In January 2016, battle enactments and kapa haka at the 170th commemoration of Ruapekapeka rocked the ground as well as the crowd. The 175th in 2021 will be a far grander affair but the Advocate is looking back not forward this week to show readers some of the images Far North reporter Peter de Graaf took at the 2016 event.

Up to 400 warriors took part in ommemorations of the 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa in January 2016.
Up to 400 warriors took part in ommemorations of the 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa in January 2016.
Joey Rapana, Mylie George. Commemorations of 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa, near Kawakawa. 10 January 2016 Northern Advocate Photograph by Peter de Graaf.
Joey Rapana, Mylie George. Commemorations of 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa, near Kawakawa. 10 January 2016 Northern Advocate Photograph by Peter de Graaf.
 Commemorations of 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa, near Kawakawa. 10 January 2016 Northern Advocate Photograph by Peter de Graaf.
Commemorations of 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa, near Kawakawa. 10 January 2016 Northern Advocate Photograph by Peter de Graaf.
Dignitaries from the armed forces and the Waitangi National Trust are led on to the pa at commemorations of 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa, near Kawakawa on January 10, 2016.
Dignitaries from the armed forces and the Waitangi National Trust are led on to the pa at commemorations of 170th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka Pa, near Kawakawa on January 10, 2016.

On a battlefield, strategy - the game plan - is paramount.

Te Ruki Kawiti had a strategy in January 1846 when he lured a British fighting force with its heavy artillery to Ruapekapeka, the Bat's Nest, a stockaded and trenched hilltop battle ground.

The seige/battle ended after the pallisaded walls were breached by cannon fire, and Kawiti's warriors and whanau slipped away under dark.

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The wily old warrior did not capitulate - he retreated, not lost; the tired Brits had to reel their heavy cannonades and the camp gear back downhill and to the Bay of Islands; and Kawiti's trench warfare design was so admired that drawings and a scale model were sent back to England for the Admirality and royal engineers to admire.

Everyone agreed, it was some strategy!

And now the site, one of New Zealand's most famous battlefields in the wars between the colonial British and Māori, is subject to another fighting strategy of its very own.

Te Ruapekapeka Trust (TRT) and Department of Conservation (DoC) have signed Te Ruapekapeka Pa and Battlefield Strategy and Plan, to protect the mana whenua and taha wairua of the Ruapekapeka Pa. That means acknowledging and protecting — enshrining — the site's territorial and spiritual importance.

Led by TRT chairman Allan Halliday and facilitated by Ngati Hine leader Pita Tipene, it signals the start of the joint planning process for the development of Te Ruapekapeka.

It also acknowledges the battle's 175th anniversary in 2021.

"This task we accept as our duty, responsibility and burden and I feel confident going forward that we can and will achieve our desired goals - enhancing our visitor experience and providing greater access to information here at Te Ruapekapeka," Halliday said.

Te Ruapekapeka Trust and DoC are currently preparing to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the last battle (and first major armed conflict) in the Northern Wars between British soldiers and Ngapuhi forces, led by Te Ruki Kawiti with vital support several allies including from Hone Heke.

The commemoration will take place at Ruapekapeka Pa on January 10, 2021.
DoC operations manager Louisa Gritt said the two organisations, ''have mapped out a joint path to better protect and present this special site to New Zealanders and their guests, so they might better understand and appreciate Te Ruapekapeka".

Ruapekapeka Pa and battlefield, 14 kilometres southeast of Kawakawa, is recognised as one of New Zealand's iconic historic heritage sites.

In 2016 it was announced that over four years $4 million would go towards commemorating the wars throughout New Zealand, including the Battle of Ruapekapeka.

Multiple iwi and hapu have strong connections to Ruapekapeka, as tangata whenua and/or participants in the battle. These include Ngati Manu, Ngati Kahukuri (Ngati Hau), Ngati Hine, Te Kapotai and Ngapuhi Nui Tonu.

Also contributing to the new strategic plan were Northland Inc, Far North District Council, NZTA and Heritage New Zealand.