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No. 32 (September 1960)
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Taupo Pa, Plimmerton. This pa was established by Te Rauparaha shortly after his final raid on Kaiapohia. Throughout the 1840's, he seems to have had no permanent place of residence, and although a special house had been set aside exclusively for his use at this pa, he was often to be found living at Otaki or Kahiti. (G. F. Angas, The New Zealanders, 1847.) Turnbull Library Photograph.


Although the first settlers to arrive at Wellington in 1840 were favourably received by the Maoris, some of the chiefs soon realized with feelings of apprehension that these ever increasing pakehas would outnumber them. Te Wharepouri of Ngati Awa had hoped for at least one white man at every pa to barter with his people and keep them well supplied with arms and clothing. He confidently expected to keep them well supplied with arms and clothing. He confidently expected to keep these white men under his hand, and to regulate all their transactions himself. Te Rauparaha had for some years successfully traded in this way at Porirua and Kapiti, while on Mana Island his nephew Te Rangihaeta periodically received goods from a man named Bell in return for permission to depasture stock. According to Commissioner Spain, when the ownership of Mana was disputed some years later the bewildered Rangihaeta told him, “I never would have disturbed Bell in his residence on the island, as he promised to give me another white man when he left.”

By the end of 1842 new settlers continued to arrive at Wellington in great numbers, the land dispute in the Hutt Valley remained unsolved, and with many of his people coming under the influence of missionaries, Te Rauparaha felt his authority beginning to wane. Early in 1843 he was grieved to learn that a close relative of his, a woman of high rank, had been brutally murdered. Suspicion fell upon a white man who was arrested but later released through lack of evidence. According to the Rev. Samuel Ironsides the accused man was clearly guilty and shortly

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after his release confessed to having committed the crime. This incident greatly incensed the Maoris and did much to aggravate the mounting tension between both races. During the same month the Protector of Aborigines, George Clarke, unhappily reported another circumstance which highly disgusted the natives. In several instances their dead had been disinterred by some of the settlers merely for the sake of obtaining the few ornaments with which they were usually buried. “I regret also to say,” said Clarke, “that these atrocities could not be brought home to the guilty parties for want of evidence.”

Te Rauparaha, hoping to see justice meted out from the European authorities, refrained from taking an indiscriminate revenge and quietly cautioned Clarke in the following manner: “A few years ago I should have taken cognisance of these cases, and would have obtained ample satisfaction for the injury I have received, but I now with confidence leave the matter with you.”

The excitement and unrest caused by these outrages had hardly subsided within the strongholds of Ngati Toa when news arrived from Nelson that the Europeans intended making a survey of the Wairau Plain. At the head of a deputation of chiefs in Nelson, Te Rauparaha told Captain Arthur Wakefield that they had not sold Wairau, and warned him against sending his surveyors there. When Wakefield, quite unperturbed, expressed his determination to proceed, the quick-tempered Rangihaeta sprang forward to deliver an angry tirade. Grimacing fiercely at the Resident Agent, he threatened to take his head if the survey commenced. He made it abundantly clear to all in Nelson that if anyone wanted to lay claim to that land they would first have to succeed in killing him, and thereby the land would remain as the lawful possession of the conqueror. Before leaving for Kapiti Te Rauparaha issued a final warning that he would put the case before the Queen's Commissioner, Mr Spain, with a demand for an immediate settlement of the claim.

Wakefield foolishly turned a deaf ear to these threats and warnings. On the 15th of April, 1843, a contract for the survey was drawn up with Messrs Barnicoat and Thompson, Cotterell and Parkinson. A few days later these surveyors with forty assistants proceeded to the Wairau where they started work without further delay. Nearly two months had gone when Wakefield received word that the Ngati Toa chiefs had crossed over to the Wairau and were obstructing the surveyors by burning their huts and compelling them to return to Nelson. The affair was becoming extremely serious, and Te Rauparaha had made it perfectly clear that neither he nor any of his people were to be trifled with. Yet Wakefield on receiving a report of the proceedings sanctionel another blunder. This was the decision to proceed at once in the Government brig “Victoria” and arrest the chiefs on a charge of arson. “We shall muster about sixty,” wrote Wakefield, “so I think we shall overcome these travelling bullies.” It is also ironical at this stage to observe the following remark in a letter to his brother before embarking: “I never felt more convinced of being about to act right for the benefit of all, and not less especially so for the native race.”

