This memorial stands on the site of the Fort St George redoubt. It is located in Lower Pitone Road, Tātaraimaka, about 20 km south-west of New Plymouth. The memorial marks the mass grave of more than 20 Māori who were killed in the Battle of Katikara on 4 June 1863.
Governor George Grey reoccupied the Tātaraimaka block early in 1863. He did this despite being warned by Taranaki Māori that they would not leave Tātaraimaka until the government relinquished control of Waitara, on the other side of New Plymouth. Troops marched into Tātaraimaka on 4 April and set about building Fort St George.
Grey made preparations to return the Waitara block to Māori. However, on 4 May 1863, some 30 warriors of the Taranaki and Ngāti Ruanui iwi ambushed a small party of soldiers at Ōakura Beach. Nine men were killed, and Grey had the excuse he needed to go to war in the region. The Second Taranaki War would drag on until 1866.
Grey now sent the British military commander in New Zealand, Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron, to Tātaraimaka. Early on the morning of 4 June, with 870 troops from the 57th (under Colonel Henry James Warre) and 70th regiments, Cameron attacked Porou pā. The fortification had been constructed south of the Katikara River and within sight of Fort St George. The pa’s defenders came from several iwi, including Taranaki, Ngāti Ruanui and those of the upper Whanganui River.
Grey watched proceedings from HMS Eclipse. Covering fire from the warship enabled troops to storm the pā, which was only lightly fortified. Vastly outnumbered, the defenders retreated. Those who were able to flee were fortunate; those who sought refuge in some earthworks were trapped. Twenty-eight Māori were later buried in a mass grave near Fort St George. Cameron’s casualties included three dead.
The Katikara memorial was a joint venture between Ngā Māhanga a Tairi, the local hapū, and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The venture arose out of a 1998 journal article by the military historian Chris Pugsley which described the battle and the contemporary state of the site.
For decades the Katikara mass grave was marked only by a concrete slab that had been laid by the farmer who owned the land. Ministry staff consulted Ngā Māhanga a Tairi and it was agreed that the grave should be more formally marked. The Katikara memorial was unveiled on 16 June 2002, 139 years after the engagement. It was the first memorial to be created as a joint project between Māori and the Crown.
Here lie over 20 warriors of / Aotearoa: / Taranaki, Ngati Ruanui, Whanganui / me etehi atu. / They died for their beliefs / in the Battle / of / Katikara / 4th June 1863. / Takoto mai ratou i te Rangimarie / me te Rongopai / o to tatou ariki. / Erected by the New Zealand Government / in partnership with / Te Kotahitanga o Nga Mahanga a Tairi / June 2002
- James Belich, The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Penguin, Auckland, 1998, pp. 119–20, 190–2
- James Cowan, ‘The storming of Katikara’, in The New Zealand Wars: a history of the Maori campaigns and the pioneering period: volume I: 1845–1864, R.E. Owen, Wellington, 1955, pp. 225–9
- Ministry for Culture and Heritage, ‘Monuments: Katikara Memorial’
- Nigel Prickett, ‘The Second Taranaki War and After, 1863-81’, in Landscapes of conflict: a field guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House, Auckland, 2002, pp. 96–104
- Nigel Prickett, ‘The Military Engagement at Katikara, Taranaki, 4 June 1863’, Records of the Auckland Museum, no. 45, 2008, pp. 5–41
- Chris Pugsley, ‘Walking the Taranaki Wars: An Excuse for War: The Battle of Katikara, 4 June 1863’, New Zealand Defence Quarterly, no. 21 (Winter 1998), pp. 32–7