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12

Taranaki
Taranaki was a major region of Mori settlement, its boundaries expressed in Mori as 'Waittara ki
Parininihi': 'From the Waittara River to Whitecliffs'. 1 An early centre of Mori resistance to the sale
of land, from 1860 the region became an important focus of operations in the New Zealand Wars.
Major themes to be covered in Taranaki are the gardening traditions associated with the Aotea canoe;
the p for which the region is so well known; intertribal fighting and the southwards migrations of
Waikato tribes in the 1820s and 1830s; p of nineteenth-century origin or occupation, including
Pukerangiora on the Waitara River (site of the first British use of sapping in the New Zealand Wars);
and redoubts of the 'West Coast' (i.e., south Taranaki) campaigns of the mid-1860s.
Two archaeologists have been active in aerial photography in the region: Alastair Buist and Nigel
Prickett, who have both written extensively on the p and pre-European history of the region. 2 Elsdon
Best also wrote about the p of the region. 3
The landforms of the inland parts of the region consist of extremely steep, broken hill country
composed of mudstone rocks not dissimilar to the very roughest country of the East Coast. These
inland areas were relatively little settled except along the course of the major rivers, and on the margins
associated with the coastal terrace. The coastal terrace is of ancient Pleistocene (ice age) origin and
varies in width from 5 to 15 km. It is generally about 50 m above sea level and has cliffed coastlines
with stony reef or wave platforms, some covering very large areas. 4 The soils on the coastal high
terrace are generally fertile and well suited to Mori horticulture. The central Taranaki region is
dominated by the volcanic mountain. It is surrounded by a ring

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plain of lahar-debris, water-borne ash and rocks from the volcanic vents,
extending down to the coast on its western margins.

In the coastal region, the ring plain forms landscapes similar to the coastal terrace elsewhere, for
example the Bay of Plenty, except that there are frequent small lahar mounds and it is more often cut
by narrow valleys. Coastal cliffs, narrow valleys and the mounds provided the natural tactical elements
sought by Mori in the construction of p. As far south as the Waittara River, the p are heavily
sculpted into the surface of the ground because of the relatively thick volcanic soils. The coastal
landforms were cut at intervals by rivers rising in the ranges. From north to south, the most important
rivers are the Mkau, Waitara, Ptea, Tnghoe, Whenuakura and Waittara. The coastal cliffs and
their immediate hinterland, including the river valleys, were the most important localities of settlement.
Traditionally, the distinction between north and south Taranaki is important. The tribes of the north
(Ngti Tama, Te Atiawa) ascribe their origin to the Tokomaru canoe; those in the south (for example,
Ngti Ruanui) to Aotea. 5 Of traditional sites, well-known examples are those of Turi, of the Aotea
canoe, whose associations with the northern harbour of Aotea were reviewed in chapter 1. Besides
naming many features of the Taranaki coast, north and south, he introduced the kmara to southern
Taranaki. 6 The Whenuakura River locality is also the site of kmara traditions relating to both the
Aotea and Kurahaup canoes. Part of the patere concerning the travels of an important traditional
figure, Wharau Rangi, mentions the importance of kmara and karaka at Whenuakura:
Ka iri mai taua i runga i Aotea,
Te waka i a Turi.
Ka u mai taua te ngutu Whenuakura;
Huaina te whare, Rangi Tawhi;
Tiri mai te kmara;
Ka ruia mai te karaka ki te tai ao nei. . ..
We two were carried hither board Aotea,
The canoe of Turi.
We landed at the river's mouth at Whenuakura;
The house there was named Rangi Tawhi;
The kmara was then planted;
The karaka, too, soon flourished in the land. . . 7
The reference in the tradition here to karaka is of particular interest, and I will illustrate its association
with storage pits and pre-European settlement at Paekakariki, Wellington region, in chapter 13.

