In 1859 the minor Te Ātiawa chief Te Teira Manuka offered to sell land at Waitara in north Taranaki to the Crown. The government accepted the offer and Pākehā settlers looked forward to expanding their small enclave around New Plymouth. However Wiremu Kīngi, a more senior chief, denied that Teira had the right to sell the Waitara land, and war broke out there in March 1860. Taranaki experienced a series of conflicts over the next 21 years.
Many in New Plymouth had been itching for an opportunity to take action against Te Ātiawa and other local iwi who they saw as obstructing the progress of the settlement. British troops were brought in and local volunteers mobilised. After a year of inconclusive fighting that also involved Kīngitanga warriors from Waikato the countryside was devastated and the local economy in tatters.
More than 230 people had been killed or wounded and another 120 had died of disease in the besieged town of New Plymouth. A truce in March 1861 ended the military conflict but did not resolve the underlying issues. Fresh fighting erupted in 1863.