It was one of the fiercest battles of the Waikato war fought at Rangiriri in 1863.

And for the school holidays, a group of Tauranga rangatahi studied and re-enacted that history, even travelling over the Kaimais to visit the Rangiriri Pā site.

"We have followed in the footsteps of our ancestors," programme facilitator Josh Te Kani said.

"There was a great battle that happened here in 1863 where our tupuna from Tauranga Moana made the pilgrim over here to support the Kīngitanga with the crown incursion into the Waikato land."

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Run by Ngāi Te Rangi iwi, the Koi Ora holiday programme was for rangatahi aged 11-16, and designed to fill what Te Kani sees as a gap in their regular education.

"New Zealand land wars taught within our education system? Currently it's not quite there, so it is up to programmes like Koi Ora to be able to step in and fill that gap."

"I was in disbelief that this could have happened to our tupuna and to our kaumatua," Tauranga Boys College student Hemi Tulemau said.

"I didn't know there were three different pā sites. I didn't know what the British did to the Māori."

"It does make me feel a little bit angry for what the Pākehā done to us, but that's in the past," he said. "We've moved aside all of our differences, and Māori are finally getting back our land."

Despite being school holidays, the students enjoyed the studies.

"We need to learn our story because it's important for us to remember our tupuna and what they did," student Kanye Edwards said.

"The programme itself is a leadership programme and really the main kaupapa is to interweave our rangatahi back with the natural environment, in an effort to raise their health and statistics for that age group," " Te Kani said.

"We figure that if our rangatahi know more about themselves, they know more about what our ancestors valued, they know more about how they carried out their work upon the land and see.

"They'll know more about how our tupuna did whatever they could to safeguard those treasures for future generations. It's giving them a standard to hopefully aim for and aspire to be."

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