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The Story Of Gate Pa, April 29th, 1864

The Building of the Fort

The Building of the Fort

Some days went by and at last we resolved to occupy and fortify a position on the ridge known as Pukehinahina, about three miles from the town of Tauranga. This place was called the Gate Pa, by the Europeans, because a ditch and bank had been made across the narrow ridge connecting the two arms of Tauranga harbour, Waikareao and Waimapu. In the evening we set out for this place, every person carrying bundles of flax, small manuku, and tupakihi poles and sticks for building our redoubt—you know how scarce timber is at Tauranga.

We crossed high up the Kopurererua and met the Hairini and Waoku detachments in rear of Pukehinahina. We reached the position about midnight, and started at once to build two pas. We trenched out one (the smaller of the two), on the western side of the ridge. This was built by the Pirirakau (bush denizens) and Ngaitamawhariua hapus of Ngaiterangi and the Koheriki people. Heta and from thirty to thirty-five men garrisoned it. The large pa on the eastern side of the ridge was garrisoned by about two hundred men of the Ngaiterangi. Our women were with us, working as hard as the men, carrying back loads of material for the defences and food for the warriors. We sent them away to safety before the fighting began. We were very short of wood for the stockade, so page 24 next night a number of us went down toward the township quite close to the soldiers' quarters and pulled down Mr Clarke's fence and collected all the timber we could, also demolishing a stockyard and hauling the rails back to our position. They came in handy for the pa. With the material so obtained we built a light low fence enclosing the two redoubts. Besides the fences there were parapets, ditches and rifle pits, and within the redoubt shelters were dug for the protection of the garrison. Men went to Pukereia to collect timber to roof over our rifle pits and covered ways. While so engaged three Europeans were seen approaching on horseback. Our men concealed themslves in the fern and the pakehas rode straight up to where they lay. I think Colonel Harington was one. They suddenly came upon the Maoris, but were not molested, and seemed very glad to escape, going back faster than they came. Then we knew why the pakeha chief had not sent a reply to our challenge. It was because the Europeans were waiting for reinforcements from Auckland, and now they had come; so we girded up ourselves for the fight, and our leaders spoke words of valiant encouragement, bidding us be strong and fearless and strike hard for our homes, though all the might of Ingarangi (England) assailed us.