Waiu Pa

Waiouru Military Camp, Waiouru

  • Waiu Pa.
    Copyright: New Zealand Defence Force.
  • Waiu Pa.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • Waiu Pa.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7651 Date Entered 24th March 2006


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the area marked as 'Waiu Pa site' on the NZ Defence Force's NZMS 260 Map - Army Training Group Training Area [Unclassified] (See Appendix 3). This area incorporates both T21/1 and T21/2 with a surrounding exclusion zone of 500 metres that includes further archaeological features such as the associated house floors, remnant bush with stripped totara to the immediate west of T21/1 and the gully wetland between the two pa.

City/District Council

Ruapehu District


Horizons (Manawatu-Wanganui) Region

Legal description

Subdivision 2 Run 3 SO Plan 18808, (Land taken for 'Defence Purposes' - NZ Gazette, 1939 p.3062)

Location description

Waiu (T21/1 and T21/2) is situated at Waiouru Military Camp and is located to the north of the Haupatu Stream (see Appendix 3 of Registration Report). There is vehicle access to the site along Burridge Estate Road (metalled) and a dirt track but the last section of the track may need to be walked, depending on ground conditions. The first pa (T21/1) is fenced off with barbed wire and marked by a sign reading 'Keep Out - Historic Places'. T21/2 is located approximately 228 metres SSE of T21/1.


The gunfighter pa at Waiu (T21/1 and T21/2) were built by Ngati Tamakopiri and Ngati Whitikaupeka in early 1880 in response to the threat from Ngati Rangi (of Murimotu) and upper Wanganui iwi led by Te Keepa Rangihiwinui (Major Kemp) who had occupied the south-eastern section of the Rangipo-Waiu block in protest of the commencement of European survey work. It appears that the pa were abandoned within a year of their construction and it has been reported that no lives were taken in the dispute between the local iwi and Te Keepa and his forces who had constructed their own gunfighter pa at the nearby locality of Auahitotara. The remains of the pa at Waiu are still visible today, as are the outlines of two nearby whare. Both pa consist of a central sunken area surrounded by an irregular perimeter of rifle trenches, pits and ditches and banks but these features are now largely obscured by vegetation growth.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Waiu Pa has important historical value, as it is a physical monument to the intertribal conflicts that occurred throughout the Wanganui and Murimotu-Rangipo districts in the 1880s. These conflicts arose as a result of contested land ownership claims, and are commonly referred to as the 'survey disputes'. The 1870s had begun with a "new mood of peace and conciliation evident among Maori and between Maori and Pakeha", but this was soon to change as land purchases escalated throughout the region. Land purchases negotiations continued into the late 1870s, and these experiences only "strengthened Maori resolve over the control of their land". The 1880s bore witness to concerted and strenuous efforts by Wanganui Maori to regain control of their land, as manifested by the events that unfolded at Waiu Pa and Auhitotara. Waiu Pa has further historical value through its association with Captain Gilbert Mair and Te Keepa who were central figures during the New Zealand Wars.

Waiu Pa has considerable archaeological significance as one of the last known gunfighter pa ever constructed in New Zealand. Most gunfighter pa date to the period of the New Zealand Wars from 1843 to 1872, and were constructed by both Maori and Pakeha in the various campaigns that unfolded during these years. There are very few examples of gunfighter pa that post-date the New Zealand Wars period.

The pa at Waiu are of cultural and traditional significance to Ngati Whitikaupeka and Ngati Tamakopiri as they are a testament to their resistance against the occupation of their land by tribes outside of the Murimotu-Rangipo district. Ngati Tamakopiri and Ngati Whitikaupeka had attempted to make peace with Te Keepa at Ngamatea but were forced to build the pa at Waiu in early 1880 in order to defend themselves and their territory against the imminent threat of Te Keepa and his forces.

