Rangiriri Paa

Rangiriri Paa

Rangiriri Paa was the decisive battle for the northern Waikato in November 1863. A Kīngitanga force constructed a defensive line along a ridge between the River and Lake Waikare. This included a high-sided central redoubt.

Rangiriri Paa was undermanned compared to the redoubt at Meremere to the north. There were only several hundred fighters as the planting season reduced the available manpower. On 20 November the government assembled 1500 men with artillery and gunboats. Ultimately, the entire force, including artillerymen and naval personnel, participated in the final assaults on the redoubt. But despite their advantage, these all failed. Overnight many Māori evacuated across Lake Waikare, including King Tāwhiao and mortally wounded Pene Te Wharepu, the architect of the redoubt. In the morning, the remaining Kīngitanga force surrendered. There is a dispute about the actual events, with the defenders claiming they waved a white flag as an offer to parley.

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Casualties at Rangiriri were high by the standards of these battles – 45 government soldiers were killed with 85 wounded. About 35 Kīngitanga Māori were killed with an unknown number wounded. The 183 Māori captured at Rangiriri were held on Kawau Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, but they escaped in September 1864.

For a long time, the site of Rangiriri Paa was barely noted. But today, you can’t miss the battlefield as you drive along the Waikato Expressway. It is back in the hands of Tainui and clearly marked out by two lines of pou (engraved posts of significance). Look to the east, just before the Rangiriri offramp. Drive to the top of Rangiriri Paa, from which you can walk down over the remnants of the redoubt and trenches, with several explanatory panels. If you want to connect to our past to better understand our present, this is a must-do.

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