Located in the Northland region
IntroductionWhere dissatisfaction over the Treaty turned to war: The history of Ruapekapeka is entwined with that of the Treaty of Waitangi, a living document which continues to shape New Zealand society.
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.
Tohu Whenua are the places that have shaped Aotearoa New Zealand. Located in stunning landscapes and rich with stories, they offer some of our best heritage experiences.
Find things to do and places to stay Ruapekapeka Pā
From Whangārei, 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.
- No eating or drinking is permitted on the pā site.
- Respect the site and stay out of pits and tunnels.
- These are easily damaged, potentially unstable and pose a risk if entered. Children must be supervised.
Watch a video This video from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage provides a perspective on the Ruapekapeka battle.
- 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
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.