On reaching the mouth of the Wairau River it was found that the Maoris had retired to a more inaccessible position further upstream on the western side of the Tuamarina stream. Te Rauparaha was sitting in front of a fire eating a meal of potatoes when the pakeha war party approached along the opposite bank. Jumping to his feet he hailed them in the traditional manner, and enquired of the Police Magistrate leading the party if they had come to fight. Thompson

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Te Rangihaeta, nephew of Te Rauparaha. He became actively hostile to the British in the Hutt Valley and established a fortified pa at Pauatahanui, from which he was finally driven in July, 1846. With a few loyal adherents he retreated to the swamps of Poroutawhao where, like Hereward the Wake, he built his last stronghold on a mound. Grey wisely left him alone; and he died at Otaki in 1855. (Turnbull Library Photograph).

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replied that they had not come for that purpose, and having explained the exact nature of their visit demanded a canoe so that he and some of the other officials could cross. The forty constables who remained on the other side with the rest of the armed party under the charge of Captain England and Mr Howard had each been issued with eighteen rounds of ball cartridges. They had been told before their final instruction from Mr Thompson was to act if called upon. Most of these had never handled a firearm before. Some of their weapons were faulty and antiquated, while complete lack of discipline combined with a total ignorance of bush fighting proved to be a pitiful contrast to the more numerous trained fighters of Te auparaha and Te Rangihaeta. Even at this stage, however, Thompson and Wakefield behaved as if they were dealing with nothing more than a couple of travelling bullies who could easily be coerced into showing, as Thompson put it, “a prestige for the law”.

Te Rauparaha approached Thompson with his hand extended to exchange a friendly greeting, but the arrogant Magistrate pushed it aside and through his interpreter Brooks, told him that he was their prisoner. The chief replied that he would prefer to have the whole matter settled when Mr Spain made his judgement about the land. Whereupon Thompson explained that the charge was one of buringin down some houses, an offence which did not come under the jurisdiction of Spain's court, and one which he intended to deal with aboard the brig. “What houses have I burned down?” demanded Te Rauparaha. “Was it a tent belonging to you that you make so much ado about it? You know it was not; it was nothing but a hut of rushes. The materials were cut from my own ground.” At this point he appealed to Mr Cotterell to verify his assertion that no European property or equipment had been destroyed, and that gentlement accordingly agreed. “For this reason,” continued Te Rauparaha, “I will not go on board, neither will I be bound. If you are angry about the land let us talk it quietly over, I care not if we talk till night and all day tomorrow and when we have finished I will settle the question about the land.”

The Police Magistrate only became more impatient. Producing a pair of handcuffs, and stamping his foot with rage, he demanded that the chief accompany him aboard the brig or he would be compelled to use force. Then, turning to Brooks, he exclaimed. “tell them there are the armed party, they will fire on them all!” As he did so he waved his arm in the direction of his constables, and a native who had a slight knowledge of English interpreted this violent outburst as an order to fire. There was an instant reaction from sixteen of Te Ruaparaha's men who sprang to their feet with muskets levelled. they were subdued by Mr Patchett who nervously explained that it had only been a threat and not an order to shoot.

Thompson then called in a loud voice for Te Rangihaeta who during this time had been sitting quietly behind a nearby bush. Leaping into the midst of the group, and wielding his tomahawk menacingly above Thompson's head, he began threatening him in violent tones. “What do you want with Te Rangihaeta that you come here to bind him?” he demanded angrily. “Do I go to Port Jackson or to Europe to steal your lands? Have I burned your house? Have I destroyed tents or anything belonging to you?” His temper seemed to be getting the better of him, and Te Rauparaha thought it wise to order him to retire while he continued to seek a peaceful settlement with the stubborn Thompson. Meanwhile Mr Tuckett and Captain Wakefield decided to join the rest of their men on the other side of the stream. As they were crossing Thompson made another attempt to handcuff Te Rauparaha who indignantly withdrew his hands from the Magistrate's grasp. It was at this point that Captain Wakefield was said to have observed a threatening move by the natives towards Thompson which prompted him to shout to the constables, “men forward, Englishmen forward!” Several of the armed constables rushed toward the canoe and in doing so one of them discharged a shot which instantly provoked a volley of musket fire form the Maoris who were by this time quite convinced that the pakehas had come to fight.

