| | |

The New Zealand Wars

New Holland, 2018
ISBN 9781869664787
Shortlisted for the Children’s and Young Adults Book Awards 2018
Storylines list of notable books for 2019

Rev ed: White Cloud Books (an imprint of Upstart Press), 2023
ISBN 9781990003936

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.


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 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. This book took me all over the country, tracking down graveyards, old battlefields, churches and other historic sites.

Media interviews

In conversation with Kathryn Ryan on the importance of talking to children about both war and peace….listen here
Nine to Noon, RNZ, 8 February 2018


“Superbly organised, illustrated and accurate.” Thanks to Bobs Books Blog for this review.

Similar Posts