War in Taranaki 1860-63

Page 8 – The second Taranaki war

On 12 March 1863, 300 men of the 57th Regiment evicted Māori from land they had occupied at Tātaraimaka, 20 km south-west of New Plymouth. The tribes occupying the land – Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāti Rauru and Whanganui – viewed this as an act of war.

With plans for an invasion of Waikato well under way, Governor George Grey was keen to resolve the conflict in Taranaki. In April 1863 he was preparing to return the disputed land at Waitara, although this was not communicated to Māori. On 4 May nine of the ten soldiers in a small British party were killed in an ambush near Ōakura. Grey blamed the Kīngitanga, which he claimed was also planning a ‘bloodthirsty’ assault on Auckland. A request for three additional regiments was sent to the Colonial Office in London. Troops who had been moved to Auckland to help build a road to the Waikato River were recalled to New Plymouth. Settler volunteers and militia were called up, including a new unit, the Taranaki Bush Rangers.

Grey now adopted a ‘carrot and stick’ strategy. Shortly after the ambush at Ōakura, he renounced the government’s claim to Waitara while planning to evict the 50 Maori who were still camped at Tātaraimaka. On 4 June, 870 men led by the British commander, Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron, overwhelmed the small Māori force occupying a pā above the Katikara River, killing half of them. Grey watched with interest from HMS Eclipse. Satisfied that the immediate danger in Taranaki had passed, Grey turned his attention to Waikato. Many of the troops in Taranaki were sent back to Auckland and the British abandoned their position at Fort St George in the Tātaraimaka block.

Allen’s Hill

The invasion of Waikato began on 12 July 1863. Taranaki remained relatively quiet, with the exception of a skirmish at Allen’s Hill, above Ōmata, on 2 October. This action, also known as Poutoko, involved members of the 57th Regiment, the Taranaki Mounted Volunteers and the Taranaki Rifle Volunteers. Victoria Crosses were won by Drummer Dudley Stagpoole and Ensign John Down of the 57th Regiment. Portuguese-born settler Antonio Rodrigues de Sardinha was awarded a New Zealand Cross for his conduct at Allen’s Hill.

After the fighting at Allen’s Hill, Māori built several pā on the Kaitake range, behind Ōakura. After they were driven out of the area by troops and militia in March 1864, a redoubt was built to protect local military settlers. Followers of the Pai Mārire (‘Hau Hau’) faith responded on 6 April by killing seven members of a British patrol in an ambush at Te Ahuahu, near Ōakura. The head of Captain Thomas Lloyd was sent around the North Island to encourage fighters to join Pai Mārire. The war in Taranaki – and across the North Island – was about to enter a new phase.

How to cite this page

'The second Taranaki war', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/taranaki-wars/second-taranaki-war, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Oct-2021