During the intense firing which opened up on both sides Mr Thompson and his party safely made their crossing. Many of the Englishmen fell in the first volley, and as they retreated to the foot of a nearby ridge several were left dying in the open severely wounded; amongst these was Mr Patchett. He was quickly attended to by a man named Richardson, who enquired if he was badly hurt, to which Patchett replied, “I am mortally wounded, I am mortally wounded, you can do no good for me, make your escape.”

The main party of Europeans was finally forced to surrender, and included amongst the survivors were Captain Wakefield, the Police Magistrate Thompson, Capt. England, Messrs Richardson, Howard, Brooks, Cropper and MacGregor. For a few minutes the prisoners were kept under the guard of several young warriors until Te Rauparaha arrived upon the scene. the chief, having accepted the Europeans' explanation that the shooting was a mistake, was at first agreeable to accepting money in payment for their release, when Rangihaeta suddenly intervened. His wife Te Rongopamamao had been killed by a stray bullet early in the affray while hiding in a swamp at the rear of the Maori camp. Se was the widow of Te Whaiti, a nephew of Te Rauparaha and a first cousin of Te Rangihaeta who according to ancient custom married her because she was the widow of his near relative. Rangihaeta insisted that only the lives of the principal Europeans could compensate as sufficient utu for the loss

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of his wife. “We are sure to be killed for this some day,” he told Te Rauparaha. “The white people will take utu, let us then have some better blood than that of these tutua (common people). We are chiefs; let us kill the chiefs beforehand.” While Rauparaha weighed this problem in his mind, the Police Magistrate appealed to him to save their lives, whereupon the chief contemptuously replied, “Did I not warn you how it would be? A little while ago I wished to talk to you in a friendly manner and you would not, now you say ‘save me’. I will not save you.” And with that he handed the prisoners over to Rangihaeta who marched them a little further down the hill where the merciless execution of all captives was carried out.

Having stayed a few days at Te Awiti, Te Rauparaha and his people crossed the Straits to Mana and eventually to Otaki, where they decided to await further developments and the vengeance of the white man. Te Rangihaeta tried in vain to persuade his uncle to collect a force of neighbouring tribes for the purpose of attacking Wellington and exterminating the settlers, but Te Rauparaha now professed a belief in Christianity, and refused to have anything to do with such a scheme, asserting that he was tired of warfare and henceforth would follow only peaceful pursuits. Other chiefs in the district were approached butthey too seemed to have been restrained by the resident missionary Octavius Hadfield to remain at peace. Bitterly disappointed, and with only a few loyal adherents, Te Rangihaeta set about reinforcing his defences at Porirua. The whole management of affairs there and at Kapiti had been entrusted to him by Te Rauparaha.

The settlers in Wellington were also on the alert. They had formed a kind of Home Guard or voluntary militia which daily carried out drilling exercises in case of attack. There were frequent references in the local newspapers to the “treacherous murderers of the Wairau”, and enraged correspondents severely criticised the Government for its inactivity and failure to provide sufficient protection from the Maoris. Extreme dissatisfaction was also expressed at Fitzroy's handling of the Wairau inquiry. the Governor had gone to Waikanae on February 14th, 1844, to hear Te Rauparaha's account of the affray. At the conclusion of the chief's speech Fitzroy took the only course open to him by declaring that although he could not condone the killing of the prisoners, as the white men had been in the wrong, no action would be taken.

Later in 1844 when the Hutt Valley dispute once more came into prominence by the renewed incursions of Te Rangihaeta's emissaries from Porirua, Fitzroy again received sharp criticism from the settlers. On the 8th of November he claimed to have come to an agreement with Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeta that the Maoris under their control should immediately leave the Hutt Valley, and in payment for their consent to this arrangement both chiefs were said to have received £200 each. Although a deed of sale is in existence which was officially recognised as containing their signatures, Te Rangihaeta emphatically denied ever having agreed to the arrangement. Concerning the signature attached to the deed, H. T. Kemp, Protector of Aborigines at the time, reported that Te Rangihaeta “positively denied it have been his or to have been affixed by his authority. On this point his evidence seems to be borne out by the testimony of several witnesses and more especially by the confession of Martin, grandson of Te Rauparaha, who signed for him in the hope that his uncle Te Rangihaeta would ultimately become reconciled and approve of the transaction.” When the intruders on the Hutt under Taringa Kuri heard of the payment they refused to move, stating that they had not benefited by any of the money.

