Dog Tax War narrowly averted

5 May 1898

Māori arrested for taking part in the ‘Dog Tax Rebellion’ (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-018754-F)

War threatened sleepy Hokianga as government troops marched towards armed Māori ‘rebels’.

This was the climax of widespread Māori opposition to dog registration. Most Māori had little involvement with the cash economy and owned many dogs, especially for hunting. They saw the annual ‘dog tax’ of 2s 6d per dog as discrimination.

In April 1898 a relative of Hōne Tōia of Te Mahurehure told officials that his people would not pay land, dog or other taxes – and would continue to shoot pigeons out of season. After armed Māori visited Rāwene, Richard Seddon’s government rushed troops and a gunboat from Auckland.

As Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart Newall’s force trudged towards Waimā, Hōne Heke Ngapua MP urged Hōne Tōia to surrender. In the nick of time, he sent a messenger to call off a planned ambush.

Next day the Waimā leaders laid down their arms. Sixteen men, including Tōia, were arrested and pleaded guilty to illegal assembly; the ‘ringleaders’ were gaoled for 18 months. The fines and taxes were paid after the authorities prudently awarded the hapū a contract to produce railway sleepers. 

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