“The defining conflict of New Zealand history”

I don’t remember hearing anything about Maori wars when i was at school. I don’t remember learning much at all about anything to do with Maori, apart from singing Pokarekare Ana.

I have gradually learnt more since.

Today is the anniversary of what has been referred to as “The defining conflict of New Zealand history”.

NZ Herald:  154 years since Governor George Grey’s troops invaded Waikato

The colonial Waikato War began 154 years ago today, when Governor George Grey’s troops marched into the territory of the Maori King Tawhiao.

Newspapers of the time tell of around 250 soldiers crossing the border, the Mangatawhiri Stream, near Pokeno and taking control. The stream runs beside today’s State Highway 1 at the Mercer straights.

They were a precursor to an invasion by thousands of troops.

July 15, 1863. Source: the National Library

That invasion – “the defining conflict of New Zealand history” – and the other battles and events of the wars between the British/colonial forces and Maori have received relatively little attention. However, they are now set to become more familiar to New Zealanders, with the establishment of a national day of commemoration, October 28.

The first commemoration will be held this year.

Conflict, from fatal skirmishes to wars, occurred in Wairau, Northland, Taranaki, Waikato, Te Urewera, Tauranga, Opotiki and the East Coast, mainly in the 1840s and 1860s.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell has said: “These battles shaped our country and its people. We lost more than 2750 lives during the wars and it’s time we honour them in a similar way that we honour those who died overseas.”

The Waikato invasion, Grey’s attempt to force submission of the Kingitanga and its allies to the sovereignty of Queen Victoria, followed several years of tension after the Taranaki War earlier in the 1860s.

Grey pursued peace, while planning for war, constructing the Great South Rd to the border and building up troops and warships.

The trigger for the invasion, led by Lieutenant-General Sir Duncan Cameron, was the Maori King Movement’s rejection of the Governor’s ultimatum demanding allegiance.

After a series of battles in 1863 and 1864, the Kingitanga tribes retreated into what became known as the King Country. Cameron withdrew.

The Crown confiscated some 486,000ha of land, of which around a quarter had been returned before Royal Commission hearings in the mid-1920s.

In a $170 million settlement, including more than 15,000ha of land, the Crown in 1995 apologised to Waikato-Tainui for the unjust invasion of their lands.

Historian Vincent O’Malley’s book, The Great War for New Zealand, Waikato 1800-2000, published last year, says, “The Waikato War was the defining conflict in New Zealand history: a time when the government began to assert extensive control over the country, with devastating impacts not only for the Tainui people but for iwi everywhere.”

More from New Zealand History: War in Waikato

From Te Ara:



  1. Growing up in a pakeha family with ties back to the colonising militia and the Auckland and Waikato areas we did have some knowledge of the “Māori Wars” as they were known. My parents were/are consummate story tellers and we were regaled with interesting stories of family members and isolated incidents of conflict.

    That said, at primary school I remember little about the wars specifically. As I’ve said before I attended a North Island primary school with high density Māori children and many Māori staff members. Later at Colllege there was a lot of NZ history, but I am left with the impression a lot was all very Eurocentric. However, we did learn a good deal about the Māori migration, the various canoes and I certainly knew where they were all supposed to have landed. We were also steeped in the Māori legends and songs.

    I’m thinking that North Island areas, especially where Māori were a greater proportion of the community, awareness and projection of history was maybe more ” enlightened” than the very white south. On a more ridiculous note I remember a schoolyard chant which I’m sure nobody uses today.

    In 1864 the Māori went to war
    They had no guns, they used their bums
    In 1864

    I think that defined the hopelessness and inevitability of the fate of the braves warriors of Tainui. It’s about time we paid them respect they’re due.

    In remembrance.

    • Trumpenreich

       /  July 13, 2017

      We need to remember NZ is democratic and capitalist and not a Third World dump thanks to white people.

      • Gezza

         /  July 14, 2017

        You need to remember you are here at all thanks to the brown people.

  2. Corky

     /  July 13, 2017

    The Maori wars,on scale, were one of the biggest genocides known to man. The causalities would’ve been higher than official figures because many skirmishes and subsequent deaths wouldn’t have been reported.

    It needs to be remembered Maori also fought Maori during this time, and sometimes partnered with colonial forces; not always for altruistic reasons.

    You don’t have to be psychic to feel the negative energy emanating from the killing fields of Gate Pa and the Waioeka Gorge.The suffering must have been horrendous.

