Turbulent times at Te Hāroto - roadside stories

The tiny settlement of Te Hāroto, on the Napier–Taupō road, was once a major village of the Ngāti Hineuru tribe, followers of the Pai Mārire faith, which supported Māori self-determination. In 1866 a Pai Mārire group from Te Hāroto planning to attack Napier were defeated by settler militia, and those who survived the battle were shipped to the Chatham Islands. The government later built a blockhouse at Te Hāroto.


Narrator: Te Hāroto, which lies on the Napier–Taupō road, was one of the main villages of the small Ngāti Hineuru tribe. Its marae has links with the famous Māori leader Te Kooti, and the Pai Mārire faith.

Hawke’s Bay saw little fighting during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s. This was mainly because there were relatively few contentious European settlements and because of the influence that land purchase agent and Superintendent of Hawke’s Bay Province Donald McLean had with key Māori chiefs in the area.  

However, tensions were simmering beneath the surface. For some Māori these tensions found an outlet in the Pai Mārire, or Hauhau, an independent Māori Christian religion. Most Europeans and many Māori were opposed to Pai Mārire, which means goodness and peace, because of the violent actions carried out in its name.

But Pai Mārire continued to attract converts, especially when the government began to confiscate Māori land. The 1865 ritual killing of missionary Carl Völkner in the Bay of Plenty by Hauhau followers shocked many people. He was hanged from a tree near his church in Ōpōtiki by members of his own congregation. The government used the killing as a reason to take harsh action against Pai Mārire and to confiscate land.

The Ngāti Hineuru tribe were followers of Pai Mārire. The tribe’s leaders travelled around Hawke’s Bay on evangelical missions, with some success.

At a meeting near Hastings in 1866, Reverend Samuel Williams found Te Hapuku, a high-ranking Ngāti Kahungunu chief, sitting dejectedly outside. He reportedly told Williams that the people in the packed meeting house, who were being preached to by Panapa, a Ngāti Hineuru spiritual leader, had gone mad and would not listen to reason. Williams is said to have won the support of the people back when he went inside and destroyed the arguments of Panapa.

Later that year, a party of about 80 Hauhaus set out from Te Hāroto with the intention of attacking Napier. When they arrived at the fenced village of Ōmarunui, near Napier, they were warned to return home or else they would be attacked.

Meanwhile, preparations were made by Napier settlers to repel a possible attack. A militia of about 200 soldiers marched to Ōmarunui. A representative went into the village and demanded the surrender of the Hauhaus within an hour; otherwise they would be fired upon. The Hauhaus were undecided about what to do, but refrained from any act of violence. The militia surrounded the village and fired on the Hauhaus.

Māori warrior (actor’s voice): I saw Nikora shot in the body; two bullets struck him. A number of us retreated across the swamp and took to the hills, but we were surrounded there by cavalry and forced to surrender. 

Narrator: Many Hauhaus were killed, including Panapa, their spiritual leader. Casualties were heavy and eventually the Hauhaus surrendered. Almost all the party were killed, wounded or captured.

Māori warrior: All of us who could walk were marched to Napier, and the wounded were taken to hospital there. Then we were shipped off to the Chatham Islands in a steamer. Only one of my comrades succeeded in returning to Te Hāroto.

Narrator: After the Hauhau defeat, Napier was never attacked again. Despite suppressing the Hauhaus from Ngāti Hineuru, the government kept an eye on Te Hāroto. In 1869, they built a military blockhouse near the marae during the so-called ‘reign of terror’ by the Māori resistance leader Te Kooti. After he had been pardoned in 1883, Te Kooti visited the marae at Te Hāroto, and named its meeting house Rongopai, which means peace.

Community contributions

4 comments have been posted about Turbulent times at Te Hāroto - roadside stories

What do you know?

G Anaru

Posted: 10 Sep 2016

There are a lot of versions about this sorry affair...but the writer needs to study the facts and get them right before producing a load of hogwash that supports the actions of D Mclean and cohorts.


Posted: 01 Jul 2015


The Wharenui is named Rongopai

Tuhoe maori girl

Posted: 30 Oct 2013

I was so blessed to meet so many loving people from this marae. And I will never 4get my stay with you while attending Te korowai aroha. Barbie and the rockers foreva in my heart. Kia kaha nga whanau katoa