Books

The New Zealand Wars

The New Zealand Wars is a fascinating look at a part of New Zealand’s history and culture that many people feel they don’t know enough about.

Why did the New Zealand Wars start? When and where did they take place, and who was involved? How are the Wars commemorated today? Where are these places: Kororareka, Ruapekapeka, Rangiriri, Gate Pā? What happened at Parihaka? This book will tell you all these things and more, and it’s crammed full of fascinating pictures as well.


Excerpt

When Colonel Despard ordered his troops to attack the pā at Ōhaeawai before the walls had been knocked down by artillery fire, Maning and Webster told him it was a mistake.

"What do you civilians know of the matter?" replied Despard.

"Sir," said Maning, "we may not know much, but there is one that apparently knows less, and that is yourself."

Despard got very angry, and threatened to arrest us. Nene now enquired what the chief of the soldiers was saying. Maning told him. "He tangata kumare tene tangata." What does the chief say, Despard enquired of his interpreter (I think Meurant was the interpreter's name). He scratched his head, and said it is not complimentary. "But I order you, sir," said Despard. "The chief says you are a very stupid person," then replied Meurant.
(John Webster, Reminiscences of an old settler in Australia and New Zealand, 1908)

The battle site at Ruapekapeka, Northland. Another fascinating site to visit.
The battle site at Ruapekapeka, Northland. Another fascinating site to visit.

The Alexandra Redoubt at Pirongia, built in 1872. One of the best preserved of the earthworks built for the NZ Wars.
The Alexandra Redoubt at Pirongia, built in 1872. One of the best preserved of the earthworks built for the NZ Wars.

The story behind the book

This is a book that grew out of other books I’ve worked on. After learning about World War One for my Anzac Day and Armistice Day books, I realised that I knew very little about the wars fought actually in this country.

I went to school in New Plymouth but I never learnt about the battles fought in Taranaki, or visited any of the old battle sites. I’ve driven past the Boulcott Farm memorial in Lower Hutt many times without knowing what it was. I hadn’t heard of Gate Pā / Pukehinahina until a few years ago.

The more I read about the New Zealand Wars, the more I wanted to find out.

Reader's Activity

• Find out if there is a memorial to the New Zealand Wars anywhere near where you live.

• Make a plan for how you and your family, whanau, friends or class might mark the next Raa Maumahara on 28 October.

• When the soldiers invaded Parihaka on 5 November 1881, they were given loaves of bread that had been baked for them the night before. Bake a loaf of bread and give it away to someone.

• Read some books about 19th century New Zealand. Some good ones to start with are Wars in the Whitecloud: Wairau 1843 by Matthew McKinley, Taratoa and the Code of Conduct by Debbie McCauley, Journey under warning and The end of the harbour by Elsie Locke, Mission girl (first published as A new song in the land) by Fleur Beale and Jacky Nobody by Anne de Roo. Also recommended is Bastion Point: 570 days on Takaparawha by Tania Roxborogh.

• Look at pg 73 (Things you can do) for more follow up activities. Send me an email and tell me what you’ve found out.

Reviews

"When I was at school in the 1950’s and 60’s The New Zealand Wars were called the Maori Wars then the Land Wars and even today they are a sensitive issue in our social, racial and economic history." ... read more
Bobs books blog

<< back to books