The Wairau incident

Page 1 – Introduction

Scene of the Wairau incident
Scene of the Wairau incident

On 17 June 1843, 22 Europeans and four Māori were killed when an armed party of New Zealand Company settlers and Ngāti Toa clashed over the purchase of land in the Wairau valley at Tuamarina, 10 km north of today’s town of Blenheim. This was the most significant clash of arms between Māori and British settlers in the years immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Most of the European victims were executed after surrendering. Outraged settlers demanded action against Ngāti Toa. They were ultimately disappointed when the new Governor, Robert FitzRoy, maintained that the Māori had been provoked by the unreasonable actions of the Europeans. FitzRoy was widely condemned by settlers, but the alternative – open warfare with Ngāti Toa – would probably have made the situation far worse for those struggling to establish themselves in a new land.

How to cite this page

'The Wairau incident', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Aug-2014