One hundred and fifty years after Napier residents came together for the one-day battle of Omarunui, five Hawke's Bay groups have aligned to purchase a snapshot of this moment in history.

In 1866 about 100 armed Maori men - belonging to a sect called Hauhau - had made their way from Taupo to a pa at Omarunui, near Taradale - alarming local Ngati Kahungunu Maori and European settlers.

Around 200 local militia and volunteers were gathered after local officials received no satisfactory response from the group about their purpose in Hawke's Bay - it was later thought the group had been planning to attack Napier.

The militia surrounded the pa, however the Hauhau refused to surrender.


Finally, on October 12 an attack took place which lasted about 90 minutes, until the Hauhau surrendered - 23 of their men were killed, as well as two local Maori, and one militia.

Now, five Hawke's Bay groups are to buy a series of art works by Jono Rotman which reflect the events of the battle, to be displayed at MTG Hawke's Bay.

One is the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust (HBMT), which would be purchasing the six images, five of which were taken of glass plate negatives housed at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Trust chairman Dr Richard Grant said, "the battle of Omarunui was a brutal marker in both our Hawke's Bay and New Zealand history".

"We were determined to keep these works in the Bay and not see them sold offshore."

He said this would be the "most noteworthy acquisition" the Hawke's Bay Museums Trust has made in recent years.

"Art is sometimes bequeathed to us, gifted, or purchased - however as far as I am aware, this is the most significant investment the trust has made."

He was pleased the Napier City Council, Hastings District Council, Napier Port, and the Hawke's Bay Museum Foundation had joined the trust to fund the purchase.


Local iwi also supported the acquisition.

MTG Hawke's Bay director Laura Vodanovich said the purchase was a significant acquisition for the museum, and would be a "true community effort".

"This series also starts a conversation about the battle of Omarunui which we hope will lead to ongoing dialogue and artistic response," she said.

Mr Rotman has ties to Hawke's Bay, as his ancestors settled here in the mid-19th century.

"Beyond my ancestral proximity, I feel the events in Omarunui are a microcosm of the wider tectonics of that period in the nation's history and hold relevance to this day," he said.

It is expected MTG Hawke's Bay will publicly display the works from September.