Personalities of the New Zealand Wars

A couple of brief biographies of key figures from the New Zealand Wars.

Hone Heke’s War (1848)

Hone (‘John’) Heke Pokai of the Ngapuhi hapu, of the Ngapuhi tribe (iwi), of the Arawa canoe

Nephew of Hongi Hika. A man of great social influence, military mana, energy and character. An accomplished diplomat. Distinguished himself at battle of Kororareka (1830), where Hengi was killed. Heke was influenced by the advice of the great Hongi upon his death-bed. Hongi’s advised his people to be kind to the missionaries, to have friendly intercourse with the settlers, but to resist the soldiers – “the men who wear red garments, the men who neither sow nor reap” and to “Let not the land of your ancestors pass into the hands of the pakeha. Heke was with the Ngapuhi under Titore when they attacked Otumoetai (Tauranga, 1833). Was wounded and sent back to the Bay of Islands because he was considered too rash. Became a Christian. Lived for several years as part of Henry Williams’ family at Pahia. Attended mission school, daily. Chosen as lay reader in the Church. Married Ono (‘Lydia’), the daughter of Te Pahii, of Ngati-Rehia. Remained quite and studious during Lydia’s life. To the fore when Ngapuhi were fighting Pomare at Otuihu (1837), narrowly escaping capture by the enemy while he was daringly crossing the Bay in a small canoe with only four men. Retired to Kaikohe. Levied a toll upon travellers passing through his domain at Puketona, which lay across the high road from the Bay of Islands to the interior. Roughly handled any who sought to evade his taxation. This levy generally accepted due to his high birth. Married Hariata, handsome and intelligent daughter of Hongi. Spoke ambiguously of the Treaty of Waitangi, but was first to sign it (6 Feb 1840), possibly as a theatrical display. Found British authority challenged his own. His revenue from whaling-ships (£5 for each vessel coming to the Bay of Islands, shared with his cousin) was intercepted by the Crown. Alarmed at land being bought for cheap trade items. Defeated Nopera Panakareao, a chief of the Rarawa people in Kaitaia, in battle at Taipa (April 1843). Established his mana by forcing Panakareao to publicly resign land back to Porirua (relative of Heke). Henceforth looked upon as the leader of Nga-Puhi, with a self-imposed duty to impose law in Ngapuhi territory. Towards the middle of 1844, Heke began to talk boisterously and to act violently Very familiar with the Scriptures. Likened the British Government to the Egyptian tyrants, and the Maori people to the Israelites of old, bending under the oppression of the Pharaohs (Sun, 27 Apr 1844). Missionaries viewed him as a strange character, and not always sane. Viewed the Flagstaff at Kororareka as the symbol of the Queen’s authority, hence representing the oppression of his people. Protected the settlers, and disapproved of the Kawakawa depredations (“No. Let us fight with the flagstaff alone”). Insulted by the wife of a European butcher, who compared Heke to a dead pig (5 July 1844). Cut down the flagstaff at Kororareka four times. After the second time … ??

Kawiti of the Ngatihine hapu of the Ngapuhi tribe.

Chief of Kawakawa, from a long line of chiefs. Connected with him were the Roroa, Kapotai, Ngarehauata, Ngati-Tu, Parahau of Whangarei, Ngati-Toki of Mangakahia, and Ngati-Wai of Whagaruru. Pillar of the Ngapuhi people. Noble spirit. Honest. High reputation for chivalry. A heathen, as were his people. Born fighter, relished combat. An important man – his name appears at the top of those who signed the Treaty (although Hone Heke signed first). Strongly maintained the authority of the Queen. ally, Kawiti had little sympathy for the agressive activities of his followers, and strongly advised caution. When he realised that “their blood was up”, he decided to support them against the government. Strongly motivated to measure himself against the soldiers.

Lieutenant-Colonel William Hulme

C.O. of 96th Regiment of Foot. Alert. Intelligent. endowed with a good measure of common-sense. Always appeared smartly dressed. Experienced. Served as Captain, commanding the flank companies, in a general action (21 Dec 1817) in Pindari campaign. Promoted to brevet Major. Commanded them again at storming of Fort Fulnair (27 Feb 1818).

Acting-Commander David Robertson

C.O. H.M.S. Hazard. Born in 1817. Grandson of the Rev. Dr. Robertson, historian of Scotland, and author of “The History of the Reign of Charles V.” Appointed first lieutenant of the Hazard (1 Oct 1841) when it was commissioned. Assumed command on the death of Captain Bell. Conducted defence of Kororareka. He was carried from the field full of wounds and honours won in a desperate hand-to-hand conflict. He hovered between life and death for many weeks. As a result of this command, the Maori spoke highly of his prowess, the residents of Auckland presented him with a sword, and he was promoted to Commander. Subsequently, he made Admiral.

The First Taranaki War (1860)

Te Atiawa, Taranaki branch of the Ngati Awa.

Major Thomas Nelson

Capable, vigorous, popular


(‘a little, fiery man with a jealous temper and great military talent’), photo pg 41 of Ryan & Parham.

Epiha Tokohihi

able war chief.

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