Early in February 1846 a large body of troops amounting to nearly six hundred were shipped from Auckland to Wellington under the command of Lt. Colonel Hulme. These were joined by detachments of other regiments which brought the total force centred in Wellington to almost eight hundred men. With this impressive array of military strength at his disposal, the newly appointed governor Grey had little difficulty in forcing the intruders to leave the Valley. While Te Rauparaha expressed his allegiance to the Government and promised to assist in any way possible, his nephew Te Rangihaeta declared open warfare. The latter managed to enforce a very effective blockade of the Taua-tapu track from Pukerua to Taupo pa, which by a quaint analogy he stated was his backbone, and hence must not be trodden upon. On the roadside close to his pa was a large notice stating that all pigs passing that way to Wellington would be turned back, that war was at hand and it was not right to feed the pakehas, that all who went without anything would be suffered to pass but all others would be sent back and if they persisted would pay for their temerity with their bones. this was a notice to all the tribes.

In spite of much that has been written in the past to discredit Grey for his suspicious attitude toward Te Rauparaha, it is hard to deny that he did have several good reasons for doubting the sincerity of the old chief. Grey recalled that on the occasion of the road having been tapued he had gone to Porirua to investigate. Te Rauparaha and some of the Ngati Toa who still remained at Taupo faithfully promised that they would not in future be in any way concerned with such proceedings. Yet in spite of these promises a report was received on the following day from two natives who complained that they were not permitted to pass Taupo pa with their charge of four pigs as the road had been tapued and Te Rauparaha would do nothing to prevent the natives there from enforcing the blockade. Grey immediately returned to Porirua and issued

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positive orders that they, together with their pigs, should be forthwith permitted along the road. He made it clear that he would not receive Te Rauparaha or any of the Taupo chiefs on board the “Driver” until these orders had been complied with. Later Mr Servantes, the interpreter, returned to say that the affair had been somewhat misrepresented and that the Governor's orders would have been complied with if the pigs had not unfortunately been sent back to the Manawatu the previous day. Te Rauparaha with a few of the other chiefs also came on board and concurred with Servantes, adding assuredly that such a circumstance should never occur again.

“I entirely believed their statements and assurances,” commented Grey, “but I regret now to state that I have positively ascertained from two important chiefs upon whom every reliance may be placed that the pigs were at the very time these statements were made detained in the pa, and they were telling a deliberate and intentional falsehood. One of the chiefs who assured me of this is one of Te Rauparaha's nearest relatives and he mentioned it with concern, adding that he felt great shame and grief when he heard Te Rauparaha making statements so opposite to the truth.”

Further evidence of Te Rauparaha's suspected treachery came in the form of a letter signed by Mamaku, a Wanganui cheif who had taken up arms with Rangihaeta. It was forwarded to Grey by one of several chiefs in Wanganui to whom it had been addressed. Dated the 25th of May 1846, the following extract is especially interesting: “Give your consent and allow Ngapera, Maketu, Amarama, and Te Kawana, those who do not profess Christianity, to come and see Te Rangihaeta and myself, and to hear the particulars of the War we are carrying on. The road or coast is open, and Te Rauparaha has given his consent.” Grey was particularly concerned that Te Rauparaha was mentioned as a person with whom they were in communication, and who was assenting to and favouring their plans. He found it difficult to believe even then that the old chief could be guilty of such treachery, so that when he came abroad the “Driver” at Porirua the letter was shown to him and Grey asked if he had in any way authorised his name being used in that manner. Te Rauparaha replied that he had never done so, and that Mamaku had told falsehoods. It seemed by his reaction that he really had no knowledge that such a letter had been written. On the 19th of July, however, Richard Deighton, a settler of Wanganui, arrived in Wellington with news that Ngapara and Maketu were already on their way down the coast with a well armed war party of about one hundred men. Deighton had travelled part of his journey in company with Maketu, who entrusted the settler to deliver a letter to Te Rauparaha. In this letter which was brought direct to Grey, Maketu appeals to the old Ngatitoa leader to let his influence be shown, “and soften the determination of the Ngati Awa at Waikanae, and the Ngati Raukawa, so as to allow us to pass through and pay a visit to your children.”

Before taking the “Driver” up the coast to intercept the hostile war party, Grey told Gladstone in a despatch on the 20th of July that if he could find fresh cause on this visit to confirm his suspicions against Te Rauparaha he would then attempt to seize him and disarm the disaffected portion of the Ngati Toa tribe at Taupo. On reaching Waikanae he heard that the rebels were still encamped about twenty miles to the north of that point. The four principal Ngati Awa chiefs were taken on board and the “Driver” then proceeded to Otaki where the six principal chiefs of Ngati Raukawa joined them. At Ohau a plan was drawn up for an attack on the following morning, but about daylight a fresh breeze set in upon the shore which is of a most exposed nature, and it was found impossible to land troops. After waiting a short while the ship turned about and headed for Otaki again.

