Te Kooti defeated at Ngātapa

4 January 1869

Rāpata Wahawaha led the Ngāti Porou forces in the capture of Ngātapa (Auckland Art Gallery)

Pursued by Māori allies of the government and colonial troops, Te Kooti retreated to Ngātapa, an old pā inland from Poverty Bay. 

Ngātapa was a hilltop fortress that appeared unassailable. Te Kooti’s people had toiled for weeks; constructing defences on a precipitous ridge 600 metres above sea level. However, the pā’s lack of a water supply was a crucial weakness. On 5 December 1868, Armed Constabulary troops and Ngāti Porou attacked the fortress with Wairoa allies led by Rāpata Wahawaha and Hōtene Porourangi, but failed to dislodge Te Kooti. A second attack on 1 January 1869 by the Armed Constabulary, Te Arawa and Ngāti Porou also failed.

Following a three-day siege, Te Kooti’s people scaled down sheer cliffs behind Ngātapa under the cover of darkness, and made their escape. Ngāti Porou and Te Arawa followed in pursuit, apprehending about 120 of the severely weakened escapees, all of whom were executed. Te Kooti and his key lieutenants escaped and sought sanctuary with Tūhoe in the remote Urewera Ranges.