Waiu Pa is of further cultural significance to Ngati Whitikaupeka and Ngati Tamakopiri as it was once a recognised resting place for Maori travelling on the Waipuna Track, on their journey across the centre of the North Island. The Waipuna Track was the traditional Maori track between Mokai Patea and the rohe of Tuwharetoa. Maori tradition also indicates that 'Te Pou a Hauiti' was located at Waiu, and was erected there during the 16th century. Hauiti was the eponymous ancestor of Ngati Hauiti, one of the five iwi within the rohe of 'Mokai Patea'. Hauiti's son Haereitekura and Tumakaurangi were killed by Ngati Tuwharetoa at Orongotama, and whilst Hauiti and others were away avenging these deaths, Ngati Apa killed Kaama who had been left in charge. Hauiti is believed to have erected a marker at Waiu on his return journey, warning others not to go beyond this point.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The pa at Waiu reflect an important period in New Zealand history after the land wars of the mid 1840s to early 1870s when contested land ownership in the Wanganui and Murimotu-Rangipo districts led to the threat of conflict within Maori society.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The earthworks at Waiu are associated with two of the key figures during the New Zealand Wars: Captain Gilbert Mair and Te Keepa. Captain Mair volunteered for the militia in the mid 1860s and became part of the 1st Regiment of the Waikato Militia. Captain Mair was later to play an integral role in the events that unfolded at Te Koutu Pa and Puraku Pa, Rotorua in 1867 and was promoted to lieutenant as a result. However, Captain Mair is probably most remembered for his leadership in the campaigns against Te Kooti from 1869-1871. He went into public service after the New Zealand Wars and held various posts including Government Land Purchase Commissioner and Interpreter for the House of Representatives. It was during this post-war period that Captain Mair worked in the Wanganui and Murimotu-Rangipo districts and became a witness to the 'survey disputes'.

Ngati Whitikaupeka and Ngati Tamakopiri constructed the gunfighter pa at Waiu for the sole purpose of defending their land against Te Keepa and his forces that had established themselves at the nearby locality of Auahitotara in protest of the surveying work that had begun in the district. Te Keepa returned to Wanganui after his involvement in the New Zealand Wars and in the early 1880s he used his authority to draw support for his campaign for increased Maori control of land, marked by the establishment of a Maori land trust in September 1880. His actions resulted in the loss of his civil appointments as land purchase officer and Resident Magistrate's Court assessor but he was reinstated in these positions in 1884 by the newly appointed native minister John Ballance who had great respect for him.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

There is tremendous potential for the gunfighter pa at Waiu to contribute to our understanding of New Zealand's history through an investigation of the archaeological record in combination with the use of primary historical data and an examination of the environmental context in which the pa are situated. The archaeological and historical significance of the pa far outweigh its scientific research potential however and any archaeological inquiry should be limited to non-invasive techniques such as more detailed mapping of the two pa.

(d) The importance of the place to tangata whenua

Waiu Pa is a culturally and traditionally important place to Ngati Tamakopiri and Ngati Whitikaupeka as it was a recognised resting place for Maori travelling across the centre of the North Island, and later became a place where they defended themselves and their land from the threats of Te Keepa and his forces. Maori tradition indicates that Waiu was also the locality of 'Te Pou a Hauiti', a marker post erected by the eponymous ancestor of Ngati Hauiti - Hauiti in the 16th century. Ngati Hauiti is one of the five iwi with the 'Mokai Patea' rohe, and has close links to Ngati Whitikaupeka and Ngati Tamakopiri.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The earthworks at Waiu are an excellent example of the transformation of traditional Maori techniques of pa construction following the widespread introduction of muskets in the 1840s, and subsequent development of trench warfare. Both pa consist of an elaborate irregular perimeter of rifle trenches, pits, ditches and banks that surrounds a central sunken area. The design of T21/1 is of particular note as the central sunken area contains a fully enclosed offset whare floor, unlike most other pa where the whare typically opened directly onto the trench perimeter.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative or value of the place

