Rangitatau Pā a hit for heritage festival
November 29, 2023 | Stories
Liz Mellish presents to a group as part of the Wellington Heritage Festival

This is a story from our monthly newsletter, Heritage this Month.

Niki Partsch | Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington

As part of the Wellington Heritage Festival, our Wellington team entered into a joint venture with Te Wharewaka o Pōneke to present the little-known story of Rangitatau Pā. 

Planning any outside event along the volatile south coast of Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington is ultimately a hit and miss thing, particularly during our spring months, so there was some surprise at the brilliantly sunny and near windless conditions on the day.  

Walking up from Tarakena Bay to the towering Atatürk Memorial is a fair hike. Attendees were rewarded with stunning views north-east across the harbour entrance and south out over Raukawa Moana Cook Strait, which sparkled with gorgeous hues of blue and green. Visibility was impressively clear right across to the snow topped Kaikōura ranges in the northeast of Te Waipounamu South Island.  

The Atatürk Memorial was built in response to a gesture made by the Turkish Government in 1984 when they renamed Ari Burnu on the Gallipoli peninsula, Anzac Cove. This was done in memory of the Australian and New Zealand troops who died there in 1915 during the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI. 

On Anzac Day and Chunuk Bair Day (8 August) wreaths are laid at the Atatürk Memorial to commemorate the well-known and far distant battle for Chunuk Bair, which was captured by the Wellington Battalion under the leadership of Lt. Col. William Malone after a hard-fought and devastating battle. Unknown to most of those present for the annual ceremonies, and for those on the day of our event, the memorial overlooks a significant local battle site. 

Liz Mellish MNZM (Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Ruanui), gave a wonderful presentation from a mana whenua perspective, on the history of Rangitatau Pā, identifying the people who once lived there and their relationships to the network of other pā in the vicinity.  

From the vantage point of the hilltop where the memorial stands, it is easy see the location of the two pā sites, Rangitatau and Poito

Circa 1819-20, two significant Ngāi Tara pā were raided by a group from the far north who killed the occupants here and destroyed their homes.  

From the vantage point of the hilltop where the memorial stands, it is easy see the location of the two pā sites, Rangitatau and Poito which are positioned in very close proximity to each other. Nestled above the bay they were strategically placed to see anything happening, or anyone coming, however the attack that ended occupation here came too swiftly for most to escape.   

Both pā are now well overgrown with native vegetation, but in 1899 when visited by HM Christie, traces of the Rangitatau Pā site were still visible with tōtara palisades showing evidence of charring still in place.

Event attendees, captivated by the history and imagery delivered eloquently by Liz, were able to appreciate the location with a fresh perspective, and look beyond the contemporary monument to reveal deeper layers of historical significance. 

Rangitatau Pā is recognised as a wāhi tapu on the New Zealand Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero. Visit the list online to find out more about this important site.  

Rangitatau Pā
New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero
Rangitatau Pā is recognised as a Wāhi Tapu Area on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero. Visit the List online to find out more about this important site.
Partsch, Niki (author)
Wellington Heritage Festival
Rangitatau Pā

Niki Partsch | Kaitohutohu Whanake - Māori Heritage Advisor
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