Mahoetahi NZ Wars memorial

This memorial stands in the grounds of St Mary’s vicarage in New Plymouth. It marks the graves of Ngāti Hauā chief Wetini Taiporutu, his son Hemi, Ngāti Apakura chief Whararangi, Ngāti Kōura chief Hakopa and two unnamed chiefs, all of whom were killed at Mahoetahi on 6 November 1860.

In early November 1860, a party of Ngāti Hauā Kingites from Waikato arrived in the Waitara district and began fortifying an old pā site on a low hill at Mahoetahi, 13 km from New Plymouth. The party, intended as the advance echelon of a larger force, was between 50 and 150 strong.

On 6 November, Ngāti Hauā were attacked in the unfinished pā by a force of about 700 imperial troops and local volunteers and militia led by Major-General Thomas Pratt. After a brief struggle involving ‘fierce hand to hand combat’ on top of the hill and at the edge of a swamp to its rear, the surviving defenders retreated towards Huirangi.

Later that day, Assistant Native Secretary Robert Parris reported the casualties to his superior, Donald McLean. Ngāti Hauā left behind at least 31 dead; of the six defenders taken prisoner, only one was not badly wounded. From this prisoner, Parris obtained the names of more than half the Māori dead; in his opinion there were ‘as many more, killed and wounded not yet heard of’. The British casualties were four dead – two militia and two troops – and 12 wounded, only one seriously.

Parris proposed that the chiefs Taiporutu, Whararangi and Hakopa be buried ‘in town’. The chiefs were subsequently buried at St Mary’s by special order of Major-General Pratt in recognition of their bravery. The rest of the approximately 50 Māori killed that day were buried in a mass grave on Mahoetahi itself.

The memorial was erected nearly 70 years after the engagement at Mahoetahi. On 20 August 1929, the Department of Internal Affairs approved a grant of £33 for an inscribed headstone of red Balmoral granite. It was unveiled in January 1930.

Transcript

Maori War / In honoured memory / of / Wetine Taiporutu, Whararangi, Hakopa / Hemi Taiporutu and two others. / Chiefs of the Waikato and / Allied Tribes, who fell fearlessly / leading their tribesmen at / Mahoetahi, 6th Nov. 1860. / ‘Haeri ra o Taiporutu / i te riri kaihoro.’

Further information

  • James Belich, ‘The Maori strategy and the British response’, in The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict, Penguin, Auckland, 1998, pp. 99–116
  • ‘List of natives killed’, Daily Southern Cross, 13 November 1860
  • ‘Our old time volunteers’, Evening Post, 6 April 1908
  • Nigel Prickett, ‘The First Taranaki War 1860–61’, in Landscapes of conflict: a field guide to the New Zealand Wars, Random House, Auckland, 2002, pp. 58–68
  • Chris Pugsley, ‘Walking the Taranaki Wars: Maori Defeat at Mahoetahi, 6 November 1860’, New Zealand Defence Quarterly, no. 11 (Summer 1995), pp. 32–6

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