P
In the north, p are typically on the coastal terrace and along river escarpments up to 5 km inland. In
the south, p lie on prominent ridge ends in the river valleys for many kilometres inland. 8 Many of the
aerial photographs in this chapter are of south Taranaki sites, partly because Alastair Buist, who lived
in Hawera, did most of his flying there; several of his photographs are used in this chapter.
The ring-ditch p is a feature of the Taranaki landscape, especially in the north around New Plymouth
and in the west. On the ring plain, ring-ditch p on lahar mounds are distinctive. These p are created
by a single, occasionally double, ditch and bank around a rounded hilltop. 9 The full form is not needed
where the hill country is steep or cliffed, as it is in the south and on the coast; here, the ditch simply
encloses the cliff. Types of p other than ring-ditch are also common in the region. On cliffs or points,
the defensive perimeter of the p was created by distinctive combinations of ditch and bank defences.
The precise locations of these defences always shrewdly used the tactical advantages of localised
landforms: the narrowest point on a ridge, the crest of a steep slope or the edge of a swamp. In the
south, along the Ptea, Whenuakura and other rivers, are some of the largest and most distinctive p in
New Zealand. Putake, near Hawera, consists of four separate lines of ditch and bank defences, lying
transversely across a broad ridge, narrowing to the principal platform. A p near Otautu, on the Ptea
River, presents three major platforms, each defended by double transverse ditches and banks and lying
on a distinctive arrangement of ridges that defies simple description. This p is not associated with the
defeat of Titokowaru in 1869 at this locality, since he was attacked in an undefended village. 10 1 had
long admired Alastair Buist's photographs of this site, 11 and when I first photographed it in light
overcast conditions in August 1991,1 was surprised by how small it seemed, occupying a low, offshoot
ridge, dominated by the mass of the surrounding, higher terraces.

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Putake, a p 5 km inland on the Tnghoe River, near Hwera


There are five sets of ditch and bank defences on the p. The unique combination of defences of this p
show clearly the tactical combinations of ditch and bank and steep natural slope sought by Maori. The
forward defences (nearest the viewpoint) are broad and enclose a large area between the gullies. In the
rear (top centre) is a small 'citadel' with terraces and storage pits. The larger open area in the interior of
the p is pitted with the characteristic indentations of collapsed rua.

Horticulture
Taranaki is well within the climatic bounds suited to Polynesian root crops; the region also has a high
rainfall and less risk of late-summer droughts than east coast localities. Evidence of pre-European
horticulture is, not surprisingly, one of the outstanding elements of the landscape and, as in the
Waikato, provides a good link with the traditional accounts of Turi and the introduction of kmara.
Apart from the storage pits on virtually every site, there is other very clear landscape evidence of actual
gardening practice, for example, borrow-pits. The use of borrow-pits, for gravels to be added to the
soil, is similar to their use in the Waikato.

About 4 km inland from the mouth of the Whenuakura River near Waverley, almost perfect, balanced

Mori page break

A massive p built on a ridge above the Ptea River near Otautu, 7 km from the coast
Viewed from the south, the association with the river valley is clear. The p is about 250 m long with a
defensive perimeter of about 600 m. The massive double ditches and banks on all the obvious entry
points and between the platforms show clearly. Further ditches and banks defend the head of the steep
scarp to the valley floor. On the narrow ridge are massive storage pits, removed from the areas of
habitation and taking advantage of the drainage. The white dots are sheep.

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Te Puia, a p on the coastal terrace near the mouth of the Mkau River
The Mkau River runs into the sea at bottom left. The point immediately above the river mouth and
seaward of the road has been lived on, but its landward defences were prone to attack. It was not
suitable for a p, but was an undefended village, named Kautu. Nearest the camera viewpoint on the
coastal cliff, the Waipapa Stream, cutting through the terrace, formed a gully and a point in the terrace.
There, a p, Te Puia, was created by the construction of a large ditch and bank. About 100 m from the
narrow point is a second, outer ditch and bank about 90 m long (centre bottom, above the cliff). This p
was the scene of fighting in the 1830s between Ngti Maniapoto and Ngti Toa under Te Rauparaha.
At top left in the estuary is the island Motu Tawa, scene of further fighting in the 1830s.

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Settlement and horticulture on high terraces near the Whenuakura River, south Taranaki
In this photograph, small-scale, nineteenth-century arable fields show against a background of earlier
pre-European gardens. Sand has been taken from borrow-pits, showing as irregularly shaped holes up
to 8 m across, right foreground. The sand would have been added to the heavier topsoils of the terrace
to improve their physical qualities (tilth, warming), and possibly as a mulch amongst growing plants.
The spreading of sand from the borrow-pits in irregular heaps shows clearly, near right. At the top of
the terrace risers (about 3 m in height) are lines of eroded kmara storage pits. Beyond them again, the
well-drained and easily defended finger-shaped points of land on the edge of the terrace have been used
for pre-European pit storage.
At left and centre, a number of low ridges show clearly in oblique light. They are not dissimilar to the
downslope lines of pre-European garden boundaries, but these are normally seen only in stony soil.
These ridges were in fact formed at the edges of ploughed fields: they are 'lands' or plough lynchets. In
the middle foreground is a rectangular enclosure, probably formed by a ditch and bank fence. The view
is to the south, and the stream in shade is an unnamed tributary north-west of the Whenuakura River.

