As a country, we’ve had other wars


My daughter is named Te Ahipourewa after my great-grandfather’s sister. My ancestor, Te Ahipourewa, is thought to have fought and died in the Waikato wars.

My late granduncle recalls a story he was told as a child about a staunch woman who took to her horse with her gun during the land confiscation in the King Country and rode with the rebels defending our lands.

I haven’t been able to verify this story through historic documents but as an oral piece of history it is pretty impressive.

If Te Ahipourewa did fight and die in the Waikato wars she would be one of an estimated 2990 men and women who died on New Zealand’s battlefields. It is thought about 730 British and colonial troops and 2254 Māori lost their lives.

The battles began in the north at Kororāreka, or Russell, in 1845 – just five years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The following year battles erupted in Wellington and Whanganui. Then, after a 13-year break from war fighting began again, this time in northern Taranaki, then Waikato, followed by Tauranga’s Battle of Gate Pa and Te Ranga.

At the same time Taranaki was being attacked again by colonial troops at the battle of Te Ahuahu. For five years fighting continued south, ending in 1869 at the battle of Taurangaika near Waitotara. The last area to come under colonial and British attack was the east coast, where Māori leader Te Kooti was defeated in one of the last battles of 1869 at Te Pōrere.

The New Zealand Wars (Ngā Pākanga Whenua ō Mua) were for many decades known as the Māori Wars. Tāmaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare is a trustee for the Northern Wars organisation Ruapekapeka Trust. He believes many people confused the earlier intertribal musket wars which took place about 1810 with the New Zealand wars, which began about 1843. Mr Henare said that was exactly why we needed to teach New Zealand history in our schools.

Education Minister Hekia Parata encourages schools to teach both sides of New Zealand history – the colonial and the Māori – but said she would not go as far as making it compulsory.

“Because that is not the New Zealand way, we do not compel specific things. I’m not requiring every school to teach coding even though there is a group who wants that to happen.”

But can we trust ‘the New Zealand way’ to ensure we produce well rounded New Zealanders with a good understanding of our past?

History Teachers Association chairman Graham Wall said there was no prescribed curriculum for history, so teachers around the country could choose to teach whatever they wanted. He said it was conceivable that could mean no New Zealand history was taught at all.

It is remarkable to me that a country does not see the teaching of its own history as one of the cornerstones of a rounded education. All of us have ancestors who did things we would not want to be reminded of or feel responsible for today.  Similarly, all of us have ancestors we are proud of.

We can’t just pick and choose. Just like there were good Nazis, there were bad colonials, and Maori may have been outnumbered but they certainly had a proud record of punching above their weight.

This isn’t about taking sides, or redressing wrongs, or being scared to open up yet another branch of the grievance industry.

By denying our own history, we don’t know who we are. And the New Zealand wars were part of the formative stages and the birth of New Zealand as we  know it today. To ignore it, or even deny it, is unusual. Other countries don’t do that.


– Mihingarangi Forbes, RNZ / Pete


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  • Ruahine

    Our history stared before 1840 or the time of the ‘Land Wars’.

    Let us not forget the time of the ‘Musket Wars’ when Nga Puhi was clearing out the top half of the North Island paving the way for there being a Treaty. It is interesting that the only opposition to the signing of the Treaty were the gun-toting tribes. No problem signing the Treaty elsewhere amongs’t the Tribes. Better to be on the side who had the bigger guns. The British. Hence the Kupapa.
    Our history should be taught but which version. Our true history is fascinating. It is human nature in action. It has been written down not passed down.
    However it will be the re-written ‘New’ history that will be served up if the PC brigade get their way I fear.

    • Old Dig

      Just take a look at the way the left in the US are eroding and rewriting the history of the American civil war. Nevermind that heroics and also atrocities were carried out by both sides, their veiw is that the Confederates were pure evil, no exceptions. Of course when they are reminded that the Confederates were Democrats and that Lincoln was a Republican, they will tell you that ‘at some point’ in history the Democrats and Republicans ‘swapped sides of the political spectrum’, how convenient.

  • Effluent

    “History Teachers Association chairman Graham Wall said there was no prescribed curriculum for history, so teachers around the country could choose to teach whatever they wanted. He said it was conceivable that could mean no New Zealand history was taught at all.”
    There lies the problem – the matter would be effectively under the control of the teaching profession, and, in the present climate, the activist and revisionist wing of it. Anyone who listened to the Sunday output of red radio on a regular basis will know what this means – an uninterrupted diet of slanted propaganda, supporting the view that Maori were the innocent victims of colonialist oppression, with the obvious corollary that we are now obliged to hand over ever increasing sections of NZ’s economy to make redress.
    Never mind all the benefits the colonialisation brought to NZ – you don’t have to look very far around the Pacific to see what happened to the societies which did not get colonised, or the ones which reverted to form after the colonial era ended.

