Te Ranga battle 150 years on

Tomorrow a dance and song re-enactment will bring to life the Battle of Te Ranga at its Pyes Pa site – exactly 150 years since the clash between Maori and British troops took place.

About 500 people are expected to gather at the battle site on the corner of Pyes Pa and Joyce Roads, about 10km south of Tauranga City, where commemorations begin 6.30am.

Battle of Te Ranga Commemoration organiser Buddy Mikaere at the site of the battle. Photo: Merle Foster.

At 7am mihi and karakia will bless the site’s newly-carved pou, followed by a 9am powhiri for visiting iwi from the kingitanga, and at 10am a VIP group will be welcomed.

Dignitaries will include representatives of visiting hapu, NZ Defence staff, Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby and city councillors.

Nga Roimata O Te Ranga – a recounting of June 21, 1864, in kapa haka and song – begins 11am.

A memorial and wreath-laying service is at 11.30am before a traditional farewell and karakia close commemorations.

Battle of Te Ranga Commemoration organiser Buddy Mikaere says about 50 people from Ngai Tamarawaho hapu will perform powhiri, while another 20-30 create the re-enactment.

“The re-enactment] will be in song and dance. Then we’ll have a service of remembrance, lay some wreaths and have lunch together.”

Buddy says Te Ranga’s battle site is a different type of historical reserve to Pukehinahina (Gate Pa), so concentration has been on transferring it to a public reserve.

“All funding we’ve got is going on things like new fencing, planting and gateways, meaning there’s not too much leftover for commemoration activity.”

Despite this, Buddy says the Te Ranga battle is significant due to its outcome.

“More than 120-odd Maori were killed there – and the ones killed were kind of a generation of leaders for Tauranga.”

“It’s like New Zealand after the first World War, when a whole of generation of future leaders was lost; it was the same for this battle for Tauranga Maori.

“And then not long afterwards follows the confiscation of the land.”

Part of the Land Wars that saw British troops aim to occupy Te Papa (now Tauranga City), the Te Ranga battle was a challenge issued by Maori following victory at Gate Pa on April 29, 1864.

But on June 21, 1864, as 500 Maori of Ngai Te Rangi and Ngati Ranginui, supported by Ngati Porou, Ngati Pikiao and Ngati Rangiwewehi, prepared defensive earthworks for battle, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Greerdiscovered them.

So Maori wouldn’t strengthen defences, Greer chose to make an immediate attack.

The battle saw more than 100 Maori – including leader Rawiri Puhirake Puhirake – buried in the trenches at Te Ranga. Another 43 were taken prisoner, including 32 wounded, and 15 later died from wounds. Nine British troops died and 39 were wounded.

Buddy says tomorrow’s commemoration won’t have the same feel as remembering the Battle of Gate Pa, instead taking on a sombre mood.

“It won’t have the same element as Pukehinahina – but in its own way it’s equally important and significant.”

Buddy says everybody is welcome at the public event.

“We ask people coming later in the day to park at the school and walk the 400 metres up.”


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