Waiu Pa has commemorative value to Ngati Tamakopiri and Ngati Whitikaupeka as it is a place that symbolises the efforts of their ancestors in defending their rohe from Te Keepa and his accompanying forces who had set up camp at the nearby locality of Auhitotara. It has further commemorative value within an historical context as a monument to the intertribal conflict that occurred throughout the Wanganui and Murimotu-Rangipo regions in the 1880s.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of places

The earthworks at Waiu are a rarity within an archaeological and historical context as they are one of the most recent known examples of gunfighter pa ever constructed in New Zealand.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical or cultural landscape

Waiu Pa is an integral part of a historical and cultural landscape at Waiouru that reflects both Maori and European occupation and use of this land from the 1870s through to the early decades of the 20th century. Other components of this landscape are associated with early European pastoralism and include Westlawn Hut, which is believed to have been built around the turn of the 20th century for musterers at Ohinewairua Station, and The Homestead, which was built in 1905 by A.C. Morton who was the lessee of Runs 1 and 3 between Turangi and Karioi.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Murimotu-Rangipo district was favourably viewed by European settlers in the early 1870s because of its grasslands and "vital position in opening up the interior from the Whanganui side" and it was hoped that leasing this area would lead to later purchases. Various leasing negotiations were made in 1872 and 1873 but governmental negotiators spoke of considerable delay as a result of "dissensions amongst the claimants" and it was felt that the only way to resolve these difficulties was to have the land surveyed and passed through the Native Land Court. The issue was discussed at a meeting in Wellington in September 1874, by which time the Murimotu Block of 46 000 acres had been surveyed and passed through the Native Land Court. It was eventually agreed that this block was to be leased to the Government for a fee of £10 per 1000 acres for 14 years and then £11 per 1000 for a following seven years though Te Keepa had requested a yearly rent that would rise every five years (started at sixpence per acre).

Te Keepa's decision to lease the Murimotu block to the government provoked debate amongst the various groups with interests in the region including Ngati Tamakopiri, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Whitikaupeka, Ngati Te Ika, Patutokotoko and Rangituhia. The issue of the Murimotu block was discussed at hui in 1876 at Ranana and Aomarama and Te Keepa outlined the reasons why he approved the Government lease. The leasing of the Ruanui block (40 000 acres), Rangiwaea block (15 000 acres), and inland block at Patea (100 000 acres) was also discussed at these hui but there was considerable opposition from chiefs such as Hohepa Tamanuiti of Ngati Tuwharetoa who preferred to wait until such time as the Native Land Court had decided title.

Lease negotiator James Buller wrote to the Under-Secretary of the Native Affairs Department in 1877, stating that given the current feeling amongst the Murimotu and Wanganui iwi and the absence of any survey of hapu boundaries,"it is useless to attempt to make further negotiations for the present". Maori in favour of selling or leasing could apply to the Native Land Court however for an investigation of title and land in the Murimotu Block began going through the Native Land Court in 1877:

"despite Buller's statement that land purchase negotiations should be suspended until Maori were more willing to engage in them, and despite continued concern about the effects of alienation on Maori, land fell to the land court system, leases were obtained and validated, and purchases were made".

The experiences of Wanganui Maori in the 1870s had strengthened their resolve over the control of their land and the 1880s bore witness to "determined and strenuous efforts to regain this authority". There were a series of land disputes in the Murimotu-Rangipo region in the early 1880s and in two instances the commencement of European survey work led to the arrival of armed forces from outside the inland Patea district and the subsequent construction of earthworks by the local iwi as defensive measures. One of these instances took place in early 1880 when Ngati Whitikaupeka and Ngati Tamakopiri of Moawhango constructed gunfighter pa at Waiu in response to the threat of Te Keepa, Ngati Rangi and upper Wanganui iwi who had occupied the south-eastern portion of the Rangipo-Waiu block:

"The survey dispute was in 1880; it took place at Waiu and Auahitotara, between Winiata & Te Oti, and Kemp and their tribes. These were disputing with N'Tama and N'Whiti. Kemp was accompanied by N'rangituhia. Their pa was at Auahitotara; this pa was built last year, by N'rangituhia, including Te Oti, Winiata & Kemp. They came to take the land; they had guns. N'tama also took up arms. This was the first time I saw N'rangituhia on this land".

