site. He lights a ceremonial fire and chants a karakia.

It's a prayer to all those lost in the battles, which began in Waitara and ended 21 years later in Parihaka, when 1500 British troops stormed the peaceful settlement and pushed its people out.

Not confined to Taranaki, the New Zealand land wars claimed about 3000 lives and the ongoing fall-out for Maori has been devastating.

Historian Danny Keenan is an expert on the topic of the New Zealand Wars.

Historian Danny Keenan is an expert on the topic of the New Zealand Wars.

Interest in finding out more about Taranaki's war history is growing, Eriwata says.

Ad Feedback

This weekend, about 50 people are attending the Riri me te Raukura or War and Peace event he has organised since 2010.

The group visit significant sites connected to the Taranaki land wars and hear the korero of what happened there.

Puke Ariki director Kelvin Day says the region has all the resources people might need to find out what happened during ...
Cameron Burnell

Puke Ariki director Kelvin Day says the region has all the resources people might need to find out what happened during the 1860-1881 land wars.

On Saturday and Sunday, they stay at Parihaka, a visit which coincides with the monthly homage given to the prophets of passive resistance, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, who were arrested after the November 1881 invasion, put on trial and then imprisoned on the South Island.

"I think people should always remember history, especially to do with human conflict," Eriwata says.

"It's probably the worst abuse that humans can do to one another."

Gathering around the fire at Te Kohia always hits people in the heart, Eriwata says. So does hearing a list of the 99 names of people who lost their lives on Taranaki battlefields.

"It makes people reflect on the past and get a feel of what happened and the consequences. Because that's what we're still dealing with, the consequences," he says.

The biggest of those in Taranaki was the widespread confiscation of Maori land by the Crown.

By force or legislation, tangata whenua were forced from their ancestral lands. Life as they knew it changed forever, Eriwata says.

The wars stripped Maori of their social, cultural and economic base, a legacy which still haunts Taranaki today, he says.

* Growing interest in remembering Taranaki's land war history
* Will a national Land Wars Day build unity?
* The Land Wars were a civil war

However, he feels the general public is still blind to this.

Eriwata says the land wars have been "forgotten on purpose", superseded by New Zealand's participation in the World Wars.

That's what tends to dominate New Zealand's war history, not what happened in our own backyard, Eriwata says.

"It's not part of the education system either," he says.

"But you can only have amnesia for so long."

A historical awakening

New Zealand historian Danny Keenan concedes the land wars have not "been part of the grand narrative of our history".

"This is because their memory was an uncomfortable one - there was very little about the wars that affirmed us as a nation," he says.

"The wars were launched for reasons which still remain controversial - the taking of land and sovereignty from Maori by force of arms."

Keenan says the Maori death toll as a result of the land wars across Aotearoa was about triple of that suffered by the British. He says one estimate put colonial losses at 735, while 2250 Maori perished.

And the hurt didn't stop there.

Keenan says the widespread land confiscation "simply exacerbated the social, economic and cultural position of Maori affected by the conflicts".

* Calls for park to be established to remember both sides of land war conflict
* Pa at centre of Taranaki Wars bought by New Plymouth District Council for $715,000
* Editorial: Bring NZ Wars out of the shadows

He is happy there appears to be a growing awareness of the land wars and a government acknowledgement of the role it had in shaping the country's identity.

On October 28, the first national day of commemoration to remember the New Zealand land wars will be hosted by the Te Taitokerau tribes in Northland.

"But New Zealand society at large, I would say, has some way to go before the wars, with all their hurts, dispossession and loss, can be really understood and accommodated in our national stories of development and identity," he says.

Keenan says if people had a deeper appreciation of what happened, the state of the country's race relations might also improve.

"If the conflicts of the 19th century were better understood then I think Pakeha at large would be more accommodating of Maori aspirations, rather than being so threatened by them."

He says the "rhetoric" bandied about during the 2015 debate over a Maori ward in New Plymouth is one example of this.

Slogans like "we are all one nation" or "Maori do not deserve special treatment" were similar to what was said during the 1860s, despite rights being enshrined in the Treaty of Waitangi, Keenan says.

Getting to grips with history is not alway easy and does take time, he says, so the opportunity Te Kohia Pa could play in helping re-tell the region's war stories is "amazing".

Last June, the pa site was bought by the New Plymouth District Council for $715,000 and talks are ongoing with iwi regarding a plan for how it will be used, which could include opportunities like cultural tourism or educational tours.

A shared bond

Puke Ariki director Kelvin Day literally wrote the book on the region's war history.

Contested Ground Te Whenua i Tohea: The Taranaki Wars 1860-1881 charts the 21 years the province spent, albeit with pockets of peace, in battle.

Day describes the awareness of the region's residents about its early history as being a "mixed bag".

