A commemoration of the "one-day war" which claimed 38 lives and sparked a century-and-a-half of dispute over land illegally confiscated by the Crown will take place in Hawke's Bay tomorrow.

Memorials will be held at the monuments at Omarunui and Eskdale (also known as Herepoho), where the killings happened 150 years ago on October 12, 1866.

The conflict had Maori on both sides and was the subject of the book The One Day War, by John Battersby of Wellington, and published 16 years ago.

The "war" followed the arrival in Hawke's Bay of supporters of Pai Marire, a growing religious movement born of conflict over land in Taranaki.


With some members of Te Haroto-based Ngati Hineuru, the party lost 23 when attacked at Omarunui. The local native contingent had two casualties, and the local settler militia one.

About the same time, colonial forces marched to Petane, near Eskdale, arresting three people remaining at the pa, and then fired on a group of armed Maori on horseback, with 12 being killed in the fighting.

Colonial forces then took more than 80 prisoners who were sent, without trial, to the Chatham Islands, and three months after the battles, the colonial Government confiscated Maori land in the Mohaka-Waikari, which immediately became subject of grievance, including petitions to Parliament and the Native Land Court throughout the rest of the 1800s, and ultimately in Treaty claims only now being settled in Hawke's Bay.

Ngati Paarau, as tangata whenua at Omarunui, will host the 9am commemoration at the Omarunui site, Ngati Matepu will do so at the Eskdale memorial starting at 10am, and Ngati Hineuru will host a hakaari at Te Haroto, where descendants of people who died on all sides of the conflict are expected with a powhiri starting at noon.

Ngati Paarau historian Matt Mullany, among those working with author Battersby on an historical account ahead of the Crown's settlement with Napier-based claims collective Mana Ahuriri, said the commemoration paid respect to those who died and their descendants, and also served to make people aware of what happened.

A Talking Point written by him for Hawke's Bay Today in July attracted widespread interest, including inquiries from descendants of local settler militia and many who had had little knowledge of the events.

"It is a Maori event, but it is also a Hawke's Bay event," he said.