The Waikato War
For ten months in the mid-1860s, the once peaceful hills and plains of Waikato rang with battle cries and the boom of warships. At stake was some of the North Island’s most fertile farmland, around the Waikato and Waipa rivers. When the smoke cleared, the British seized over a million acres of tribal territory, and the door was open to Pakeha control of the North Island.
The Waikato War of 1863-1864 was a key conflict in New Zealand history. For years, Maori farmers in the Waikato region had prospered, growing much of the wheat, potatoes and maize that fed Auckland’s hungry settlers.
But the colonial government was under pressure to find fertile land for the rising tide of immigrants. Waikato Maori, newly unified under their own king, resisted the idea of land sales. A crushing British invasion followed, involving in total 18,000 British soldiers and volunteers – more than in any other of the New Zealand Wars. Maori forces could only field about 2,000 men at any one time.
The Waikato Campaign was one of the best prepared and best-organised ever undertaken by the British army…
— Belich 1986.
Today, you can still find haunting remnants of the war in the hillocks, gullies and riverbanks of the Waikato. Many stories from both sides are unresolved. Step onto the land and discover them today.
Kia mau, kia mau!
Hold fast our land!
Bind, tightly bind!
Be firm, be firm!
Nor let it from our grasp
— Kingite war chant