Editorial: Commemoration of New Zealand wars is long overdue
* Maori history largely ignored, say top historians
* Cathedral moves land war tributes

But understanding the origins of Taranaki's war provide the best explanation for the challenges Maori face as a people today, he says. This includes a loss of language and, for some, a lack of cultural identity.

"All of those things really can be traced back through those times, whether it be through battle or the power of the pen," Day says, referring to legislation which suppressed Maori culture during the period.

Consider how you might react if someone forced you out of home, away from your land and prevented you from speaking your language, he says.

"That's a big thing for people to have to deal with generation after generation."

A better understanding of Taranaki's own civil conflict could be the tonic for enhancing relationships between Maori and Pakeha too.

"We actually have a shared history," Day says.

It's a sentiment Eriwata shares.

His vision for Te Kohia's future is that it becomes a space for Maori and Pakeha - "a place of healing" or reconciliation.

"The only way we can do that is, as a community, work together," he says.


 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Morris murderer loses appeal

Connor Morris was fatally struck by a sickle during a fight in West Auckland in 2014.

The man who bludgeoned Millie Elder-Holmes' partner to death with a sickle in an Auckland gang fight will stay behind bars.

A Scottish mentalist read my mind video

Colin Cloud has honours in forensic investigation, now he performs as a magic show.

It feels like a violation to have someone enter your mind. It's frustrating and confusing but also awe-inspiring.

Giving youth a voice

Hannah Lidgett is the country's youngest person to be elected to a RSA executive committee.

A Pukekohe teen is the youngest member of a RSA executive committee in New Zealand.

'Plan B' for Kidwell

Ben Gardiner (centre) has joined the Kiwis as assistant coach.

David Kidwell forced into late coaching change as Garth Brennan lands Titans role.


The big bells above Wellington video

The majestic bells will ring proudly over the Labour Weekend, as part of the 13th annual Wellington Bell Ringing Festival.

Those in the capital get a rare chance to hear all 14 St Paul's church bells ring this weekend.

'No' to Māori seats

Napier City Council civic buildings

Maori council wards 'perceived as creating a division' by some Napier residents.

Full house expected for All Whites

Chris James celebrates scoring against Mexico in 2013.

Westpac Stadium expected to be chocka with just a few thousand tickets left for World Cup playoff.

Council chief executive to stay

Wellington City Council CEO Kevin Lavery has signed on for another two years.

Contract extension for Wellington City Council boss Kevin Lavery, and maybe a pay rise.


Sumner Rd reopening delayed video

Aerial photos from January show the extent of the damage to Sumner Road. This photo is looking towards Lyttelton.

The reopening of a key Christchurch road has been pushed back by at least a year due to the complexity of the work.

D-Day for New Zealand

Winston Peters is addressing his MPs and expected to announce decision shortly

Winston Peters is expected to announce NZ First's decision on who to go into a coalition with shortly.

Man denies shooting woman

Luke Adam Nickless has appeared in the Christchurch District Court charged with wounding with a firearm with intent to ...

A 34-year-old has denied shooting a woman at a home in Canterbury.

Bypass opening soon

Traffic builds up on the northern motorway between Belfast and the Waimakariri River bridge.

Traffic will be switched onto Christchurch's new Western Belfast Bypass from early November.


Retired farmer sailing away

Roy Woolerton, 80, spent 16 years building his catamaran, but it's now in the water at Westhaven Marina in Auckland.

The hand-built 14.5m offshore cruising cat has two engines and four double berths

Surviving Labour Day

Expect heavy traffic this Labour weekend (file photo).

It's been carnage on the roads this year. Here's how to take it easy this long weekend.

Emotional send-off for soldier

Sergeant Wayne Taylor, 42, died during a maritime counter-terrorism training exercise off the Coromandel Peninsula on ...

The death of Sergeant Wayne Taylor has left a huge hole, his family say.

Four injured in crash

Two cars have collided in the Athenree Gorge.

Two trapped and two more injured after smash in gorge near Waihi.


Cato needs a co-host

Suzy Cato is famous for her Children's TV show Suzy's World

Children's TV star Suzy Cato now hosts a radio show and wants a Taranaki kid to join her on it.

Sex case verdicts

A jury has returned its verdicts in a Taranaki sex abuse case which was heard in the New Plymouth District Court. (File ...

A jury has found a man guilty of half the historical sex abuse charges he was alleged to have committed.

Traffic light knocked down

The crash happened at the intersection of Devon St East and State Highway 3.

Traffic on New Plymouth's northern route is down to one lane as a result of a crash.

Returning Kiwi's prison stay

After years of living outside of New Zealand, a Taranaki man spent a stint behind bars after being arrested for a ...

A decade old criminal offence caught up with a Taranaki man when he returned from living overseas.


Hemopo clearly Turbos' best

There was no better for the Turbos this season than Jackson Hemopo, who was also the team's top lineout target.

With the Turbos' season over, rugby writer Shaun Eade looks at the top performers.

