21 Jun 2014

Te Ranga re-enacted in Tauranga

3:40 pm on 21 June 2014

A re-enactment of the last major battle in the Waikato and Tauranga campaigns of the New Zealand Wars has been staged in Tauranga.

150 years ago more than 100 Maori warriors and 13 British soldiers lost their lives in the Battle of Te Ranga.

Kapa haka performers at Te Ranga.

Kapa haka performers at Te Ranga. Photo: RNZ / Natalie Mankelow

The Battle of Te Ranga was marked on Saturday with a karakia at 7am, kapa haka and songs at 11am, and a memorial service and wreath-laying to end the ceremony.

The battle has been called a payback by some with historians claiming the British wanted to avenge their humiliation at the Battle of Gate Pa two months earlier; in which 31 troops and about 20 Maori were killed.

The Ministry of Culture and Heritage said a 600 strong team sent out in the morning of 21 June 1864, and led by Lieutenant-Colonel H.H. Greer, found hundreds of Maori digging trenches at Te Ranga, which is about 5km south of Gate Pa.

The battle is said to have had some of the most violent hand-to-hand fighting of the New Zealand Wars. 107 Maori are thought to have been buried in the trenches including Ngai Te Rangi leaders Rawiri Puhirake and Henare Taratoa. Nine British soldiers died in the fighting and four later died from their wounds.

The man organising the commemoration, Buddy Mikaere, said Maori in Tauranga lost an entire generation of leadership in the Te Ranga battle.

"We're just looking for the people to recall this as quite a sombre day in Tauranga's history - let's just mark it and hopefully everybody comes to a better understanding of our local history, and where we've come from and where we're going.

"It's got a lot to do with how Tauranga's developed over the last couple of decades. In the time that I was away from here there's been quite an influx of people who don't have an affiliation so this commemoration and one at Gate Pa were both great opportunity to tell people about our history and what our shared heritage is and we've just been overwhelmed really by the way that most people have approached this and embraced it."

Mr Mikaere said commemorating the battle can help lead to a stronger community.

Around 500 people attended the commemoration despite drizzly conditions.