Response to war - Māori King movement 1860-94

The Kīngitanga's response to the New Zealand Wars

The invasion of the Waikato united the various factions within the Kīngitanga. During the war Kīngitanga forces enjoyed some victories despite being overwhelmed in terms of manpower and resources. They were forced to fight a defensive war based on frustrating and slowing down their enemy. In the end their inability to sustain the effort against a full-time professional army ensured their defeat.

During October and November 1863 Kīngitanga forces held up the British advance at Meremere before being forced to withdraw to their second line of defence at Rangiriri. Maintaining Meremere had been a heavy drain on Māori resources.

On 21 November 1863 Rangiriri fell, partly because of the incomplete fortifications and difficulty in regathering strength of numbers in the aftermath of Meremere. British artillery was instrumental in the capture of Rangiriri. The path to Tāwhiao's capital at Ngāruawāhia lay open to the British forces, and it was duly captured on 9 December 1863.

Grey now offered peace on condition that all land and arms be surrendered. These terms were rejected and the Kīngitanga forces fell back to their third line of defence, which protected their key agricultural area at Rangiaowhia, near Te Awamutu. Women and children had been sent there to escape the worst areas of fighting, and they were among the victims when the undefended village was burned on 1 February 1864, with heavy loss of life. This left a legacy of bitterness and suspicion.

At the end of March 1864 Rewi Maniapoto and Kīngitanga forces withstood five British assaults at Ōrākau, 5 kilometres south-east of Te Awamutu. In what became immortalised as 'Rewi's last stand', the Kingite forces, with little ammunition and water left, made a daring daytime escape. Half of Rewi's warriors escaped into the rugged Ngāti Maniapoto area. Others were not so lucky. In the surrounding area, the British hunted down and killed many of those who escaped, including women and the wounded.

This was the last act of the Waikato War. General Cameron felt the Kīngitanga could be finished off by cutting off their supply route from the Bay of Plenty. The British suffered a humiliating and heavy defeat at Gate pā, Tauranga, in April before bringing the fighting to an end in June when they defeated Ngāi Te Rangi forces at Te Ranga.

Wiremu Tamihana made a separate peace in May 1865. The majority of the Kīngitanga forces of Waikato–Maniapoto did not and withdrew to Tokangamutu (Te Kūiti). Behind this aukati (the boundary between Crown and Māori territory) the King movement remained undefeated and isolated.

Timeline: key battles of the Waikato War

October–November 1863: Meremere

Kīngitanga forces were able to hold the British advance here but were eventually forced to withdraw to their second line of defence at Rangiriri. Maintaining the pā had been a heavy drain on Māori resources.

21 November 1863: Rangiriri

With their fortifications incomplete and manpower severely reduced by the fighting at Meremere, Kīngitanga forces could not retain Rangiriri. British artillery was instrumental in the capture of the pā.

9 December 1863: Ngāruawāhia

When the King's capital was captured, Grey offered peace on condition that all land and arms be surrendered. These terms were rejected and the Kīngitanga forces fell back to their third line of defence, which protected their key agricultural area at Rangiaowhia, near Te Awamutu.

21 February 1864: Rangiaowhia

The burning of the undefended village at Rangiaowhia, with heavy loss of life, left a legacy of bitterness and suspicion. Women and children who had been sent there to escape the worst areas of fighting were among the victims.

30 March–2 April 1864: Ōrākau

In what is immortalised as 'Rewi's last stand', Rewi Maniapoto and Kīngitanga forces withstood five British assaults. With little ammunition and water left, they then made a daring daytime escape. Half of Rewi's warriors made it beyond the aukati, the boundary between Crown and Māori territory in the rugged Ngāti Maniapoto area. Others were not so lucky. In the surrounding area the British hunted down and killed many of those who escaped, including women and the wounded.

This was the last act of the Waikato War. General Cameron felt the Kīngitanga could be finished off by cutting off their supply route from the Bay of Plenty.

24 April 1864: Gate pā

At Gate pā, Tauranga, the British army suffered a humiliating defeat under Ngāi Te Rangi.

June 1864: Te Ranga

Gate pā was avenged in June when Ngāi Te Rangi warriors were caught in the open at Te Ranga and overwhelmed, thus ending the fighting in the Bay of Plenty.

Wiremu Tamihana made a separate peace in May 1865. The majority of the Kīngitanga forces of Waikato–Maniapoto did not and instead withdrew to Tokangamutu (Te Kūiti). Behind this aukati the King movement remained undefeated and isolated.

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How to cite this page: 'Response to war - Māori King movement 1860-94', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/maori-king-movement-1860-94/response-to-war, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 11-Jul-2014