Te Keepa had taken up arms 'in defence' of his interests in this area in response to the Government's attempts to undertake a comprehensive survey. Captain Mair was sent to the area in late 1879 with the task of carrying on with the survey of Te Waiu but Te Keepa was proposing a survey of the 'Rohe Potae' (King Country) first. Ngati Whitikaupeka and Ngati Rangi strongly objected to Te Keepa's plans and wished to carry on with the Waiu survey as soon as Kennedy (the surveyor) returned from Napier. Captain Mair arranged several meetings between the disputing parties in an attempt to resolve the situation without success. He had intended to leave for Wanganui on January 6th 1880 but felt that he had to stay and "shepherd Kemp or he will stop the survey". Captain Mair's diary over the ensuing weeks provides a fascinating insight into the conflict between the local iwi and Te Keepa's forces at Auahitotara and construction of Waiu Pa (see Appendix 3). An excerpt from his diary on Wednesday February 18th 1880 reads: "old Wiki came from Riu a puanga [?] saying that Ngatiwhiti 42 in number had established themselves at Waiu - that he saw them there". Mair visited Waiu himself on Sunday February 22nd where he found "Ngatiwhiti and Ngatitama about 45 strong besides a dozen women. They have built a fine pa and got it well rifle-pitted".

On Sunday February 22nd 1880, Captain Mair wrote:

"I had a korero with Ngatiwhiti, regretting that they had been led away by K's forces? into building a pa". They explained that building the pa was only for the purpose of defending themselves - that they were naturally exasperated at Kemp's threat's made to a reputation of this people who went to Ngamatia to 'Houhou Te Rongo' namely Kerei Tanguru - Te Oti Tamaiti Ropoama and Rihionia". Kemp told these people that his quarrel was now with the govt who were trying to steal his land ...I replied that I could not blame them for defending their own property and that of their European family?, at the same time I regretted that they had occupied Te Waiu".

Captain Mair's diary indicates that Te Keepa was threatening to drive the sheep of European runholders such as Moorhouse and Studholme off the Murimotu Block that was in dispute. Te Keepa asked Ngati Whitikaupeka to remove their sheep so that the land would be free for him to fight the government and he and his forces also threatened to set fire to the wool sheds and wool washing apparatus of the European settlers. These events never occurred but Te Keepa did prevent the transportation of the Karioi wool belonging to run holders Moorhouse and Studholme during the dispute.

It is apparent from further diary entries that Captain Mair continued in his attempts to diffuse the situation between Te Keepa's forces and Ngati Tamakopiri and Ngati Whitikaupeka. On Sunday February 28th Captain Mair wrote Te Keepa a long letter stating that he had sent back the surveyor and "begged him to be more reasonable". Captain Mair received word on Tuesday March 9th 1880 that Te Keepa had lost his government appointments as a Land Purchase Officer and assessor in the Resident Magistrate's Court. Diary entries on Tuesday 16th March and Sunday 21st March 1880 indicate that Te Keepa was being much more reasonable, stating that he "would not go to exchanges? unless the Ngatiwhiti attack him, and that he will not interfere with the sheep on the 46 000 acre block".

On March 10th 1880, Captain Mair received a letter from land purchase officer James Booth urging him to return to Whanganui. He left the Murimotu-Rangipo district on March 27th 1880 and it appears that the gunfighter pa at Waiu and Auahitotara were abandoned not long after his departure. Steedman (n.d.) notes that the Maori missionary Herekau acted as a negotiator between the two opposing parties, and that peace was made. Te Keepa changed his focus after being relieved of his official duties and set about establishing a Maori land trust throughout inland Wanganui in September 1880. Henare Keepa stated in his evidence to the Maori Land Court on May 16th 1881 that there was no one at Auahitotara when they were travelling through to the Taupo Court.

