Historic Ruapekapeka Pa

Ruapekapeka is the site of the last battle in the north 1845-46. Here Te Ruki Kawiti built what he hoped would be the final answer to the overwhelming firepower of the British, a ‘bats nest’ of tunnels, rifles pits and trenches surrounded by a mighty palisade. Because of these cunning defences Ruapekapeka is a site of national and international importance.

Ruapekapeka Pa Historic Reserve encompasses the pa, and advanced and main British positions from which the battle was fought. The ditch and bank defences of the pa are still visible along with one of Kawiti’s cannon and the well which supplied water to the defenders. The earthen defences of the advanced British position are also still visible.

Watch a video: 4:56 min

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

Impression of Ruapekapeka Pa.
Impression of Ruapekapeka Pa

DOC's work

A major restoration project at an investment of over $200,000 began in 2002, which included

  • new interpretation signage,
  • tracks from the existing carpark to the pa and advance British position,
  • restoration of sightlines from the British positions to the pa, (by the judicious application of a chainsaw), and
  • erection of a waharoa (carved gateway) created by master carver Te Warahi Hetaraka.
  • construction of a new carpark.

Aerial view of Ruapekapeka Pa.
Aerial view of Raupekapeka Pa

The work has been accomplished with the close co-operation and support of the Ruapekapeka Pa Management Trust, representing the descendants of the Pa-builder Kawiti, and iwi of Ngati Manu, Ngati Kahukuri, Ngati Hau, Ngati Hine, Te Kapotai and Ngapuhi Nui Tonu, and DOC.

All archaeological sites are protected under the Historic Places Act 1993. It is an offense to destroy, damage or modify sites without an Authority from the Historic Places Trust.

Further reading

The New Zealand Wars by James Belich
Landscapes of Conflict by Nigel Prickett
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).

Related links

Viewing documents on this page

Some documents are currently only available as PDFs or other files such as Word or Excel. If you can't view these files get in touch with the listed contact or a DOC office to request another format or a hard copy. About PDFs and other alternative formats.