Pioneer memorial, Ngaruawahia
Turret from the gunboat, Pioneer. Image: Amanda Trayesexpand/collapse

Here, in 1858, at the tranquil point where the Waikato and Waipa rivers meet, the elderly warrior Te Wherowhero became the first Māori king.  He was a symbol of Māori unity and defiance, and his 'capital' Ngaruawahia was a thriving port, surrounded by fertile farmland.

When British troops surged up the river to occupy Ngaruawahia in 1863, the Kingites had already fled.  The Union flag was hoisted high on the Te Wherowhero’s flagstaff. It was an immense political victory.  From here, the British tightened their grip on the lower Waikato.

Today Ngaruawahia is still the official home of the current Māori monarch, King Tuheitia, who was crowned following his mother’s death in 2006.