    I am most emphatically not saying “white / british good, everything else bad”, but I am saying that the opposite is no more true either, despite what the cultural marxists try to force us to believe.

    I just don’t want to hand them another uncontested platform to peddle their lies.

  • Greg M

    Mihi Forbes makes a good point. There were some seriously evil acts committed by all sides during the land wars and people should know about it. It’s a part of all of us.

    • Mr 13 is learning Japanese. But not NZ History. Go figure.

      • Greg M

        Exactly. My wish would be that the gaps in our history are filled in, and not simply re written to suit a political or social agenda. Unfortunately with the current mob of academics and educators I don’t have a lot of confidence they would do the right thing.

        • I guess the answer lies in having two lots of history written. One as seen by the colonials, and one as seen by the conquered. The truth will lie in the middle, and by knowing both sides, rather than a “balanced” side, you probably end up more rounded.

      • Dave of the West Bank

        Good on him.

        If he can master the 5 vowel sounds he’ll sound great. a i u e o :)

        • I was dumb enough to ask a question, and all the flashcards were laid out in front of me in a grid, and the images explained in a way that makes it easier to remember.


          Learn me for asking questions.

          • Dave of the West Bank

            A Japanese guy and I were learning each other’s language at sea, and we’d troll through our respective dictionaries for handy words, write them on on opposite sides of a piece of paper and thread them on to a bit brazing rod bent in a circle. Every day we’d go around the ring testing each other, ripping off the words as we realised we knew them. It was a constant chore replacing them. We got so good at it that we were learning 25 new words every day. I’d recommend it as a very handy and speedy way of building up a vocabulary.

            Grammar was a different thing, however. :)

            You’ll be up for a few grand shouting him a trip to Japan, Pete, to build on his language skills. He he.

  • One thing that amuses me is that colonialism has never been described as bringing peace and prosperity to a divided tribal nation at constant war with itself.

    It’s a viewpoint tho.

    • phronesis

      If you need further proof that that is the case just look at what happened to most of Africa when the colonials left.

    • Dave of the West Bank

      And a very valid viewpoint. I gather that the chiefs had absolute power, and that most Maori were slaves to them. The arrival of the pakeha forced changes that freed the majority of Maori from slavery. Charles Darwin remarked in The Voyage of the Beagle that elderly Maori looked remarkably fit not realising that life was so tough that they looked old before their time – life expectancy being about 35 years.

      As an aside I have personally seen a servant go past a high chief carrying food on her elbows and knees (on gravel), and not daring to look at her chief. (This on an island to our north.)

  • Kleinholz

    My GGGG grandfather (Ngapuhi) was in the Rotorua region in 1822 but was up to no good and so was killed and eaten for his troubles by Arawa. His death, amongst others, provoked Hongi Hika’s massively violent trip south for revenge. Fortunately, my GGG grandmother had been produced by then. And all this was less than 200 years ago. We entertain our overseas visitors by recounting the tale of my GGGG grandfather’s untimely but probably justified demise and entry into the Arawa foodchain.

    • contractor

      Always admire Maori ease of joking about the cannibalism, as relegated to history!

  • Mark

    For an excellent read on part of this history see “Frontier”,proud to have a signed copy,Peter (& Glen) used to sponsor me for my shooting,a fine gentleman.

    • jaundiced

      Agree, tho is an excellent account. While historically the accounts of the New Zealand wars have been through the lens of the Europeans, subsequent accounts have been rebid see based on the concept of the Maori being the victims of European duplicity and overwhelming odds (Belich – the Nw Zealand wars).

      This account looks at this dispassionately, drawing a lot from primary sources. There were definitely heroes and villains on both sides, a time of shifting alliances among the tribes, many siding with the Europeans as part of an on-going battle for territory and influence that had been going on long before Europeans arrived. Many untold stories about fascinating characters like von Temsky and others and the Forest Rangers who pursued Te Kooti relentlessly for years. You can still see the trenches in National park that was his last stand.

  • Aquarius 61

    I was privileged to spend a couple of hours at the Tawhiti & Whalers and Traders museum in Hawera recently. Fantastic displays and an interesting insight into some of our history, particularly the Musket Wars.

    An interesting read is also Deborah Challinor’s “Isle of Tears” set during the land wars. while fiction Deborah is an historian, so I imagine it’s at least based on fact.

  • spanishbride

    I studied NZ History at University as my two majors were English and History. The most enlightening project I did was when I read original source material instead of a historian’s account (based on their reading of source material.) I was the only student in the class who found the journals of a botanist on board a ship at the time of an incident we had been asked to write about. Everyone else used a history book but I wanted an eye witness account.

    The botanist’s description of what happened did not match the historians description of what happened.The incident was a certain date and a certain ship and an encounter with Maori in wakas. I made sure I had the correct date and ship.The historian said that the Maori were openly hostile and so the Captain of the ship was forced to take them prisoner by force as they were attacking the ship.The botanist said they came across Maori fishermen who when they saw the ship attempted to get away.