    It’s funny in a sense. New Zealand was originally called the “Hell Hole” of the Pacific. Now it’s called a paradise with people begging to stay.

    • Biggest genocides know to man? Give it a rest son – not on scale and not in any sense whatsoever.

      Genocide is a POLICY of wiping out an ethnic group. The British crown in NZ had no such policy, in fact the opposite. Don’t spread bullshit lies Corky.

      Vastly more Maori were killed in the musket wars by Maori between 1820 and the treaty being signed than in the land wars. Whole tribes were wiped out or irrevocable displaced. if you think Te Atiawa and Ngati Toa are the tangata whenua of the Wellington region you would be badly mistaken…

      • Corky

         /  July 13, 2017

        They said Parti had gone. Of course you are right. Top marks for knowing what most don’t, about our history.

        • Corky

           /  July 13, 2017

          ps- the genocide scale bit is correct. So are the bad vibes.( your’s included)

          • No the scale is not correct “the genocide scale bit is correct”…. it can’t be becasue it wasn’t a genocide campaign…. that is spelt out in the treaty – making Maori british citizens and in other documents in the various British government departments/agencies that dealt with NZ matters at the time

            • Corky

               /  July 13, 2017

              Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people (usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group) in whole or in part.

              That includes people of the same race.eg Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
              You are arguing semantics.

              The treaty has nothing to do with genocide.

            • Colonial action in NZ was NOT Genocidal….. you are misusing words Corky. Straight forward and simple. Maori were not destroyed it is fictitious to try and make that argument…

          • Trumpenreich

             /  July 13, 2017

            You need to cite a reference for that genocide claim Corky.

            Where did you get that info from?

    • Trumpenreich

       /  July 13, 2017

      “New Zealand was originally called the “Hell Hole” of the Pacific. Now it’s called a paradise with people begging to stay.”

      Thanks to British colonisation.

      We need a day to commemorate this!

      • Corky

         /  July 13, 2017

        Now you know why I tested the waters. I wanted to see if we could a have a reasoned debate over our history since Parti departed. We can’t. Bye.

        • Corky

           /  July 13, 2017

          *have a *

        • Trumpenreich

           /  July 13, 2017

          You cut and run after being asked for a reference to your claim about Maori Wars being “like, you know, the worst genocide ever!”


        • Reasoned debate when you claim genocide Corky? Really? Talk about setting up a straw and getting upset when it catches fire!

  3. sorethumb

     /  July 13, 2017

    Before you get to the nitty-gritty of history consider the role of left-wing academics in affecting a discourse.
    Maori issues appear to have bee exploited to under mine the status quo (as seen by the left) and delegitimise colonisation.
    With the white new Zealanders dealt with, in walks multi-culturalism. History is interpreted as all about Pakeha racism towards Maori; racism is demonstrated as resistance to Asian migrants.

    ” Furthermore, because the authors acknowledge their intellectual heritage only insufficiently, chapter 3 seems to be marked by a curious contradiction. In a chapter entitled ‘The Cultural Politics of Post Colonialism: Being Pakeha’, it is rather surprising to read that “[w]ith regard to Aotearoa/New Zealand, the interest in post-colonialism is largely a product of the evolving politics of Maori” (97). The contradiction is apparent, rather than real, but could have easily been avoided if implicit correlations had been spelled out. Though this indebtedness remains unacknowledged, chapter 3 emerges out of a larger discussion around constructions of subjectivity.”

    Review of Recalling Aotearoa. Indigenous Politics and Ethnic Relations in New Zealand.
    Edited by Augie Fleras and Paul Spoonley.
    Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    [demonstrates the role of white academics in developing thought about “tinorangitiratanga” ]

    Contemporary research on racial equality indicates there are still significant ethnic imbalances. Maori, as mentioned, continue to be disadvantaged and discriminated against alongside other ethnic groups (Chinese, Korean, African, and Indian). Importantly, it has been shown that perceived discrimination can lead to negative effects such as stress, poor self and group esteem, impaired health and anti-social behaviours.
    As New Zealanders, if we aim to achieve a successful bicultural and multicultural national identity, we need to reassess our perspectives.
    Colleen Ward and James Liu suggest that, firstly, we need to understand the history of colonisation and how that affected and still affects Maori people today. Such an education would build greater understanding around acknowledging the indigenous rights of Maori and redressing past injustices. These shifts should lead to more ethnic equality.
    Secondly, as New Zealanders we need to appreciate and respect other immigrants and encourage their integration into New Zealand. We can do this by nurturing their participation in our society and accepting the maintenance of their own heritage cultures.
    If we follow these considerations, we will be working towards what is termed a “super-ordinate National Identity” where, regardless of your ethnic background, you can still consider yourself part of New Zealand its cultural identity. This will lead to increased harmonious ethnic relations and a more tolerant society.

