Ngāti Tūwharetoa marks 150th anniversary of final NZ Wars engagement

By Hana Mereraiha, Te Ao - Māori News

Today marks the 150th anniversary of one of the last major engagements of the New Zealand Wars, when the colonial government failed to recapture prominent Māori leader Te Kooti Arikirangi Turuki. The event was commemorated at Ōtūkou Marae, Ngāti Tūwharetoa. 

Ōtūkou Marae is nearby Te Pōrere where Te Kooti and his supporters built two redoubts or pā above the Whanganui River.

Ngāti Tūwharetoa paramount chief, Sir Tumu Te Heuheu says, “This is also a time to reflect on the reasons why our tūpuna were here and to ensure that future generations understand the significance of this wāhi tapu and the part it will play in the lives of our mokopuna.”

Ngāti Tūwharetoa researchers are gathering stories and taonga related to Te Pōrere for collation into print and digital formats.

A commemorative pou whakairo, being carved by Hayz Isherwood of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro, will also be unveiled at the site when completed.

In a media release, Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga said:

"On October 4 1869, Te Kooti Arikirangi Turuki defended his position against a combined force of more than 500 government troops and Māori allies at Te Pōrere.

"The troops attacked the lower redoubt, which Ngāti Tūwharetoa was defending, and then launched an attack on the upper redoubt where Te Kooti was. Eventually, the defenders fell to the invasion force.

"Te Kooti, however, managed to give his would-be captors the slip by disappearing into the bush – avoiding capture and possibly death. By the end of the battle, however, 41 people were dead – 37 of whom were Te Kooti’s supporters."