Waiu Pa was first observed by archaeologists from the air on June 20th 1954 and was eventually located on the ground after several extensive searches. It was recorded as an archaeological site on November 31st 1959 by Tony Batley of Moawhango, Taihape and a basic sketch map was drawn, with a more accurate survey intended at a later date. A noticeboard was produced for Waiu by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust in 1962 but was still not erected in 1967 when Tony Batley revisited the site. It appears that the noticeboard was either lost in transit or misplaced upon receipt at Waiouru.

Physical Description


T21/1 is an open gunfighter's pa, defended along three sides by a ditch and bank, with a bank and rifle pits in the N.N.E. corner. The defensive perimeter of the pa measures approximately 33 m in length and is 14m wide at the N.N.E. end and 21m wide at the S.S. E. end. There is a solitary rifle trench and pit located roughly 12m to the south-west of the main defensive area and a whare floor roughly 20m to the south-east of the main defensive area, with a raised bank along three sides. The entrance to the pa is located at the S.S.E. end, and consists of an undug causeway across the ditch.

Within the defensive perimeter is a central rectangular area, approximately 6m x 25m with an offset whare floor measuring 8m x 4.5m, approximately. This central area is sunken at a depth of 0.5m to 1.1m and is connected to the main defensive perimeter via rifle trenches on two sides. The larger rectangle is buttressed in locations, and these buttresses have been interpreted as further subdivisions for whare. Whilst the overall design is typical of gunfighter pa dating to the mid to late 1860s, the fully enclosed whare floor is regarded as unusual, as whare typically open directly onto the trench perimeter in other pa. An in situ palisade was recorded in dense vegetation on the central rectangular area during a recent visit to the site by NZHPT archaeologists.


T21/2 is less clearly defined than T21/1 but the key features are still visible. There is a central sunken rectangular area c. 12m x 13.7m with an in situ palisade at the southern end. This palisade measured 14.5cm x 14.5cm and stood 21cm above the ground. The central rectangular area is surrounded by a bank measuring up to 1m high in places, outside of which is an irregular perimeter of rifles trenches and pits. A number of fallen palisade posts were also noted lying around the exterior of the central area during a visit in the mid 1990's and some of these are still visible today. A possible whare floor (c. 6m x 4m) was located roughly to the southeast of T21/2 and has a raised bank on three sides.

Notable Features

two gunfighter pa, whare, bark stripped totara

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1880 - 1880

Construction Details

Archaeological site - ditch and bank defences, rifle pits, palisades, whare floors

Public NZAA Number



Completion Date

18th April 2006

Report Written By

Joanna Wylie

Information Sources

Archives New Zealand (Wgtn)

Archives New Zealand (Wellington)

Taupo Minute Book No 2: Page 192;

Wanganui Minute Book No 56: Page 365;

Diary of Gilbert Mair, Dec 1879 - mid March 1880. MS Papers-0092-51 (Volume 29).

Simpson, 1995

P Simpson and K Jones,. Archaeological Site Stabilisation and Vegetation Management, Case Studies I: Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Hawkes Bay, Central Volcanic Plateau and Taranaki. Department of Conservation: Science and Research Series No. 84, 1995.

Pages 96-100

Steedman, nd

Richard Steedman, 'Te Hikoi o nga whanau ki Waiu', Unpublished report provided to the NZHPT, n.d. [Held on File HP29003-107 Volume 2].

Waitangi Tribunal

Waitangi Tribunal Report, www.waitangi-tribunal.govt.nz

S Cross and B Bargh, The Whanganui District: Rangahaua Whanui District 9. Working Paper: First Release, Waitangi Tribunal Rangahaua Whanui Series, 1996; See Chapters 4 and 5

Wanganui District Council

Wanganui District Council

'Rangitikei County: Places of Historical, Scientific or Architectural Interest or Natural Beauty', Wanganui City Council: Town Planning Department, 1976-77.

Other Information

Iwi - Ngati Tamakopiri and Ngati Whitikaupeka

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.