Historic images have re-emerged of the so-called "Dog Tax War", along with a trove of other photographs of Northland's social and economic life a century ago.

Auckland Libraries staff have made digital copies of the images, captured by photographer Charlie Dawes, which go online today. Some will also go on show in an exhibition of his work which opens at the Central Library on Friday.

The so-called war or rebellion in the Hokianga district in the 1890s was an armed standoff between some local Māori and Government forces.

Māori dog-tax resisters, including leader Hone Toia (centre, standing), following their surrender at Waima in Northland in 1898. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
Māori dog-tax resisters, including leader Hone Toia (centre, standing), following their surrender at Waima in Northland in 1898. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

Māori people in the hinterland of Rawene on the southern side of the Hokianga Harbour, reflecting widely held views, wanted to be self-governing under the Treaty of Waitangi. They refused to pay a dog-registration tax and other taxes and defied the closed season for bird-hunting.

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The ambulance cart of Dr W. R. Erson (standing immediately beneath the flag) during the Dog Tax Rebellion of the late 1890s in the Hokianga area. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
The ambulance cart of Dr W. R. Erson (standing immediately beneath the flag) during the Dog Tax Rebellion of the late 1890s in the Hokianga area. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

After a Hokianga County Council representative issued summonses to 40 or more people in 1898, the dispute escalated.

World War I soldiers in front of the Kohukohu Post Office, Hokianga Harbour. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
World War I soldiers in front of the Kohukohu Post Office, Hokianga Harbour. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

A group of men, "stripped for war and carrying guns", went to Rawene, wrote historian Angela Ballara. They intended to fight only if arrested and were persuaded to return home.

The Government sent a force of more than 120 men armed with rifles, two field guns and two rapid-fire guns. The British warship Torch anchored off Rawene.

Northland photographer Charlie Dawes (left) and brother Ernie in a felled puriri tree. Photo / Dawes collection, Auckland Libraries
Northland photographer Charlie Dawes (left) and brother Ernie in a felled puriri tree. Photo / Dawes collection, Auckland Libraries

As the troops marched towards Waima, two shots were fired over their heads, possibly to warn of their approach.

MP Hōne Heke Ngāpua negotiated a truce. Sixteen men were arrested, of whom five were later sentenced to 18 months' prison with hard labour for conspiring by force to prevent collection of taxes. The rest were fined.

"While-you wait" photos. Photographers Enos Pegler (l) holding camera and tripod and Charlie Dawes (second from left). Photo / Dawes collection, Auckland Libraries

The Dawes collection includes images of the troops in front of the Rawene Post Office and, after peace was restored, competing in a sack race in the local community.

Dawes, who lived from 1867 to 1947, came to New Zealand with his parents in 1879. By 1896, he and other family members had settled at Kohukohu on the northern side of the Hokianga.

Māori applying for pensions at Rawene Courthouse in Northland after New Zealand became the first country to offer means-tested pensions for the elderly. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
Māori applying for pensions at Rawene Courthouse in Northland after New Zealand became the first country to offer means-tested pensions for the elderly. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

He worked mainly as a carrier, mailman and orchardist, and established a photographic studio around 1900.

The library has held nine original Dawes prints since the 1950s, plus copies of his work published in the New Zealand Graphic and the Auckland Weekly News.

Entrepreneur and landowner John Webster. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries.
Entrepreneur and landowner John Webster. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries.

Principal photographs librarian Keith Giles said 13 glass plate negatives were in 2010 donated to the library after they had been found in a Queen St, Auckland, secondhand shop in the 1970s. Only after their donation were they discovered to be Dawes' work.

In 2012 this was augmented by 475 Dawes plates found in a Kaitaia secondhand shop by a colleague of Giles.

The Kohukohu Band. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
The Kohukohu Band. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

Then last year a further 1670 plates were donated by a member of Dawes' extended family.

"We picked them up in Whangārei in September. We have spent quite a lot of time cleaning and digitising them.

Ships at the Kauri Timber Company wharf, Kohukohu, Hokianga Harbour, 1908. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
Ships at the Kauri Timber Company wharf, Kohukohu, Hokianga Harbour, 1908. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

"Some of the topics and views are similar to the ones from the earlier collection. A lot are previously unseen photographs of the Dog Tax Rebellion in Rawene and Waima in 1898."

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"He was a remarkably good photographer. On the whole they were very good and it's interesting that there are some photographs in which he features. He seems to have collaborated with at least two other photographers we know of."

Kauri gum digger's whare. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
Kauri gum digger's whare. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

Giles said the glass plate negatives were about the size of a postcard and when found were stored in their original cardboard boxes.

A sack race between Government troops and Māori in the Hokianga area after peace was made in the Dog Tax Rebellion in the 1890s. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries
A sack race between Government troops and Māori in the Hokianga area after peace was made in the Dog Tax Rebellion in the 1890s. Photo / Charlie Dawes, Auckland Libraries

The exhibition will include examples of glass plates, large prints of Dawes' images, his camera and dark-room equipment.