Te Wheoros Redoubt

Te Wheoro's Redoubt
Te Wheoro's Redoubt. Image: Heritage New Zealandexpand/collapse

Not all Waikato Māori saw the British as the enemy.  The Ngāti Naho chief Te Wheoro had opposed the idea of war between Kīngitanga and the Crown, but during the war aligned himself with the Crown, helping to deliver supplies to the invading troops. 

This knoll, known as Te Wheoro’s Redoubt, was originally part of the defences at Rangiriri.  In 1868 and 1869, Te Wheoro occupied it on the government’s behalf when it was feared another war might break out.

Wiremu Te Wheoro - diplomat and intermediary

Wiremu Te Wheoro, for whom this grassy knoll is named, was a key British ally during the war. An 1880s photograph of him shows him in full military regalia, every inch the proud colonial officer. And yet the image is misleading. In the decades after the war, he became one of the government’s fiercest critics, accusing them of land-grabbing and racial hypocrisy, a thorn in their side until the end.

Although he was a Waikato chief, Te Wheoro had refused to support the Kingite resistance, because 'he foresaw the disastrous consequences of an armed struggle with the pakeha', as one obituary later put it.

Many Māori fought alongside the Pākehā for their own tribal reasons. But Te Wheoro was always more of a diplomat and intermediary, as much a peacemaker than a warrior. At Governor Grey’s and General Cameron’s side during some of their key meetings with Waikato chiefs, he sought to make peace’. After the battle at Rangiriri he acted as a mediator between the government and the Kīngitanga leaders. But the land confiscations placed an insurmountable barrier between the parties. His efforts to achieve redress for his own people, who had lost their land, also failed.

In 1865 Te Wheoro became an assessor of the Native Land Court, but later resigned, disgusted by its awarding of land titles to those Māori who were more disposed to sell. In 1879 he was elected to Parliament. He accompanied King Tawhiao to England in 1884, where they unsuccessfully tried to appeal directly to Queen Victoria for the redress of grievances, including the Waikato land confiscations. The complaints were referred back to the New Zealand government, which dismissed them.

He continued to oppose government Māori policy until his death in 1895.