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At another point on the edge of the terrace, a p has been built with many pits on its surface. The p has
been constructed by a simple ditch across the ridge with substantial artificial ditches and scarps around
the terrace edge. The enclosed area is about 35 by 20 m. The dimples on the surface of the p are
probably collapsed rua while outside the p, where space is not at a premium, there are a number of
open rectangular pits. The distinct rectangular line to the right of the p is probably stockwear along a
former post and wire fence. The narrow ridge in the foreground has a substantial ditch and bank fence
on its crest. The view is to the west.

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settlements can be seen over the terrace landscape. Here p,
storage pits, borrow-pits, gardens and later nineteenth-century ploughing were once able to be seen,
although now, unfortunately, the garden areas have been destroyed by horticultural plots. On the
various levels of the terraces, layers or pockets of sand lie below the topsoils and were borrowed to add
to the volcanic ash topsoils of the terraces. 12 On points formed at the edge of the terrace, overlooking
the low coastal and stream plains, are storage pits and defensive ditches and banks. The detailed pattern
of the wider site is not easy to interpret. It is probably the result of nineteenth-century mixed arable and
stock farming overlying pre-European settlement and horticulture. 13 Although definitely nineteenth
century in origin, the field areas, defined by low ploughing banks or 'lands', are not necessarily of
European origin; they may be of Mori origin, reflecting the flourishing agricultural production of
Taranaki in the 1850s. In the 1860s the area was delineated by survey as special (Mori-purpose)
reserves, and not part of military settlement blocks common in this particular area, 14 so its sites of
strictly Mori origin may continue past that period.

Nineteenth-century sites
In the early nineteenth century Taranaki was a major channel for the movement of iwi between the
central and south-western North Island. The Waikato elements of these movements have already been
considered. The Mkau River was a key route in gaining access from the inland Waikato to Taranaki.

It was the site of considerable fighting in several incidents from 1820 to 1835 between Ngti
Maniapoto, Ngti Toa (from the inland and coastal Waikato, respectively) and Taranaki tribes. 15 The
river flat on the north side of the river was the site of a Methodist (Wesleyan) Mission settlement under
the Revd Cort Schnackenberg from 1844 to 1858, whose activities at north Aotea we reviewed in
chapter 8. The p, Te Puia, was the scene of fighting in the 1830s between Ngti Maniapoto and Ngti
Toa under Te Rauparaha in the course of the latter's southwards migration from Kwhia. 16 It consists
of a very large transverse ditch and bank running from a stream gully to the coastal cliff and cutting off
a distinct point formed on the high coastal terrace at the southern entrance of the Mkau River.
Taranaki was the setting for the initial actions of the most significant period of the New Zealand Wars,

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Pukerangiora, on the Waitara River about 6 km inland from Waitara township


The site complex consists of a pre-European section on the crown of the hill, Te Arei (in the form of
the British redoubt of 1864) right of centre, and the final section of a sap created by the British forces
in 1860-61 (obscured by the line of low native shrubs at bottom left by the road). The view is to the
south-east and the whole complex is some 350 m long.
The pre-European pa was occupied in the 1820s and 1830s in the course of the musket wars. The
redoubt, Te Arei, was first built by Maori in defence against the British attack of 1860-61. The Maori
forces also occupied the cliff edge above the Waitara River, forward of the Te Arei position itself,
hence the location of the sap some distance off the cliff edge. Maori gun pits can be seen at the cliff
edge, one only a few metres from the end of the demi-parallel.

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The original pre-European p, Pukerangiora.


The view is to the north-west. The p was probably occupied as a fallback position in the course of the
fighting in 1860-61, but features little in contemporary narratives. It does not appear to have
commanded positions flanking or forward (westwards) of Te Arei, hence its relative tactical
insignificance. The exact function of the large ditches and banks is not clear, but they appear to have
enclosed the cliff edge (to the right) and the hilltop (foreground, this side of the fence). Just above the
fence running across the foreground, and running at an acute angle to it, is a line of rifle trench with
returns, possibly defending the rear of the Maori positions (including Te Arei) against the British
attacks of 1860.

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The line of the British sap in front of Te Arei


Running out to the right to the forested slope is a demi-parallel, apparently designed partly to enfilade
the Maori positions on the cliff edge (out of view, bottom right) and to present a line of solid fire
against Te Arei (which is beneath the camera viewpoint). The view is to the north-west.

