Maori and European – Slaughter, Endurance & Settlement
The Kaipara was a great place for Maori to settle and thrive. The seafood rich harbour and waterways provided safe travel on calm water as the once towering Kauri forests that covered the land were dense and impenetrable.
Many Maori families living in the Kaipara today can trace their geneology back to when Ngati Whatua first arrived in 1150 aboard the waka Mahuhu. In 1650 Ngatiawa invaded and settled around the Kaipara Harbour, leaving evidence of their seafood feasts and fortified pa sites. The Paparoa river just behind the Hotel would have had Maori waka travelling to trade and fish, enjoying the safe waters and an easy route to the harbour.
Ancient Maori Pa site
There is an ancient Maori pa site on the hill just behind the hotel. If you take the bush walk you can see the fortifications and you can still see the shape of ancient middens in the paddock right behind the hotel. This is particularly clear when you look at the aerial photograph of the Hotel taken in the 1970s which is hanging in the hallway. The flats around the river would have made for wonderful sheltered gardens and the river and nearby harbour were filled with seafood.
Muskets, Slaughter & Survival
From the early 1800s, Maori experienced savage warfare & slaughter as traditional tribal rivalries and ambitions became deadly with one tribe in particular becoming armed with muskets.
In 1820 Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika visited King George IV in Great Britain, receiving a suit of chainmail and trading other gifts for muskets that led to inevitable & violent warfare in the Kaipara. By 1821 they had 300 muskets and over the next few years led huge musket armies against iwi from Tāmaki (Auckland) to Rotorua.
In the Kaipara, in 1825, Hongi Hika led 500 warriors travelling by waka over ocean and river to fight and slaughter Ngati Whatua in the Kaipara. At the ferocious Battle of Te Ika, Haututu, a local chief, was killed and his body taken to his kainaga at Kakarea (now Tanoa) and consumed in a cannibal feast.
The remaining Ngati Whatua sought refuge at the Marohemo Pa where they were then overcome by Nagpuhi with most of the Ngati Whatua survivors leaving the area. Whakapirau is named ‘stinking place’ after a creek that was left filled with Ngatiawa corpses left to rot.
These savage wars, and the unease of British authorities at the participation of traders in them, contributed to the decision to formally colonise New Zealand in 1840. However, this was to some extent just a justification. The wars between tribes had peaked in the 1830s, by which time most tribes were heavily armed. Maori were war-weary, their economy weakened and some of the reasons for fighting had passed.
But by then thousands of Maori had been killed throughout New Zealand. Estimates vary but the deaths caused during these wars most likely exceeded the 18,500 New Zealand lives lost in the First World War. With just an original Maori population of 100,000, the impact on Maori society was enormous.
Maori went on to experienced disenfranchisement, endurance and adaptation to a new world after the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) with Maori agreeing to share sovereignty with the British. There followed a seemingly endless tide of European settlers keen for land and determined to gain political control.
Local Maori in the Kaipara went on to trade land and establish relationships with the new settler community, including holding lavish weddings and when it suited adopting European clothes & manners. Maori also worked in the timber & fishing industries.