    “Professor Spoonley’s definition of racism
    “Racism is the ideological belief that people can be classified into ‘races’ … [which] can be
    ranked in terms of superiority and inferiority … racism is the acceptance of racial superiority … It is often used to refer to the expression of an ideology of racial superiority in the situation where the holder has some power. Thus prejudice plus power denotes racism in the modern sense … racism is essentially an attitudinal or ideological phenomenon. … A dominant group not only holds negative beliefs about other groups but, because of the power to control resources, is able to practice those beliefs in a discriminatory way … This ideological concept structures social and political relationships and derives from a history of European colonialism. The idea of ‘race’ has evolved from its use in scientific explanation (now discredited) and as a justification in the oppression of colonised, non European people ”


    • Trumpenreich

       /  July 13, 2017


      Cultural Marxism 101.

      This is why I keep saying the universities need to be purged of Marxists and their allies.

      In the hands of Spoonley et al, history is reduced to a propaganda tool for Marxist/Progressive indoctrination of white school children.

      This push for teaching about the Maori Wars is just another wedge to push reheated Marxist ideology.

      “if we aim to achieve a successful bicultural and multicultural national identity…”

      That aim will get us fast to Third World status.

      “These shifts should lead to more ethnic equality.”

      LOL, “Shifts” that “should”. I keep saying it, Sociology is a pseudo science of psycho babble peddled by out right Marxists or those who enjoy Diet Coke Communism.

  4. sorethumb

     /  July 13, 2017

    Michael King argued that Pakeha are indigenous: “how long did it take for the Polynesians to stop thinking as themselves as from Polynesian but rather from these Islands”?

    Steve Mathewman argues:
    Where Fanon alluded to mimicry as Black Skin, White Masks, we now see white skin and brown masks. What does settler indigeniety mask? Put simply, privilege.
    Steve Matthewman and Douglas Hoey
    The University of Auckland, New Zealand

    • sorethumb

       /  July 13, 2017

      Michael King was a powerful influence. How convenient his brakes failed. You would think an academic could afford a decent car?
      Imagine those academics all getting together in a huddle…. makes you wonder?

  5. sorethumb

     /  July 13, 2017

    The academic world is very intolerant (as demonstrated by treatment of Dr Greg Clydsedale
    who had the audacity to suggest (wrongly) that PI might form a new underclass. Something that didn’t fit with the vision of inclusiveness and political correctness. The peer reviewers have been well rewarded in government contracts – actually 2 out of 3 were scathing and one was neutral. The neutral one is not available on line.

  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  July 13, 2017

    I don’t think a defining conflict of history means much to anyone except historians who need an excuse to write about it and politicians looking for a hook to hang a grievance on.

    Most people have a defining conflict in their lives which means a lot more to them.

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  July 13, 2017

    In terms of genocide, as far as I can tell there is a declining order of magnitude (factor of ten) in Maori deaths from the following three causes: pakeha-introduced diseases, musket wars, NZ wars. The NZ wars were significant for some iwi and insignificant for others.

  8. Geoffrey

     /  July 13, 2017

    Maori collectively sought and were granted British citizenship as protection from, in part, competing colonial powers, but in the main, from marauding musket-wielding fellow Maori. Having gained that end, some of those so protected sought to re-acquire a greater degree of independence than was provided for by the enabling Treaty. That is, they wanted to renege on the deal. The only meaningful sanction available to the Government of the day with which to discourage such behavior was the confiscation of some of the land of those in rebellion. Although traditionally termed “wars” the armed government deployments were in reality no more than punitive actions with no consequence beyond such confiscations.

    The application of the term “genocide” to these actions is wholly unhelpful. Indeed it is sadly typical of of the ranting of those ideologues currently hell-bent on re-writing history to serve their own ends. By that I mean, their own individual ends, for the historical distortions that they seek to achieve are of no wider benefit.

    • Gezza

       /  July 14, 2017

      Bullshit. Parihaka. Absolute disgrace.

  1. “The defining conflict of New Zealand history” — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition