The Northern War

Page 1 – Introduction

Hōne Heke fells the flagstaff at Kororāreka
A war party watches as Hōne Heke fells the flagstaff at Kororāreka

The image of Hōne Heke chopping down the British flag on Maiki hill above Kororāreka (Russell) in 1845 is the enduring symbol of the Northern War. At the time this conflict was often called ‘Hōne Heke’s Rebellion’ or the ‘Flagstaff War’.

The Northern War was the first serious challenge to the Crown in the years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Its opening shots marked the beginning of the wider North Island conflicts that are often referred to as the New Zealand Wars.

This complex conflict involved fighting between two factions of Ngāpuhi as well as clashes with British forces. The war began with the sacking of Kororāreka (Russell), then New Zealand’s fifth largest town. Fighting followed at Puketutu in May. One of the most significant battles of the war – at Te Ahuahu in June – involved only Ngāpuhi. The British were defeated at Ōhaeawai in July and the fighting ended six months later after an inconclusive battle at Ruapekapeka.

How to cite this page

'The Northern War', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 18-Aug-2017