GO&C: Ruapekapeka Pa

The New Zealand land wars that erupted after the signing of the treaty were huge in the North and local iwi Ngāpuhi were instrumental in the fight.

Ruapekapeka Pa is an anthropology site located 14km east of Kawakawa and is a must see on the route North.

The pa is massively historical to New Zealand history and was the last battle ground for the North.


Relations had broke down between the British and Maori through the 1800’s and land was at the core of the issues with Maori becoming increasingly concerned about losing theirs.

Ngāpuhi Rangatira Te Ruki Kawiti worked on the Pa solely to draw the enemy in, create problems for them and then retreat when necessary.  There was nothing substantial for the British to gain from the Pa and Kawiti was well aware of that.

The outlines of the Pa are still clearly visible today and was built with double rows of pallisades, trenches, dugouts and tunnels connecting the network.  It was the work of pure mastery for that time and trench warfare had never been seen before by the British.  Just ponder that for a moment, a Maori creating trench warfare that was later used in the world war.  Monumental!

Its location was of no strategic purpose, perched on the highest peak within Ngati Hine took the British 20 days just to get to with their heavy artillery through wild terrain.


The battle for Ruapekapeka lasted for 10 days with Hone Heke and Kawiti escaping and British troups taking over on January 11, 1846.  The British claimed victory however it is still questioned, what was the actual victory considering the pa was an empty pa with no strategical purpose?  This was no living/breathing pa with woman and children so what was the actual gain?

I myself have grown up in the North, am of Ngāpuhi descent, have driven past this site at least 200 times and yet, had never stopped.  I feel guilty I have left it so long and it left a massive impact on me of the sheer magnitude of what our people went through.  The grounds are eerie, yet beautiful and the views stretch for miles in all directions.  It was a magical learning experience for me to finally be on these lands that are a stake-hold of our history.

The reality of the struggle Maori went through while you are on the site cannot be ignored and the pure genius of Kawiti is truly inspirational.


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