Hēnare Taratoa

Hēnare Taratoa, lay preacher. Killed at Te Ranga, 21 June 1864.

Following the establishment of a British camp at Tauranga in early 1864, Ngāi Te Rangi rebuilt an old pā at Te Waoku, some 15 km from the British camp at Te Papa. The Ngāi Te Rangi leader Rāwiri Puhirake sent a message to Lieutenant-Colonel H.H. Greer, the commander of the British force, inviting him to ‘bring his soldiers to fight at Te Waoku’. Puhirake goaded the British further by offering to build a road for the ‘convenience’ of the troops. Greer did not reply to either invitation.

Ngāi Te Rangi leaders then gathered at Poteriwhi, the pā of Pene Taka Tuaia on the lower Wairoa River, west of Te Papa. Here they prepared ‘laws for regulating the fight’. These were written down by Hēnare Taratoa of Ngāti Raukawa, a former mission schoolteacher. This code of conduct stated that those who surrendered or were wounded would be treated fairly; ‘unarmed Pakehas, women and children’ would be ‘spared’. A copy of the code was sent to Greer on 28 March – along with another challenge to attack.

Ngāi Te Rangi and its allies adhered to these laws during the fighting at Gate Pā at the end of April. Water was carried to the wounded British soldiers left behind after the unsuccessful attack. Some believe that it was Hēnare Taratoa who took water to Lieutenant-Colonel Booth as he laying dying in a trench. Other evidence suggests that the good Samaritan was the sole woman who remained at Gate Pā during the fighting, Hēni Te Kiri Karamū. While she lived into her 90s and was able to tell her story to the historian James Cowan, Taratoa was killed at Te Ranga in June 1864.

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