There were two memorable battles among locals last Saturday.

The first was one of remembrance from 150 years ago and the other was a rematch of sorts, in the form of a rugby match held in the heart of where Lieutenant-Colonel Greer and his troops marched down a road now named after his general to take away the lands of local Maori.

Both battles were one sided in their outcomes. The rugby revenge match was all about bragging rights and ended without casualty, other than a bit of claret coming from the ihu (nose) and a few bruised egos, from being outscored 10 tries to none.

Not so, the outcome of the other battle we gathered to remember up at Whakamarama on Saturday morning, known as Te Weranga - the scorched earth policy.


The outcome of that one-sided battle was to affect future generations for 150 years.

Scorched earth campaigns exacted on Maori were not exclusive to Tauranga, they happened throughout the land wars when Maori tried desperately to hold on to what little land they had left, and the Crown who had customers already lined up back in Mother England.

Their game plan was to starve the last resistors out by burning their kai grounds. Hence the name Te Weranga - Scorched Earth.

Then they dug up the remaining crops post battle many called a massacre.

Little did the Crown realise the whenua became tainted with death and Maori would never eat kai grown from the whenua where their loved ones had fallen.

This practice is something I learned the hard way when eating food while walking around Mauao many moons ago and never have since.

When I try to understand what us human beings are capable of with such heinous atrocities against our own - especially innocent children choking to death on chemicals - it is beyond me.

Was the scorched earth campaign where crops were burned and innocent woman and children slaughtered any different to what Assad is doing today?


The only solace I can send back down the chain of command to whoever is responsible for these crimes against humanity is the same message as was sent out on Saturday up at Te Weranga ki Whakamarama.

It is one of reconciliation via forgiveness, fuelled by understanding not anger.

The challenge for us now is to sow these seeds of reconciliation and learning into the korowai of knowledge in our kura and schools.

No longer can we hide from history and play the blame game on ignorance, apathy or the common quote by those who have benefited from the 290,000 acres of confiscated land where toady's Tauranga city is now established, "They are much better off today".

Really? Many Maori would beg to differ, especially those who still live in sheds and shacks.

Te Weranga was one of the saddest periods in Tauranga's history and like all sad stories sometimes it is easier to try to forget them or hide them rather than own up and understand them.

We need to be brave and tell these stories in all of our classrooms so our kids can learn how far we have come from the dark days, when scorched earth and slaughter campaigns did not just happen far away in foreign lands such as Syria.

They happened in our own back yard.

The good news to this sad Te Weranga story played out on Saturday, up in the foothills of Whakamarama.

A poupou, or carved memorial, now stands as bridge of reconciliation up on Puketoki Reserve - for us all to walk across.

Many came to listen and many were non-Maori. All blessed by a beautiful day in so many ways. The local manu sang sweetly, as did the local manuhiri.

The entire morning ceremony seemed synchronised in perfect harmony with Papatuanuku (Earth Mother), in the form of the nearby brook that babbled behind us.

It was like all of life's magic moments, you really had to be there to believe it. I felt proud to be there on behalf of both my Maori mother and Pakeha father.

Now it's up to us all to take that belief back to our kids, our classrooms and our communities.

A hikoi to Puketoki to learn from the korowai of knowledge laid down by the peoples of Pirirakau and Tawhitinui Marae is a great investment in all of our futures.

The last word belongs not to the referee of the one sided rugby game but to the octogenarian and her husband who sat opposite me during the five-star kai hakere (celebration feast) - post the unveiling of the poupou and shared stories from well-informed Maori historians

"I have passed this marae many hundreds of times in my 80-plus years living up the road, yet never have I walked inside as I have done today. This makes me feel so happy and hopeful for our future as New Zealanders."

Tika tonu whaea. I share your hope wise woman.