In The Great War for New Zealand, historian Vincent O’Malley tells the story of the Waikato War of the 1860s – how it set back Māori-Pākehā relations by generations and changed the course of New Zealand history for good. Here, in an original essay for The Spinoff, he explains how the war helped create modern Auckland.
In 1845 the small township of Auckland (population 3635) faced an
existential crisis. War raged in the north and it was rumoured that the
assistance of the powerful Tainui tribes had been sought for an attack
on the settlement. A nightmare scenario for the town’s residents was the
prospect of a simultaneous assault from the north and south, with
Ngāpuhi and Tainui combining to virtually assure Auckland’s destruction.
Yet when a delegation came south to solicit assistance from paramount
Tainui rangatira Te Wherowhero, the response was emphatic. “You must
fight me if you come on to Auckland; for these Europeans are under my
protection,” he told them. In Māori terms, Te Wherowhero made the
position even clearer, referring to Auckland as the hem of his cloak and
in this way placing the settlement under his personal tapu. An attack
on Auckland would be an attack on him.
Reinforcing this point, in August 1845 the government built a cottage
for Te Wherowhero within Auckland Domain, close to where the museum
currently stands. It was one of several residences the chief had across
the Tāmaki region. A year earlier the Tainui tribes (population 18,400)
had hosted a massive hākari (feast) on their Remuera estate, attended by
over 3400 Māori guests and more than 1000 Europeans. There could be no
more telling reminder of the immense power and prestige of
Waikato-Tainui at this time.
[Read more at The Spinoff]