On this excursion Grey interviewed several of the chiefs he had taken aboard. They all unhesitatingly accused Te Rauparaha and some of the other Ngati Toa chiefs at Taupo of intrigues.

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Te Rauparaha in naval officer's uniform. (From a sketch in the Turnbull Library by John Bainbridge).

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The following extract from a further dispatch to Gladstone on the 23rd of July 1846 seems to have been the deciding factor against the chiefs:

“I also understand from the chiefs of Otaki, Te Rauparaha's principal place of residence, that that chief had altogether deceived them, and instead of his fulfilling his promises of joining them for the purpose of preventing parties of rebels passing down the coast to murder European settlers, he was in fact conniving at their so doing. I determined, therefore, in pursuance of my previous intention to return to Porirua and to send a party on shore at daylight this morning to seize Te Rauparaha and the principal chiefs who had been concerned in enforcing the tapu.”

Unknown to the British, Rangihaeta had visited his uncle only a week before to tell him of strange forebodings. “Last night I dreamed a dream,” he told Te Rauparaha, “a dream of evil to come. It will be well if you come away with me. Leave this place; it is full of danger.” But Te Rauparaha's wife Te Akau was too ill to move and he was therefore unable to heed this advice. Shortly after daybreak on the 23rd of July the armed party of soldiers and bluejackets arrived at the entrance to his whare where he was informed that they had come by the Governor's order to take him on board the man-of-war to be tried for supplying arms, ammunition, and provisions to Te Rangihaeta, then in open rebellion. With amazing agility the old chief, who had been sitting immediately in front of the low doorway, threw himself back, and instantly seized a taiaha with which he made a blow at his wife's head. Mr McKillop of the Calliope jumped forward to ward the blow off with his pistol. McKillop wrongly inferred at the time that Rauparaha thought his wife had betrayed him but according to Heni Te Whiwhi of Otaki (died 1921), the reason for attempting to strike his wife was that he instanty remembered that if it had not been for her he could have been in a safe retreat inland.”

Grey had been of the opinion when he captured Te Rauparaha “that a dangerous and extensive conspiracy had been formed, and that he was the directing head of it.” It seems more likely, however, that Te Rauparaha attempted to balance carefully his expressed and quite genuine opposition to Te Rangihaeta's policies with his kinship obligations which demanded that he should help his nephew in some way. There is no evidence that Te Rauparaha supplied him with either warriors or arms, but he did give him food. He probably did not explain this policy to Governor Grey but evidently hoped that sooner or later the trouble would end when Te Rangihaeta could be persauded to come to terms with the British.

For ten months he was detained aboard H.M.S. Calliope, after which he was allowed to occupy a house provided for him in the Auckland Government Domain by Te Wherowhero, a former enemy chief. In captivity he was said to have been generally contented, although occasionally overcome with grief. Many Europeans and Maoris managed to lessen his sorrowful burden with kindness. In September 1847 two hundred Hauraki chiefs attended a large gathering in his honour. After traditional greetings had been exchanged, Te Rauparaha, dressed in a dogskin mat and a forage cap with bold band, addressed the gathering. He recited with much dignity his warlike deeds, and how he was captured, after which Taraia, Te Wherowhero and others delivered long ceremonial speeches. “Food was served at two o'clock,” writes A. S. Thompson. “Te Rauparaha, who was ill at ease, ate little, and soon returned to his house; two Maori women followed him in, and sang the heroic deeds of his own princely line in a lament which brought tears to the old man's eyes.

‘And he thought the days that were long gone by
When his limbs were strong, and his courage high.’”

Te Rauparaha was never brought to trial, and when Grey finally released him at Otaki in January 1848 many irate settlers criticized the Governor for this act of clemency. It is extremely doubtful that any of the Ngati Raukawa chiefs who so readily denounced him at Otaki would have shown the courage to accuse their old leader in his presence. Until his death in November 1849 at Otaki he managed to maintain his former dominant and overbearing authority in all matters affecting the surrounding tribes. He was buried a few yards from the church he had requested Hadfield to build some years previously, and although a tombstone marks the spot, tradition has it that his remains were secretly transported to Kapiti Island.