Historic site's high-tech look brings together old and new

By Lindy Laird

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BACK TO THE FUTURE: Moerewa School student Kairangi Ihimaera, left, goes on a virtual journey to Ruapekapeka with Te Raa Nehua, centre, and Peeni Henare. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
BACK TO THE FUTURE: Moerewa School student Kairangi Ihimaera, left, goes on a virtual journey to Ruapekapeka with Te Raa Nehua, centre, and Peeni Henare. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

The digital makeover that will take people inside the history and legacy of Ruapekapeka Pa has been launched.

The Department of Conservation and Te Ruapekapeka Trust yesterday unveiled the new website, which combines oral and visual history, digital recreations of the pa and smartphone content to access while visiting the site.

It is the latest stage of a major restoration project which began in 2002 and has included new interpretation signage, tracks, erection of a waharoa (carved gateway) and construction of a new carpark.

Guests at the launch at Whangarei's Old Library included descendants of Maori warriors and British infantry who were at Ruapekapeka in December 1845 and January 1846, at the hilltop Te Ruki Kawiti had turned into a modern feat of engineering. Its defence systems gave rise to the term "trench warfare" and a model of it was sent to England by impressed military strategists and tabled in Parliament not long after the battle. The 1000-plus British force fired a two-week heavy artillery barrage at Kawiti's "Bat's Nest", which commanded a strategic position on the high ground.

While the historic events were of major importance and the site of great national importance, no-one commands the high ground now, Peeni Henare, Te Ruapekapeka Management Trust, told kaumatua and kuia, iwi organisation representatives, Department of Conservation staff, school students and others at the website's launch.

"We celebrate the deeds of our ancestors but the days of the warriors are gone," he said.

The future was collaborative, interactive and involved anyone who could add some knowledge to the story of Ruapekapeka, he said. He said that before the launch, a local man had showed him a journal containing letters from a British soldier, "O'Hara", who sent letters home from the infantry lines at Ruapekapeka. That was an example of how history was made, kept alive and shared.

Old muskets and other firearms, cannonballs and shot found at the site over the past 169 years were on display at the launch. Computers allowed people to get onto the website, www.ruapekapeka.co.nz.

See feature story page B1.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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