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'Limit of the Sap' by F.H. Arden, a contemporary view of 1861 after the fighting showing the sap
running towards Te Arei
Te Arei was stockaded and entrenched on the crest of a low rise in the ridge (which does not show well
in the aerial photograph), and the sap has been made up through ground very exposed to the defenders'
fire. Gabions (wicker baskets) hold up the walls of the traverses and the demi-parallels (at left). The
value of the demi-parallels in offering a full line of fire against Te Arei is obvious. The modern road
follows a line somewhat to the right of the horse track and must have damaged the right flank of the
British redoubt built on the site of Te Arei in 1864.
subsequently involving the King movement and regular British military forces. The north Taranaki
campaigns involved two main phases. The First Taranaki War 1860-61 began when the infant New
Zealand Company settlement in the enclave of New Plymouth was isolated by the opposition of the
surrounding hap. Some hap had sold land to European interests, but these settlers from outlying
districts had returned to the defences flung up around New Plymouth. When British troops and the
European colonists took the offensive, it was about disputed land claims to the east of New Plymouth,
in the vicinity of Waitara. 17 This offensive required a chain of defensive fortifications stretching east
along the cart road from New Plymouth to the Waitara River valley. Towards the closing of the
attacking action, many redoubts linked by saps were constructed by the British forces. These drove the
attack against the Mori inland into the readily defended, forested hill country up the Waitara River.
Mori, for their part, re-worked pre-European fortifications, especially in the Waitara valley, the
primary theatre of the conflict. Pukerangiora, the traditional p of the Puketapu hap of Te Atiawa, had
been occupied by northern tribes in the course of the Amiowhenua raid of 1821, and occupied again in
1831 when Te Atiawa were attacked and defeated by Waikato. 18 In 1860-61, the Mori forces, 19

having fought a protracted defensive page 179


action at the edge of the
forested country, occupied their final defended position, Te Arei. This lay within the wider defended

perimeter of Pukerangiora, inland about 8 km from the coast in a commanding position on a ridge
above the Waitara River. To the east were steep, impassable cliffs to the river; to the west, easier
ground, sloping down away from the defensive positions.
The British forces, moving towards the general line of the ridge, came under Mori fire from cover at
the top of the cliff to the Waitara River and from Te Arei itself, a relatively small enclosure defended
by rifle trench and a stockade. They were forced to sap their way for some 2 km in two different
sections, incorporating several redoubts along the course of the sap. Artillery was also brought up
through the sap and emplaced in a 'demi-parallel' at very close range (about 120'ni) to Te Arei, the
Mori entrenchments. A 'demi-parallel' is a trench placed more or less parallel to the line of the
defenders' fortification, and at right angles to the sap. This opened up a broad field of fire to the
attacking force, who could not shoot effectively from the sap. At Te Arei, it also gave access from the
sap to the cliff-edge to the east, enabling clearance of the Mori rifle pits and other positions there.
Surveying the area south-west of Waitara in the 1920s, James Cowan 20 remarked that it was 'studded
with the ruins of British redoubts and Mori entrenchments'. Today only a few of these sites, British or
Mori, have survived, 21 but they include the scene of the final action. These are the site of the
traditional p, Pukerangiora, at the crest of a prominent cliffed hill above the Waitara River; the 1861
Mori defensive position, Te Arei, later worked into a redoubt by European forces; and the final
section of the sap constructed by the British and colonial attacking forces. The principal areas of the
site along the cliff to the east survive in good condition, although the road and the adjacent farming
have destroyed the true western extent of the main defensive perimeter. 22 Preserved as historic reserves
(probably instigated by S. Percy Smith) through much of the era of European settlement, in the 1930s
and again in the 1950s they were planted in pine trees, which were both protection and menace. The
pine trees protected the site from rain and stock erosion, but if allowed to grow too big they would have
destroyed the sub-surface features. After a second crop of trees was removed carefully by the
Department of Conservation in recent years, the archaeological features showed in very well-preserved
form.
The aerial photographs shown here, probably the only ever taken of this site, show the last 200 m of the
sap, its uphill end finishing within 100 m of Te Arei, the Mori position. The sap is of double width,
with traverses (internal walls) from either side to prevent enfilading fire from the ridge crest ahead of
the sap. The demi-parallel still shows clearly in the aerial view, as do the defensive Mori positions and
the older 1830s and pre-European p.
The expense in terms of labour of the British method of attack attracted some derision from the
European settlers confined in New Plymouth, who saw them as expensive military follies, although it
was defended strongly by the British military. 23 The British military evidently sought to avoid
casualties from the first of the significant engagements in Taranaki. The virtues of this debate are not
for an archaeologist to judge, except to note again the lessons of the Northland campaigns of a decade
and a half before, the Crimean experience and the unfolding events of the American civil war, where
the advantage of entrenched defence became obvious. 24 The overall importance in New Zealand
history of the Waitara events of 1859-61, culminating at Te Arei, is immense. Keith Sinclair has noted
that:
it was a main cause of the later campaigns, for the way in which it began confirmed the Moris in their
worst fears. ... an idea that this was the first of a series of operations intended to deprive them of their
land. 25
A subsequent offensive phase was designed to secure the Taranaki region west of New Plymouth for
European interests. Ngti Maniapoto (Waikato Kingites) had been involved on the side of Te Atiawa in
all these events. Their association led inevitably to the Waikato phases of the New Zealand Wars, the
region where Mori strength was perceived to be greatest. Following the Waikato wars, there was
further armed resistance by Mori in Taranaki. European forces in the Second Taranaki War of 1864
completely dispersed Mori settlement from the Waitara River valley. Te Arei was reoccupied during
the course of these events, and the existing 'redoubt' survives in the form modified by Europeans in this
campaign. 26

