Ngā Tohuwhenua Mai Te Rangi: A New Zealand Archeology in Aerial Photographs
The Methodist Mission in New Zealand, initially established at Kaeo near Whangaroa Harbour in the far north, later established other mission stations, especially on the west coast harbours such as Hokianga and the Mōkau River. The wider area of the Aotea north head was converted to agricultural uses by the 1840s. Some of the missionaries, such as the Revd Cort Schnackenberg, were poorly supported by church stipend, and had to farm and trade for a living. In 1844 a farm and school were established by the Methodists at 'Beechamdale' near Raorao-kauere on the north-eastern side of the inner reaches of the harbour. In 1846 a mill was constructed under the direction of the Revd Gideon Smales. 23 After 14 years at the Mōkau River station, Schnackenberg moved to conduct the Kāwhia 'circuit' (including Aotea) from 1858 through the testing period of the Waikato wars, settling finally at north Aotea in 1864. By 1869 the Revd John Moore was in charge for a short period at Aotea. With Māori adherence to Pai Mārire and increasing European settlement, the mission to the Māori community became limited in scope. Schnackenberg bought land at Aotea in 1873 and appears to have farmed there from that date. 24
The mission was therefore established before the Waikato wars, abandoned just prior, and then re-established after. This prolonged period of farming appears to have been responsible for a most remarkable assemblage of ditch and bank fences at north head, in the same general area as the pre-European settlement discussed in the preceding paragraphs. The fences form complete enclosures or groups of enclosures ('yards'), enclosures formed against steep cliffs, and lengthy 'boundary' fences. One boundary fence, in particular, has been cut along the length of the pā, Manuaitu, using the pre-European defensive ditch and bank for part of its length. It may have served to fence off a considerable area of north head sand dunes from the northern farmland, preventing stock wandering in relatively unproductive country. The fence has been described as a pre-European 'track', an unconvincing interpretation.page break
Pā and pits on old dune country near Aotea Harbour
Up to four pā may be detected on this photograph. The largest of the pā (centre right), Manuaitu, is 600 m long and composed of six different defended segments. The photograph was taken in March 1944. The lines across the centre of the photograph are scratches on the positive transparency copy from which this photograph was prepared. Borrow-pits for sand show as depressions on the ridges about the pā. The sand was probably laid as a mulch over garden soils. Most of the gardening is somewhat away from the coast; there are few pits closer than 800 m to the beach, probably because the prevailing south-west winds prevented horticulture in those areas. Storage pits occur near or within the pā perimeter, but they have an irregular (not rectangular) shape in plan because of the action of stock breaking down the crust of hard sand through which the pits were originally dug. Ditch and bank fences near the house above Schnackenberg Bay can be seen more clearly. The fences may be the original ditch and bank fences of Schnackenberg's farm.
An oblique view of Manuaitu, looking to the north-east
A ditch and bank fence runs from the south-west to the southern perimeter of the pā, following the pre-European defensive ditch and scarp, and then out bottom left over the modern farm road. A similar view in colour is on page 53.
The Rangiriri fortifications, lower Waikato River, in their tactical setting
This oblique view of the Rangiriri locality, looking southeast and up-river, shows the strategic significance of the narrow stretch of dry land extending along the banks of the Waikato River. To the west is the river, to the east the swampy margins of Lake Kopuera, a lake big enough to be difficult to outflank. The swamps, lake and river and the presence of the state highway have forced housing and light industry to encroach on the limited areas of high ground, all of which were occupied by Maori at this famous battle site. The line of the principal trench crossed the low hill in the foreground. The position of the fortification at its centre is marked by the white posts of the cemetery fence. The surviving redoubt in the rear of the main Maori line is just to the right of the small building on the extreme left middle of the photograph.
The central fortification in the principal Maori line of defence
The area within the fence is an historic reserve. The Imperial troops were repelled from the near face of the fortification which projected forward from the double trench across the neck between Lake Kopuera and the Waikato River. The double ditch runs towards the camera viewpoint but is not clearly visible.
A contemporary view of Rangiriri
The transverse ditch runs across the narrow ridge. The view is to the south with the river in the distance. The central fortification is at right.
The battlefield at Orākau, south-east of Kihikihi
British troops established a broad line on the north-west of the field on the approach route from Kihikihi. The modern road follows the broad ridge and then swings down into the swampy ground surrounding the battlefield to the east and south-east. British troops and the Forest Rangers occupied positions on the high exposed points by these swamps. The pā was on a low rise now cut by the road, where the monument (marked by a line of shrubs) is today. Eventually, the British sapped along the line of the road for some 100 m. Rewi Maniapoto and his forces then broke out into the swamp to the south, suffering further casualties, although most escaped.
Some of the major European fortifications of this period are relatively well represented in reserve areas. The Rangiriri and Meremere redoubts are typical examples. They are in fact on parts of the line of Māori fortifications of the campaign of 1863; some of the Māori positions were subsequently converted to European military use and revamped into more or less orthodox forms. In the original Māori forms, the fortifications were part of an extensive array of rifle trenches along ridges set at an angle to the river and surrounded by swamps or lakes. The central parts had elaborate bastions, forward and flanking rifle pits, and intricate networks of rifle trenches. Although these rifle trenches survived, were visited by James Cowan in the 1930s and show in 1950s aerial photographs, 27 only the Europeanised redoubts are now visible on the surface.
The final stages of the campaign, then, were fought in the heartlands from the Waipā River through Pāterangi to Ōrākau. 28 After bypassing Pāterangi, the British struck south and west towards Rangiaowhia aiming at 'lines of communication, political rallying points and, above all, at supply bases'. 29 These objectives having been fulfilled, there remained the finish at Ōrākau. Here a medium-sized Kingite force (150 men), mainly Tūhoe and Ngāti Raukawa, built a small redoubt on a slight rise on open ground on a broad low-lying ridge. The wider setting of the pā was carefully described by James Cowan. 30 Rewi Maniapoto was reluctant to fight here. 31 As if anticipating the enormous symbolic significance of this action— 'Rewi's Last Stand'—set in the midst of the dying remnants of those flourishing settlements of the 1850s, he said:
Whakarongo mai te runanga, me nga iwi: Ko te whawhai tenei i whaia mai e tatou, a i oma hoki hei aha? Ki toku mahara hoki, me mate tatou mate ki te pakanga, ora tatou ora ki te marae o te pakanga.
Listen to me, chiefs of the council and all the tribes! It was we who sought this battle, wherefore, then, should we retreat? This is my thought: Let us abide by the fortune of war; if we are to die, let us die in battle; if we are to live, let us survive on the field of battle. 32
The British forces unsuccessfully assaulted the pā, then encircled it, placing units in close order at many points about 250 m from the perimeter. Then they commenced a sap. The disposition of the British forces and the evident intent to force a finish is clear from the aerial photograph view, as clear indeed as it was to be several years later at Ngatapa, East Coast. Eventually, the Māori defenders were forced to break out of the pā, and against light resistance at the natural slope to the swamp at the south, a large number escaped, including Rewi Maniapoto himself. The successful escape to what became known as the 'King Country' brought much condemnation from European quarters on the British field commander of the day. 33