Heritage NZ recognises Northland war site as wāhi tapu

By Regan Paranihi

One of Northland’s most important battle sites, Te Pakanga o Ōhaeawai, has been recognised as a Wāhi Tapu by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

A wāhi tapu is known as a sacred place to Māori in the traditional, spiritual, religious, ritual or mythological sense.

Heritage New Zealand's Northern Pouārahi, Atareiria Heihei says, “The pā at Ōhaeawai is tapu to Ngāti Rangi as a place of battle and bloodshed. It also incorporates the urupā, in the middle of which stands Te Whare Karakia o Mikaere [St Michael's Church]."

The war site is located on a hillside near Ngāwhā where a division of Ngāpuhi defended the pā of Pene Taui under the leadership of Ngāpuhi leader Te Ruki Kawiti.

"The listing formally identifies the tapu nature of this place to Ngāti Rangi, while also highlighting the importance of this place to all New Zealanders."

The peaceful landscape of today is very different from the massacre that occurred on July 1, 1845, during the third major engagement of the Northern Wars.

Fragments of Pene Taui's pā can still be seen today in the ground, however, the area is primarily an urupā with Te Whare Karakia o Mikaere at its heart.