British forces under Lieutenant General Duncan Cameron completed their conquest of the Waikato and, even before the year was over, a Herald editorial left no doubt about who would have been New Zealander of the Year.
It observed that, in a country with 18 million acres of richly productive land, British settlers had been limited to two million acres of inferior quality but "the conquests that General Cameron and his noble soldiery have been compelled to make, and are still continuing to make, will reverse all this".
If General Cameron would have been the clear choice in 1864, renowned Maori political and military leader Rewi Maniapoto captured the New Zealand imagination in the long term.
In 1879 the Herald said Rewi - who was from the Ngati Paretekawa hapu of Ngati Maniapoto - was "illustrious by his descent, by his intellectual and moral qualities, and by his skill and courage as a warrior".
At the Battle of Orakau he led a famous breakout of warriors from their besieged pa.
"It is impossible not to admire the heroic courage and devotion of the natives in defending themselves so long against overwhelming numbers," wrote Cameron at the time.
When Cameron had called upon the pa's defenders to surrender, it was Rewi who, by tradition, uttered the immortal lines: "Ka whawhai tonu matou, Ake! Ake! Ake! (We will fight on, forever and ever)."
Although there are some doubts about whether these precise words were spoken in that precise context, they capture the spirit of Maori determination to have the Treaty of Waitangi honoured.
Generations of Maori have taken up the fight by other means: protest, petition, politics and the law.
With hindsight, then, Rewi Maniapoto, illustrious warrior, is our New Zealander of the Year for 1864.
From the Herald archives:
Leader for 1864, New Zealand Herald, 6 January 1864
Biography of Duncan Cameron, Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand