New Zealand Wars

New Zealand Wars
Auckland-Museum-Tamaki-Paenga-Hira-New-Zealand-Wars-Memorial-Alcove-September-2017.jpg
Memorial in the Auckland War Memorial Museum for those who died, both European and Māori, in the New Zealand Wars. "Kia mate toa" can be translated as "fight unto death" or "be strong in death", and is the motto of the Otago and Southland Regiment of the New Zealand Army. The flags are that of Gate Pā and the Union Flag.
Date1845–1872
LocationNew Zealand
ResultBritish victory
Territorial
changes
New Zealand Settlements Act 1863; confiscation of 16,000 km2 (6,200 sq mi) of Māori land
Belligerents

 British Empire

Māori
Māori
Strength
18,000 (peak deployment)5,000 (peak deployment)
Casualties and losses
745 killed (including civilians)2,154 killed (including civilians)[1]

The New Zealand Wars were a series of armed conflicts that took place in New Zealand from 1845 to 1872 between the New Zealand government and the Māori. Until at least the 1980s, European New Zealanders referred to them as the Māori wars;[2] the historian James Belich was one of the first to refer to them as the "New Zealand wars", in his 1987 book The New Zealand wars and the Victorian interpretation of racial conflict.[3]

Though the wars were initially localised conflicts triggered by tensions over disputed land purchases, they escalated dramatically from 1860 as the government became convinced it was facing united Māori resistance to further land sales and a refusal to acknowledge Crown sovereignty. The colonial government summoned thousands of British troops to mount major campaigns to overpower the Kīngitanga (Māori King) movement and also acquire farming and residential land for British settlers.[4][5] Later campaigns were aimed at quashing the so-called Hauhau movement, an extremist part of the Pai Mārire religion, which was strongly opposed to the alienation of Māori land and eager to strengthen Māori identity.[6]

At the peak of hostilities in the 1860s, 18,000 British troops, supported by artillery, cavalry and local militia, battled about 4,000 Māori warriors[7] in what became a gross imbalance of manpower and weaponry.[8] Although outnumbered, the Māori were able to withstand their enemy with techniques that included anti-artillery bunkers and the use of carefully placed , or fortified villages, that allowed them to block their enemy's advance and often inflict heavy losses, yet quickly abandon their positions without significant loss. Guerilla-style tactics were used by both sides in later campaigns, often fought in dense bush. Over the course of the Taranaki and Waikato campaigns, the lives of about 1,800 Māori and 800 Europeans were lost,[4] and total Māori losses over the course of all the wars may have exceeded 2,100.

Violence over land ownership broke out first in the Wairau Valley in the South Island in June 1843, but rising tensions in Taranaki eventually led to the involvement of British military forces at Waitara in March 1860. The war between the government and Kīngitanga Māori spread to other areas of the North Island, with the biggest single campaign being the invasion of the Waikato in 1863–1864, before hostilities concluded with the pursuits of warlord Riwha Tītokowaru in Taranaki (1868–1869) and guerrilla fighter Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki on the east coast (1868–1872).

Although Māori were initially fought by British forces, the New Zealand government developed its own military force, including local militia, rifle volunteer groups, the specialist Forest Rangers and kūpapa (pro-government Māori). The government also responded with legislation to imprison Māori opponents and confiscate expansive areas of the North Island for sale to settlers, with the funds used to cover war expenses[9][10]—punitive measures that on the east and west coasts provoked an intensification of Māori resistance and aggression.

Background

The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed that individual Māori iwi (tribes) should have undisturbed possession of their lands, forests, fisheries and other taonga (treasures) in return for becoming British subjects, selling land to the government only and surrendering sovereignty to the British Government. Historians, however, have debated whether Māori signatories fully understood this last point, due to the possible mistranslation of the word "sovereignty" in the treaty copies. The majority of Māori wanted to sign in order to consolidate peace and in hopes of ending the long inter-tribal Musket Wars (1807–1842). They also wished to acquire the technological culture of the British.

All pre-treaty colonial land-sale deals had taken place directly between two parties. In the early period of contact, Māori had generally sought trade with Europeans. The British and the French had established mission stations, and missionaries had received land from iwi for houses, schools, churches, and farms.

Traders, Sydney businessmen and the New Zealand Company had bought large tracts of land before 1840,[11] and the British government at Westminster became concerned about protecting Māori from exploitation. As part of the Treaty of Waitangi, colonial authorities[which?] decreed that Māori could sell land only to the Crown (the Right of Pre-emption). But as the New Zealand colonial government, pressured by immigrant European settlers, tried to speed up land sales to provide farmland, it met resistance from the Kīngitanga (Māori King) movement that emerged in the 1850s and opposed further European encroachment.

Governor Thomas Gore Browne's provocative purchase of a disputed block of land at Waitara in 1859 set the government on a collision course with the Kīngitanga movement, and the government interpreted the Kīngitanga response as a challenge to the Crown's authority.[12] Governor Gore Browne succeeded in bringing 3500 Imperial troops from the Australian colonies to quash this perceived challenge, and within four years a total of 9,000 British troops had arrived in New Zealand, assisted by more than 4,000 colonial and kupapa (pro-government Māori) fighters as the government sought a decisive victory over the "rebel" Māori.

The use of a punitive land confiscation policy from 1865, depriving "rebel" Māori of the means of living, fuelled further Māori anger and resentment, fanning the flames of conflict in Taranaki (1863–1866) and on the east coast (1865–1866).

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