Honiana Te Puni NZ Wars memorial

Honiana Te Puni NZ Wars memorial

This memorial stands in the Te Puni Street urupā – burial ground – in Petone, a seaside suburb of Lower Hutt City whose correct Māori name (Pito-one) means ‘end of the sand beach’. It commemorates the prominent Te Ātiawa leader Honiana Te Puni’s ‘unbroken friendship’ with Pākehā.

Te Puni belonged to the Ngāti Te Whiti and Ngāti Tawhirikura hapū of Te Ātiawa. He and his younger cousin Te Wharepōuri were among the first to welcome the New Zealand Company ship Tory when it arrived in what would become Port Nicholson (Wellington Harbour) on 20 September 1839.

The first New Zealand Company settler ship, Aurora, arrived at Petone on 22 January 1840. This marked the founding of the settlement that would become Wellington.

Te Puni became a firm friend of the new arrivals. His people built houses for the settlers and supplied food in exchange for European clothing and other goods. Later, he provided military advice and assistance.

Not all Māori were happy with the influx of Europeans to the Wellington region. By 1845 tensions were mounting as Ngāti Toa chief Te Rangihaeata supported local hapu such as Ngāti Rangatahi which opposed European settlement in the Hutt Valley.

On 16 May 1846, Tōpine Te Mamaku of Ngāti Hāua-te-rangi – Ngāti Rangatahi’s Whanganui allies – led a raid on the British military stockade at Boulcott’s Farm, 5 km up the Hutt River from Petone. Six British soldiers were killed and another soldier and a farm worker were mortally wounded.

Two weeks earlier, Te Puni had warned of an impending attack. His offer to assist Major Mathew Richmond if he was supplied with arms and ammunition had been rejected.

After Boulcott’s Farm, however, Te Puni was issued with 100 muskets. He built a stockade between Fort Richmond (Lower Hutt) and Boulcott’s Farm, and strengthened his own pā at Petone.

Skirmishes took place between Te Puni’s men and Ngāti Hāua-te-rangi on 2 June. Although Te Puni did not wish to initiate an attack, he was prepared to assist the Europeans. Te Puni’s son later crossed the Hutt River, occupied a position that had been held by Ngāti Rangatahi, and forced them to retreat without battle.

In July Te Puni’s forces escorted militia and armed police across the western Hutt hills to Pāuatahanui. This action helped to prevent further occupation of the Hutt by Te Rangihaeata and his allies.

Te Puni died on 5 December 1870 and was buried in the family cemetery, the urupā at Petone, on the 9th. The funeral was ‘as great a one as the city [Wellington] could give’. Government offices, banks and commercial houses were closed for the day, and ‘everybody of any consequence, who could possibly make the trip, went out to Petone by sea or road’.

Pallbearers included Native Minister Donald McLean and William Fitzherbert, the local Member of the House of Representatives. The Bishop of Wellington, Octavius Hadfield, read the funeral service and three volleys were fired over Te Puni’s grave by members of the Hutt Volunteers.

This memorial was erected in 1872. The Ōamaru stone was carved by a Mr Membray from a design by Colonial Architect William Clayton.

In December 1907, Te Puni’s monument was described as the ‘saddest feature’ of the ‘forlorn’ urupā at Petone. Within the burial ground, many graves had no markers and long grass covered the area. The memorial itself leant sadly awry, its base tilted. Some rings had been broken from the stone at the top, the entire structure was covered in moss, and the fence railings were rusted.

It is unclear what action was taken, when, and by whom. However, a photograph taken by an Evening Post staffer on 23 January 1940 shows Te Puni’s memorial in better times. A large group surrounds the gravesite shortly after Deputy Prime Minister Walter Nash laid a wreath in memory of the chief to mark Wellington’s centennial.

The urupā in which Te Puni’s memorial stands remains in use, although it is now within an industrial area.

Additional images

honiana-te-puni honiana-te-puni honiana-te-puni

See also these 1940 and undated images of the memorial from the Alexander Turnbull Library.


Front face
To the memory of / Honiana Te Puni / A Chief of Ngatiawa / who died on the / 5th of December 1870

Side face
This / monument is erected by the / New Zealand government / in consideration of the / unbroken friendship / between him and the Pakeha

Rear face
Ko te Tohu Tenei o / Honiana Te Puni / Rangatira o Ngatiawa / I Mate I Te / 5th Tihema 1870

Side face
Na Te Kawanatanga Oniu / Tireni Tenei Kowhatu I / Whakatu Hei Tohu Mo Te / Piri Pono O Taua Kaumatua / Ki Te Pakeha

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