Pukehinahina (Battle of Gate Pa 29.4.1864) by William Edward Morris
SummaryThis poem by former Tauranga City Archivist, William Edward Morris (1913-1999), appeared in his book of poetry entitled 'Treadmill of Time' which was published in 1977 (p. 45). Main Body
A brown pattern tide - not a tidal wave of ochre colour a huddle of tribal mahogany faces screwed in indecision watching Māori lands confiscated by Government purveyors, cut into blocks by Government surveyors - left to grow rank for a time creating seeds to a war-like clime.
Of all lands confiscated during Māori wars only one area Tauranga, where 50,000 acres were taken for not a tithe of compensation - thus spoke Māori Elder Turi Te Kani at centenary of Gate Pa.
As mutterings became a distinct threat to Government composure Ngāi Te Rangi in the West moved inland to Waoku reconditioned a Pa beyond confines of Te Papa - and were joined by tribal warriors from Waikato wars - when soldier, and sailor arrived in Tauranga harbour - they did not advance - instead Māoris invited troops to come if it was their wish to fight and sent a copy of rules to be observed as of right.
There was no reply so they advanced to Pukehinahina ridge - built a system of redoubt and trench - covered way like a giant maze, with only a fragmentation of a Pa confusing to attackers this strategy of war - and officers, and other ranks died on this trench floor - something campaigns in other lands had never showed before.
No English regiment at Waterloo lost as many officers as did the 43 rd at Gate Pa - 11 1 officers and men were killed or wounded - Māori lost 25 of her ochre coloured sons. Opposing a force of 2000 230 Māoris won the day - no matter what historians have to say.
This Māori maze of trenches carried to English shores by Artist Major Robley, became a standard pattern for friend, or foe in world war one - trench warfare was there to stay - it had its birth half a century before in a brief Māori war.
Land and its tenure has engendered strife since man ceased to be a nomad, $40, plus goods a Christian Mission Society paid for 1,334 acres on which Tauranga sits today, - would a city be there if Māoris at least some of them had not learnt a Christian way. “If they enemy hunger feed him - if he thirsts give him drink”.
Henare Taratoa was a mission trained student - he taught Pakeha soldiers chivalry in battle - amid maxim and cannon rattle at Gate Pa. He died at Te Ranga a magnificent gesture of defiance teaching us that on Māori word there was reliance.
A great warrior of more recent wars said, “There was not victory at Gate Pa but victory of a different sort when arms were piled at Te Ranga two races lived together in harmony - an honourable peace was filed.”
It is difficult to understand why one of a most war-like race in our world would feel need of complete surrender - unless they felt that it was best for both sides - and by their act Hell of Māori wars was rent asunder no more would cannon thunder, musketry rattle no more would foreign troops die on foreign soil in futile battle, under Antipodean skies.
If Gate Pa was a stepping stone to Peace then it has its place in history no matter who won - yet there can be no doubt it was a confused victory to ochre coloured sons. Some historians may minimise and lie - Gate Pa was an epic that will never