A much fought-over pā.
Pukerangiora Pā, situated high on a bluff above the Waitara River, was fought over during three eras of New Zealand warfare. While stories of battle from the pre-European era remain to be told, the name Pukerangiora is legendary.
The pā was twice besieged in the bloody Musket Wars of the early 1800s. In 1821 a war party of 1600 men returning north was besieged here for seven months by Te Atiawa, who dubbed the siege ‘Raihe Poaka’ (the penned-up pigs).
Ten years later blood flowed here again when a large Waikato war party, armed with guns, invaded Taranaki and trapped an estimated 4,000 Te Atiawa in the same pā. After a 3-month siege some 1,200 Te Atiawa are thought to have been killed as they tried to escape. Many were enslaved or jumped over the cliffs into the river.
A generation later in 1861 these old adversaries joined forces in defence of the pa against a common enemy, the British Army. Wary of attacking pā, British troops under Major General TS Pratt instead dug trenches (saps) up the slopes to the Te Arei Pā in front of Pukerangiora. It worked. Pounding the pā with artillery fire, the British tunnelled to within metres of Maori defences and Te Atiawa chief Hapurona was forced to fly the white flag.
Pukerangiora Pā was again the site of battle in the Second Taranaki War in 1864. Following the wars Te Atiawa’s lands were confiscated.
There’s much to see at the old battle site today. You can contemplate the horrors of times past as you stand on the cliff-top with its commanding views of the Waitara River and surrounds. Fortifications from the 1861 battle, including the very clearly defined British sap trench, are still visible.
Protected as a historic reserve since 1908, DOC is currently in discussions with Pukerangiora Hapu of Te Atiawa about its aspirations for the future interpretation and visitor opportunities of the pā.