Anna is a reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Fierce battle remembered

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Rev John Hebenton is preparing for commemorations for the Battle of Gate Pa. Photo / John Borren
Rev John Hebenton is preparing for commemorations for the Battle of Gate Pa. Photo / John Borren

The Battle of Gate Pa will be remembered next Friday with the commemorations taking place on the battle site at Saint George's Anglican Church for the second year.

Reverend John Hebenton, the Vicar of the Anglican Parish of Gate Pa, said the service gave the people of Tauranga the opportunity to remember.

"As a church we are very aware we sit on the battle site, in part built by British soldiers who fought." The service was a chance for "commemorating and remembering".

"Remembering the cost for local Maori, and helping the people of Tauranga to understand".

After last year's event commemorating 150 years since the battle of Gate Pa, Reverend Hebenton said they had hoped to keep it going and to remember all those who died in the treacherous fight.

Saint George's congregation member, historian and member of the New Zealand Defence Force Cliff Simons had made the Battle of Gate Pa into a "special study".

"I got interested in the wars originally because it was something we used to do in the military, we used to take people around the battle fields.

"When I moved to Tauranga I developed an interest in the battle of Gate Pa and started to attend the church there as well, so it brings together a few of my interests," Dr Simons said.

He said for some of the people who had relatives who fought in the battle, it was still "a very moving thing and something that they think about".

"They also still feel the loss as straight after the war ... the Government confiscated quite a bit of land, so those people not only were fighting in the battles but their land was confiscated as well," he added.

"The idea the church has is to try to be a place of reconciliation between Maori, who are still feeling disaffected about the wars, and to try to tell the story of the battle and what happened and what were the consequences."

Respected kaumatua Peri Kohu said as the country became multi racial, it was important others knew the history of New Zealand, especially those living in Tauranga.

"It's pretty important as far as we're concerned.

"The original encounter was quite abrasive and we're still dealing with that."

He said the impact of the battle had greatly impacted many people's lives.

His great grandfather was injured in the battle of Gate Pa and died five months later.

Mr Kohu said the efforts of the descendants and the church kept the memories of the people who had died alive.

Details:

* The commemoration is on April 29, starting at 4pm at Saint George's Anglican Church. This is the time when the British forces began their march up Pukehinahina. At 4.30pm the bell will be rung 60 times to remember the 60 men who died in the battle.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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