There was also resistance to European settlement from Ngti Ruanui in south Taranaki. These led to
the Taranaki and West Coast campaigns of 1865-66, designed to secure the land between New

Plymouth and page break

Kkramea Redoubt, near Ptea, built in 1866


The redoubt is pentagonal in layout with bastions on two sides (at right and left) and flanking angles (at
the other corners). It is about 50 m across in its greatest dimension. The trench running out to the right
of the photograph is a communication trench to huts dug into the slope at right. The site was part of the
military settlement of this part of south Taranaki.
Wanganui, and the wars against TItokowaru, principally in the north-west, in 1868. 27 The redoubts
built in this phase in south Taranaki provide fine landscape records, well known from Alastair Buist's
pioneering aerial photographs. They include Kkramea, built in 1865 by the British forces under
Cameron 28 and illustrated here. Inman's and Thacker's Redoubts were illustrated in chapter 6. The
redoubts were intended to be used subsequently as the defensive positions of military settlers.
However, few of the allotted areas were taken up immediately because there was very little
communication or transport from Ptea to the settlements of either New Plymouth or Wanganui. 29 Of
Mori fortifications probably of this campaign the most interesting is a p, named Oika, 30 commanding
a crossing of the Whenuakura River 4 km from the coast.

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Oika, a p of the period 1865-68 in South Taranaki


This p is on the edge of the high terrace landform on the south side of the Whenuakura River (to the
left) and just above the state highway (below the viewpoint). The view is to the west. The use of
regular traverses in the perimeter rifle trench was designed to prevent enfilading fire (fire along the
length of the trench). The use of traverses on the lefthand side of the p is problematic since the site
does not appear to be commanded from outside on this line. The traverses in the trenches would
nevertheless have some value if the attackers had been able to enter the p. The defensive perimeter is
about 50 m long by 20 m across.
1
The Mkau River, to the north, is within the rohe of Ngti Maniapoto (Prickett, 1983: 281-287).
2
Buist (1964); Prickett (1980; 1982a; 1983; 1990).
3
E. Best (1927: 189-239).
4
Neall (1982).
5
Prickett (1983: 284-286).
6
Simmons (1976: 191-201).
7
Excerpt from 'He Oriori mo Wharau Rangi' by Rangi Takoru of Ngti Apa. 'Rangi Tawhi' is a
puzzling reference to the p of Turi at Ptea (Ngata and Jones, 1958, Poem 282, Vol. 3: 376-381). See
also Davis and Wilson (1990: 65-67).
8
Buist (1964); Prickett (1983).
9
Prickett (1980; 1982a).
10
Cowan (1983, Vol. 2: 294-295).
11
Buist (1976: 6, dustjacket, P1.4).
12
Buist (1976: 3); Cassels and Walton (1992); Walton and Cassels (1992).
13
A. Walton (1992, pers. comm.).

14

Thomson (1976: 29).


Phillips (1989: 151).
16
Phillips (1989: 151).
17
Belich (1986: 81-116); Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 145-211). For maps, see Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 186);
Prickett (1990: 45-53).
18
S.P. Smith (1910a: 219-220); Kelly (1949: 387-391).
19
Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 211-220); Belich (1986: 108-113).
20
Cowan (1983, Vol. 1: 219).
21
Prickett (1991, pers. comm.).
22
S.P. Smith (1910b: Map 5).
23
Belich (1986: 108-113).
24
Chandler (1974).
25
Sinclair (1961: 232).
26
Prickett (1990: 52).
27
Belich (1986: 203-257); Cowan (1983, Vol. 2: 46-71).
28
Buist (1976: 9).
29
Buist (1976: 15).
30
Buist (1976: 7, 11, also Plate 6).
15