The Northern War

Page 6 – The quest for peace

After Ōhaeawai, Governor FitzRoy declared that the ‘rebels’ had ‘suffered severely’. Behind the scenes, he authorised Colonel Despard to conduct peace negotiations. FitzRoy also began talks with Hōne Heke through the missionaries Robert Burrows and Henry Williams.

Though Heke declared he would ‘never to submit to the flag’, FitzRoy accepted most of his terms. The sticking point was the governor’s insistence that land to which Te Ruki Kawiti shared rights with a number of neutral and pro-government Māori must be ceded to the Crown. Though Kawiti objected, Heke began to waver – but in October, FitzRoy was relieved of his commission.

George Grey replaced FitzRoy as governor on 18 November 1845. Grey believed FitzRoy’s negotiations had been ‘inconsistent with the interests of the British Government’. He was particularly incensed by a letter from Heke which asserted:

God made this country for us. It cannot be sliced … Do you return to your own country, which was made by God for you. God made this land for us; it is not for any stranger or foreign nation to meddle with this sacred country.

When negotiations broke down in early December, Grey ordered Despard to attack Ruapekapeka, a pā that was being constructed by Kawiti nearly 30 km south-east of Ōhaeawai.

How to cite this page

'The quest for peace', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 2-Apr-2019