    The Captain pursued them because he wanted to learn more about them. When the ship pulled up close to them the Botanist said that the fishermen threw their paddles at the ship as they had no weapons. At this point the Captain had them brought aboard the ship and taken prisoner.

    My tutor was amazed at what I had found out as it contradicted everyone else’s’ version of what had happened that day. it made me realise that history truly is written by the victors or the academic who puts his/her own spin on the facts.

  • Cadae

    The NZ Wars were not so black and white as many representations would have them. There weren’t just two opposing sides – there were as many sides and opinions as there were colonial organisations running the show and tribes interacting with various parts of the state. There were many disagreements between colonial officials. Letters to the editor during the period testify to the wide variations of opinion of colonists.

  • sandalwood789

    I strongly share the concerns mentioned by Effluent and Old Dig – that any increase in history teaching in our schools will be hijacked by the PC leftists who will completely rewrite things. Goodness knows, it’s bad enough that they’ve brainwashed so many people (and continue to do so) with their “Israel bad, “Palestinians” good” nonsense.

    What *I* would like to know more about is the possibility of pre-Maori settlement here.
    For example, the structures that are said to exist in the Waipoua Forest. I know almost nothing about them but research on them seems to have been completely shut down for fear of offending Maori. That’s *not good enough*.

  • Doug

    I would agree with this, if I thought that it wasn’t an excuse to get a sanitised, politicised version of history to attempt to brainwash a generation.
    As it stands now, those that are interested find out about history, while those that have no interest know it exists.

  • Uncle Bully

    I doubt may young NZers know about the exploits of Gustavus von Tempsky or Titokowaru. It’s just one episode of an important part of our short history as a nation. However, it needs to be carefully articulated in a manner that excludes any opportunity to describe the belligerents as either good guys or bad guys. It’s a historic war story that just needs expressing without the colonial oppressor or indigenous victim cards played.

  • kevin herlihy

    The picture that prefaces this commentary from Mihingarangi Forbes is an artists depiction of the death of Gustavus Ferdinand Von Tempsky at Te Ngutu-o-te-manu on the 7 September 1868.
    Von Tempsky was an enigmatic character during the period of New Zealand’s early history. His exploits with the mercenary force ” The Forest Rangers” and his expertise at fighting rebel Maori utilising “guerilla warfare” quickly won him fame and favour amongest colonists in Taranaki.
    However in a botched raid led by Major General Thomas McDonnell against Titokowaru, Von Tempsky’s Forest Rangers were ordered to cover a retreat that went disastrously bad. The Rangers were drawn into an ambush where they suffered a number of casualties including the death of Von Tempsky who apparently was shot in the head. The sorry saga concluded with the report that Von Tempsky’s body along with his comrades was later burned on a funeral pyre.
    Von tempsky’s life in New Zealand and his service in the Forest Rangers is just one of the many untold stories that form New Zealand’s early history and it is regretable that we as a nation have not quite embraced that history.

  • Rob Knox

    It annoys me that the history of the Musket wars and the subsequent Land Wars are not taught as an option to our young people in High School. The Land Wars went for 12 years and nobody won militarily. Everyone knows about the American Civil War and even the Crimean War. At the same time or thereabouts there was a major civil war here. Most Maori and many Pakeha have nga tipuna who served on both sides. Britain’s military could not win and took off in the mid 1860’s leaving the local militias, Armed Constabulary and Kupapa to face a small but very determined Maori force in both Taranaki and the East Coast. The then settler govt used the wars as a reason to confiscate land as war compensation from Maori, including Maori who were not involved in the wars. No wonder we are still arguing.

  • T Mardell

    History tends to reflect what is unusual at the time. That is what is called “news”. If we were to reflect in 100 years on the events leading up to the last election, we would see alot about a certain man called “Hone”. We know right now of course that was not really reflective of the attitudes of the average Maori person. If we look back to the 1800’s, history has recorded alot about the agitators of the time, and not about the average person, because it was not “news”.

    Prior to 1840 there was no ownership of land, by anyone, because there was no constitutional system of government to enforce it. There really only existed rights of “occupation”, which was managed by force of might. I’m convinced that the majority of Maori saw the relationship with the British as a path to a peaceful existence, leading them away from the tribal fighting that had been the norm. But that attitude is not that well documented, because the dissenters took the limelight, as they do today.

    The British brought with them a system that gave all occupants of this country stability and a path to peaceful existence. The transition has naturally upset some, and there were events on both sides that were not honourable. But for the most, Maori have been taken on a fast track evolutionary path from a cannibalistic tribal existence to a first world one, in a very short period of time. In reality that is amazing, because it is not matched anywhere in world history.