Overview: The Battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga 1864 by Cliff Simons
SummaryWhile the Battle of Gate Pa lasted only a few hours on April 29th, 1864, a lot of preparation occurred by both sides long before the actual event. Main Body
1. The blockade of Tauranga Harbour. War came to Tauranga in 1864 as an extension of the fighting in the Waikato. The government forces had invaded the Waikato in mid-1863 in an attempt to suppress the Kingitanga Movement and to secure large areas of land for settlement. Tauranga was an important part of the wider Māori logistic system and so the government decided to blockade the harbour to stop the flow of warriors and war supplies across into the Waikato. Six hundred troops and Royal Navy ships arrived in Tauranga in late January 1864 to establish the blockade. The subsequent battles of Gate Pa (29 April) and Te Ranga (21 June) were two of New Zealand’s most important colonial-period battles.
2. Māori reaction. The Māori reacted to the arrival of the British troops by strengthening several existing pa sites and trying to entice the troops to march out from Camp Te Papa (the old mission buildings) and attack them where the Māori would be strong and the troops vulnerable. This strategy did not work because Colonel Greer, in command of the troops, was under orders not to become involved in aggressive actions at that point. Eventually the Māori, under the control of the Ngāi Te Rangi chief Rawiri Puhirake, forced the issue by constructing a pā on the border of Māori-owned and Mission-owned land at Gate Pa.
3. British military attack Gate Pa. When General Cameron, the commander of all military forces in New Zealand, learnt about the new pā he came to Tauranga with another 1200 men and more artillery. He was determined to achieve a decisive military and political victory. On 29 April Cameron’s force attacked the pā which was garrisoned by a meagre force of approximately 230 Māori warriors. Remarkably, the British troops that assaulted to position were driven out of the pā and the Māori achieved an unlikely victory. The keys to the victory were the design of the pā and the determination of its defenders.
4. The second British attack at Te Ranga. Seven weeks later, on 21 June, a second battle was fought at Te Ranga which is on Pyes Pa Road. A tactical mistake that the British had made at Gate Pa was to allow the Māori plenty of time to construct a very good pā. This time they actively patrolled the area and discovered the pā at Te Ranga the morning its construction began. Colonel Greer mounted a quick attack and the defenders were routed. Approximately 110 Māori warriors were killed in the trenches they had begun that morning.
5. The surrender of Māori and further consequences. The Battle of Te Ranga broke the Māori resistance and brought the war to an end. A surrender ceremony was held a few months later and the government confiscated large areas of land upon which the new town of Tauranga began to develop.
"Gate Pa redoubt." Painted by an unknown soldier who was present at the siege of Maketū, the battles of Pukehinahina and Te Ranga, and during the subsequent occupation of the Tauranga district. Tauranga City Libraries Art 21-038