At Ruapekapeka Pā you can explore the site of the last battle of the Northern Wars, which were fought between northern Māori and British colonial forces in 1845-1846.
Ruapekapeka Pā – The final battle
In the early 1840s, discontent grew among Māori over Government policies, which were viewed as harmful to local Māori interests. The history of Ruapekapeka is entwined with the Treaty of Waitangi.
The very existence of this remarkable site contradicts a powerful myth that Māori and Pākehā were miraculously joined as one after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The first protests were just symbolic, but rapidly became major clashes. In 1845, a series of battles were fought a few kilometres inland from Kororāreka, which is today called Russell.
The famous Ngāpuhi chief Hōne Heke and his uncle Chief Te Ruki Kawiti spearheaded the resistance. Other Ngāpuhi chiefs, led by Tāmati Wāka Nene, took sides with the British.
The battle at Ruapekapeka Pā lasted for several weeks. The innovative design of the pā made use of trenches and strong palisades. It was very effective as a defence against British muskets and heavy artillery.
Today, it’s easy to imagine the battles that took place here. You can still see the ditch and bank defences, along with one of the cannons used by Chief Kawiti, the well which supplied water to the defenders, and the earthen defences of the British.