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Colonial troops invade the Urewera

6 May 1869

Captain Thomas Porter with his Māori 'auxiliaries'
Captain Thomas Porter with his Māori 'auxiliaries' (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-011006-F)

The main purpose of the operation was to punish Tūhoe for supporting Te Kooti Rikirangi, whose ‘rebel’ force they had sheltered after it was defeated at Ngātapa, inland from Poverty Bay, in January. The expedition was also intended to send a signal that there was no sanctuary – however remote from Pākehā settlement – for disaffected Māori.

Three columns of Armed Constabulary and allied Māori were to converge on Ruatāhuna, deep in the interior. The 1300 men outnumbered the entire population of the Urewera. Two columns started in Bay of Plenty, while a third from the east coast got no further than Waikaremoana.

The Rangitāīki column first saw action on 6 May near today’s village of Te Whāiti, killing five Tūhoe. After it met up with the Whakatāne column at Ruatāhuna on 9 May, the combined force spent several days destroying settlements, crops and food supplies.

This invasion of the Urewera was followed by another three-pronged attack in 1870 and several subsequent Ngāti Porou incursions in search of Te Kooti, who hid in Tūhoe territory with his dwindling force even after he was renounced by the iwi.

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Colonial troops invade the Urewera, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated