Image: The gateway to Taiporohenui Marae, with Whareroa in the background. Image: Ivan Bruce 2014.
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Dave Rudd who usually produces this work has been unwell recently, and as this month marks the 150th anniversary of a number of important events in the Taranaki Land Wars, I’ll be covering for him until he recovers; soon I hope!
General Chute’s campaign was now in full swing, leaving from Whanganui on the 30th of December with a relatively light force compared to General Cameron’s prior campaign.
Chute’s forces consisted of 33 Royal Artillery, with field-guns, under Lieutenant Carre; 280 of the 14th Regiment, under Lieut.-Colonel Trevor; 45 Forest Rangers, under Major Von Tempsky; and the Wanganui Native Contingent and other Maoris, about 300 strong, under Major McDonnell; besides a Transport Corps of 45 men each driving a two-horse dray. Chutes forces attacked and destroyed the Okotuku (on the 4th of January), inland of Waverly and Te Putahi above the right bank of the Whenuakura River (on the 7th of January), as well as other villages and cultivations encountered en route, staying briefly at Patea and the Kakaramea Redoubt. Chute then set his sights on the cultivations and pa in the heartland of the Tangahoe, around the site of Otapawa, inland of Hawera.
On this day 150 years ago the Taranaki Herald correspondent gives this account of the British military activities:
“The camp was shifted a few miles further inland to Tawhiti, and two or three pas were destroyed, including Whareroa and Ohangai. At the former place the great meeting-house of the hostile tribes was burned; it was called Taiporohenui and measured 130 feet long by 40 feet wide, and answered the same purpose as To Ika-roa-a-Maui at Kapoaiaia, and Aotearoa at Weriweri (the latter also was burned a few days later). In the course of their explorations the Native Contingent got into a large pa, the occupants having retired before them, but as they were sitting enjoying a little repose in the open space in the middle, the enemy came up to the palisading and fired into them, upon which they turned out and chased them away. During the same day the approach to Otapawa was reconnoitred. This pa was strong by position and fortified with double rifle-pits and palisading, and has long been spoken of as the chief stronghold of the rebels in the Ngatiruanui district. It was also strongly garrisoned, many of those who had escaped from Okotuku and and Putahi having retired thither.”
The village of Whareroa and the Wharenui of Taiporohenui were highly significant places during the Taranaki Land Wars. The pa at Whareroa remained in occupation during the land wars and was notably the residence of Te Ua Haumene, the prophet of the Pai Marire religious movement. A nui pole and the large Wharenui described in the Herald’s account above was constructed at this village circa 1865.
Taiporohenui is an ancient name derived from Hawaikan tradition. The name was first given to the meeting house at Manawapou built in 1854 to house the meeting of the Taranaki Land League, a movement to prevent further land sales to Europeans. The first meeting house at Whareroa was later renamed Taiporohenui and is described by Kimble Bent as the largest house of Maori construction he had ever seen.
Following the burning of the village in 1866 the site was reoccupied and thereafter the name Taiporohenui is predominantly used, however at least one campaign map refers to the site of Whareroa and Taiporohenui as the same site. A Hauhau position at Taiporohenui was approached but not attacked in September 1868, suggesting the village was then reoccupied. This site was then again burnt by Colonel Lyon in January 1869. By March 21 of 1869 Colonel Whitmore is reported as camped at Taiporohenui en route to Keteonatea Pa in pursuit of Titokowaru.
Today the Taiporohenui Marae and the Wharenui (named Whareroa) is stands on the opposite side of the road to the former kainga and the Taiporohenui Urupa is situated slightly to the north.