The waharoa at the entrance to Ruapekapeka Pa
PHOTO: Jonathan Carpenter | DOC

Introduction

Where dissatisfaction over the Treaty turned to war: The history of Ruapekapeaka is entwined with that of the Treaty of Waitangi, a living document which continues to shape New Zealand society.

Highlights

Historians point to the significance of this place: 

"The very existence of the Ruapekapeka site counteracts a powerful myth; the idea that Māori and Pākehā were miraculously joined as one after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi". (Jamie Belich, 1986).

It took just five years from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 for disagreement on its interpretation to ignite into an armed uprising. The conflict between British colonial forces and northern Māori in 1845 and 1846 culminated in the battle of Ruapekapeka Pā.  


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Place overview

Activities

  • Walking and tramping

Facilities

  • Information panels

Find things to do Ruapekapeka Pā

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    About this place

    History and culture

    At Ruapekapeka both sides learned significant lessons that influenced our subsequent land war history. Māori realised they could effectively take on the British army; the British realised they would need to deploy a much larger army to be effective. The innovative design of the Māori pā was very effective as a defence against British muskets and heavy artillery. 

    The northern war is notable as the first armed uprising and a portent for future events. Larger wars continued to be fought elsewhere until the 1870s. The process of resolving Treaty issues continues more peaceably into the present day. 

    Today Ruapekapeka is New Zealand’s best preserved land war battlefield. The ditch and bank defences, a carronade used by Chief Kawiti and the earthen defences of the British forward position are still visible.

    Getting there

    From Whangarei, follow SH1 north for 35 km. Just past the Towai service station, turn right into Ruapekapeka Road and follow this for 4 km.

    You will see signs for Ruapekapeka and the carpark 300 m beyond the intersection where Ruapekapeka Road meets Kawakawa Road. The road is unsealed and narrow in places so take care.

    The car park is signposted, and it can easily accommodate campervans.

    Know before you go

    No eating or drinking is permitted on the pā site.

    Learn more

    Watch a video This video from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage provides a perspective on the Ruapekapeka battle.

    Further reading

    • The Colonial New Zealand Wars by Tom Ryan and Bill Parham
    • Heke's War in the North (on National Library of NZ website) by Tawai Kawiti. Published in Te Ao Hou, No. 16 (October 1956).
    • Landscapes of Conflict by Nigel Prickett
    • The New Zealand Wars by James Belich

    Related links

    Contacts

    Pewhairangi / Bay of Islands Office
    Phone:   +64 9 407 0300
    Address:   34 Landing Road
    Kerikeri 0230
    Email:   bayofislandsbooking@doc.govt.nz
    Full office details
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