The image of Hōne Heke chopping down the British flag on Maiki hill above Kororāreka in 1845 is the enduring symbol of the Northern War. This conflict has also been called the ‘Flagstaff War’ and ‘Hōne Heke’s Rebellion’.
The Northern War was the first serious challenge to the Crown in the years after the Treaty of Waitangi. Its opening shots marked the beginning of the wider North Island conflicts that are often referred to as the New Zealand Wars.
This complex ‘three-way war’ involved fighting between two factions of Ngāpuhi as well as clashes with British forces. The war began with the sacking of Kororāreka (Russell), then New Zealand’s fifth largest town. Fighting followed at Puketutu in May. One of the most significant battles of the war – at Te Ahuahu in June – did not involve any British forces. Following the British defeat at Ōhaeawai in July the fighting ended after the inconclusive battle at Ruapekapeka in January 1846.