Crown: Lundy guilty gallery

Justices Helen Winkelmann, Mark Cooper and Raynor Asher are hearing Mark Lundy's appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Crown says times of death in Lundy case may have changed between trials, but  key evidence remains the same.

Car flips outside school

A wrecked car's tyres and brake pads were still smoking as police and a witness rushed to help the driver who crashed ...

Witnesses shocked to see a car smash into two parked cars before flipping in front of school.

Hartley in for high-stakes debut video

NZ motorsport ace Brendon Hartley will make his F1 debut at the US Grand Prix.

Kiwi driver in lions' den at Circuit of the Americas with Lewis Hamilton racing for the F1 crown.


Dam consultation plan gets nod


Tasman district councillor Dana Wensley.

It's time for the public to have a say on the proposed Waimea dam.

Military manoeuvres

Military light operational vehicles involved in Exercise Southern Katipo 2017 roll off the HMNZS Canterbury at Port Nelson.

 Nelson gets a glimpse of the Southern Katipo military exercise as soldiers and supplies roll out of Port Nelson.

Fruit jobs in balance

T&G Foods plant in Nayland Rd, Nelson will either be sold, consolidated or shut.

Apple processing plant in Nelson faces closure amid dropping volumes of juice fruit.

Charge follows scare

A policeman at the Stoke Railway Reserve looks for a man who was allegedly seen with a knife in the area.

Police charge teen with possession of an offensive weapon after knife scare in Stoke.


Bar gets new lease of life

Paddy Barry's Irish Bar, on Scott St, closed in 2017.

The owner of two popular night spots in Blenheim is seemingly looking to open a third.

Charity shop to close

Pams Shop Charitable Trust president Bev Dixon says the trust tried everything they could to keep the store open. (File ...

Sales had dropped significantly to the point where the shop had not made a charitable donation in a year.

Embracing cultural differences

The Yealands Wine Group, based in Seddon, is one of the largest wine companies in New Zealand.

It's easy to dish out the criticism when corporates don't do their bit for ethical practices, so it's important to recognise when they do.

Hijacker could get $25,000

Abdille said a government rule change stopped her reuniting her family in 2004.

Asha Abdille injured two pilots in 2008. Now, she's out of jail and could be in the money.

South Canterbury

When Taiyo met Tom video

Japanese student Taiyo Watanabe finally met his hero gold medal winning shot put world champion Tom Walsh in Timaru on ...

Aspiring Japanese shot putter surprised by unexpected meet and greet with hero Tom Walsh.

Testing criticised

Consumer NZ's advice to people who burned firewood was to make sure the wood was well-seasoned.

Consumer NZ says low-emission woodburners could still cause significant pollution.

$820k revamp for hospital

Henderson Building foreman Simon Bartlett carrying out construction at the Bidwill Trust Hospital.

Bidwill Hospital's nine surgeons will be based on site once upgrade is complete in June.

Slight setback for Tekapo hotel

An aerial view showing developments at Lake Tekapo.

Latest hurdle in consent process of luxury hotel a 'slight' set back, developer says.


ORC boss loses job

Peter Bodeker's contract as the Otago Regional Council's chief executive will not be renewed.

The Otago Regional Council's chief executive is out of a job after the council decided not to renew his contract.

Racing boss turns to golf tourism

Owner of Highlands Motorsport Park and Hampton Downs, Tony Quinn.

Highlands Motorsport Park boss Tony Quinn wants to build a golf course and residential development at the back of his racetrack.

Pilot Graeme Frew confirms Full Noise for Wanaka

Reno rookie of the year, Graeme Frew.

Record-breaking rookie Reno racer Graeme Frew to bring V-12 powered Yak-3 aircraft to Wanaka's airshow.

Aerial rat attack in Matukituki Valley

Native robins are thriving at Aspiring Flat after being reintroduced to the area several years ago.

DOC opens new front in the Battle for our Birds in the Mt Aspiring National Park near Wanaka.


Unique tanker in truck parade

Bill Richardson Transport World tourism co-ordinator Amelia Munro will accompany the museum's Texaco Tanker in Sunday's ...

A one-of-a-kind Texaco tanker will be paraded in Invercargill for possibly the last time.

Principals praise parent volunteers

Invercargill Middle School principal Stan Tiatia.

"I think we are really lucky that the good old Southland way is to get in and help."

Kiwis need to talk about driving

NZ Transport Agency regional relationships director Jim Harland with a steering wheel tag that provides tourists with ...

Before criticising out international drivers, Kiwis need to start looking at their own driving ability, an NZ Transport Agency director has said.

Gore dairy owner wary of safety

Sunbeam Milk Bar owner Eddie Cooney is appreciative of support from the Gore community following an armed robbery in his ...

Three robberies have taken their toll on Gore dairy owner Eddie Cooney but he's not hanging up the closed sign.

Ad Feedback