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Ruakituri NZ Wars memorial

Ruakituri Cemetery Reserve is located in bush off Pāpuni Road next to the Ruakituri River, several kilometres north-west of the tiny Hawke’s Bay settlement of Ruakituri. The remote site, approximately 30 km north-west of Te Rēinga and 60 km north of Wairoa, is close to the intersection of the Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty and East Coast regions. On 8 August 1868, Ruakituri was the scene of a skirmish between government forces and those of Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Tūruki.

After escaping from the Chatham Islands, Te Kooti and some 300 followers landed at Whareongaonga on 10 July 1868. From here, just south of Poverty Bay, Te Kooti headed inland towards Puketapu pā, in the remote country bordering the Urewera Mountains and Lake Waikaremoana. He was pursued by separate parties of Armed Constabulary, local volunteers and kūpapa (Māori fighting alongside the government).

The initial campaign, from 15 July to mid-August 1868, included three engagements. After skirmishes at Paparatu (20 July) and Te Kōneke (24 July), Te Kooti retreated up the Ruakituri Valley. In pursuit were some 30 Europeans and 40 Māori volunteers from Napier, led by Colonel George Whitmore (a Hawke’s Bay runholder who had served on Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron’s staff), and 52 Armed Constabulary under Major James Fraser. On 8 August, realising that his pursuers would soon catch up, Te Kooti occupied a strong position in the Ruakituri gorge.

That afternoon, as Whitmore’s force moved up the gorge to attack Te Kooti’s position, it came under fire from several concealed positions in front and on the right. Only the Napier kūpapa on the flank and the steadiness of the European troops under fire prevented a resounding defeat. Whitmore withdrew, leaving five dead and carrying six wounded, at least one of whom soon died.

Ten days later, the Hawke’s Bay Herald printed a list of those killed and wounded at Ruakituri. Captain Oswald Carr, formerly of the Royal Artillery, was attached to the colonial force as a volunteer. The Herald’s correspondent ‘never approached near enough to discover how’ Carr died. Davis (recorded on official casualty lists as James David) Canning of the Hawke’s Bay Military Settlers was ‘shot through the body in two places’. One account of the engagement noted that Canning died ‘gallantly leading the men’.

Constables Patrick Condon and William Coates were both shot through the head. There was no mention of how Private Rauriri Rihara (sometimes spelt ‘Rihera’) of the Napier Native Volunteers died. Constable P. Byrne’s wound through the body, ‘down small of back’, was initially described as dangerous; a later report confirmed his death.

Sub-Inspector Arthur Tuke was severely wounded in the arm. Constable J. Beatty was wounded severely in the thigh and ‘slightly’ in the wrist. Constable J. Lewis was severely wounded in the leg, or possibly the buttock. G. McCoy of the Napier Volunteers received a severe shoulder wound. Nothing is known about the fifth wounded man, referred to only as ‘a native’. It is possible that two of these men later died of their wounds.

European reports initially estimated that Te Kooti had lost 20 to 30 men. These figures were exaggerated – the Māori loses were two killed and nine wounded, one mortally. Te Kooti himself had been shot in the ankle. He and his followers continued on to Puketapu, which they reached within a few days.

The Gisborne District Police erected this memorial cairn in Ruakituri Cemetery Reserve in 1986, the centennial year of the New Zealand Police. In both Māori and English, the memorial recounts the events leading up to the battle at Ruakituri.

The memorial also records the names of Coates, Condon, Byrne and Rihara, whose exact burial places appear to be unknown; Byrne, for example, is thought to have been buried some distance down-river. The memorial stands beside the graves of Canning and Carr.

Additional images



Armed Constabulary memorial

Bronze plaque:

Buried near this site are the / bodies of Constables Coates, / Condon and Byrne of No. 1 Division / Armed Constabulary, and Private / Rihara, Napier Native Volunteers. / They were killed in action against / Te Kooti at Papuni on the / 8th August 1868. / Erected by the Gisborne District / Police in their centennial year / 1986.

Granite plaque:

Na te iwi

In remembrance / of the people who gave / their lives for what they / believed in. After escaping / from the Chatham Islands in / August 1868 / Te Kooti & his / party landed at Whareonga- / onga. They were pursued by / the Armed Constabulary & / local volunteers. After a / skirmish at Paparatu, Te Kooti / retreated up the Ruakituri / Valley & here at Papuni, a / scouting party of Constables / & Volunteers was ambushed / with the loss of the six / men who are buried at this / sacred spot. / May peace be widespread.

He tohu aroha kia / Te Kooti Turuki Rikirangi me / te hunga i hinga i tena rohe / i tena rohe i nga tau e tohe / ana, e riri ana, Te Kooti me / nga hoia a te kanawatanga [sic] / o Aotearoa 1868–1883. Te kau / ma rima na tau e whawhai ana / tenei tipuna a Te Kooti i roto / i tona tumanako me ana / moemoea. Kore rawa aia i / mauherehere ano. / I te tau 1883 ka whaka / korehia e te kawanatanga / tona mau i ro herehere. / Engari kaore ia e tukuna / mo te hoki ki Turanga ano. / Arohanui. / Kia hora te maungarongo

Canning cairn

In memory of / Davis Canning / killed in action / 8th August 1868 / 'ne cede malis sed. contra'

Canning plaque

Sacred / to the / memory of / Davis Canning of Hawkes Bay / third son of the late Davis Canning Esq. / of Osbourne St. Andrews Malbro Wilts England / who fell in action at Ruakituri / Aug 8th 1868 / aged 39 years

Carr grave

Capt Oswald Carr. R.A. / of Hedgeley, Northumberland. / August. 8. 1868. / aged 31 years.

Further information


Images: Margaret Marks, 2007 and 2009

How to cite this page

Ruakituri NZ Wars memorial, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated