New Zealand Wars: Part 2 Kings and Empire
Directed by Tainui Stephens (2017)
Part 2 of this series concerns the Wairau Valley War (1843), the Wellington War (1846), and the first Taranaki land war (1860-61).
The Wairau Valley War started when British settlers in the Marlborough Sounds (top of South Island) tried to farm land that still belong to Māori. After local iwi (tribes) drove out the land surveyors and set fire to their huts, 50 armed settlers marched to the Wairau Valley to “teach Māori” a lesson. Te Rauparaha, aka the Emperor of the South,* organized iwi warriors on both sides of Cook Strait to repel them.
Responding to growing fears Te Rauparaha would also attack unauthorized settlers, the newly appointed governor general George Grey marched British troops into in the Hutt Valley northwest of Wellington. Local Māori responded by killing the settlers who had illegally taken their land. During this fighting, Te Rauparaha was captured and imprisoned without trial, and settlers seized his former Māori.
The last segment of Part 2 is the most interesting to me as it concerns the first Taranaki War (I live in Taranaki). By 1858, there was a split in the North Island’s indigenous population.Two-thirds of Taranaki iwi supported the growing Māori king movement, formed with the explicit intention of solidifying Māori control over their own lands. One-third wished to sell land to the British for the purpose of facilitating trade.
The Taranaki land wars started when Te Teira sold the British communally-owned land in Waitara, and Wiremu Kingi and his followers turned settlers back when they tried to claim possession.
The major battle of the first Taranaki War took place at Puketekauere pā near Waitara in 1861. Although local Te Atiawa warriors were reinforced by other iwi belonging to the Māori king movement, they were still vastly outnumbered by British troops.
This first battle ended in a stalemate. In the truce that followed, Māori reclaimed more than £200,000 worth of property from New Plymouth settlers. However Wiremu Kingi lost control of coastal Waitara, which the British wanted for a seaport.
*Te Rauparaha held sway over iwi extending from Kaipiti Island near Wellington to modern day Nelson in the South Island. This would be the first attempt of iwi to consolidate their military efforts to retain control of their land.