The Waikato War

The Waikato Wars Driving Tour

For ten months during 1863-1864, the once-peaceful hills and plains of Waikato rang with battle cries and the boom of warships. At stake was some of the North Island’s most fertile farmland around the Waikato and Waipa rivers. When the smoke cleared, the British had seized more than one million acres of tribal territory, and the door open to Pākehā control of the North Island. 

Purutia! Tawhia! Kia ita! A—a—a ita! Kia mau, kia mau!

Hold fast our land! Bind, tightly bind! Be firm, be firm!
Nor let it from our grasp be torn!
- Kingitanga War Chant

The Waikato War was a key conflict in New Zealand’s history and has had a lasting impact on Aotearoa, New Zealand.  For years, Māori farmers in the Waikato region had prospered, growing much of the wheat, potatoes and maize that fed Auckland’s hungry settlers.  

The colonial government was under pressure to find fertile land for the rising tide of immigrants. Waikato Māori, newly unified under their own king, resisted the idea of land sales.  

A crushing British invasion followed, involving some 18,000 British troops that were posted at numerous locations in the Waikato and North Island – more than in any other of the New Zealand Wars. Māori forces could only field about 2,000 warriors during the campaign.

The impacts resulting from the invasion and confiscation of land caused catastrophic economic, social and cultural damage for Waikato Māori.

Today, you can still find haunting remnants of the war in the hillocks, gullies and riverbanks of the Waikato. Many stories from both sides are unresolved. Step onto the land and discover them today.

This was one of the best-prepared campaigns ever undertaken by the British army... (Belich 1986)
Tohu Maumahara
Image: Heritage New Zealandexpand/collapse

Waikato War Driving Tour  

The Waikato War Driving Tour app will take you on a unique journey to visit 13 sites of significance to the Waikato campaign.  

The mobile app provides GPS linked maps, an audio guide for each location, as well as a high-quality, education resource.  

At four key locations, imagery of what the historic sites would have looked like in the 1860s, enables visitors to visualise aspects of the combat.  

A carved Tohu Maumahara (symbol of remembrance, pictured left) stands at Rangiriri to commemorate those who fought and fell during the battle.

The places you'll visit:

  1. Highwic
  2. Pukekohe East Church
  3. Pokeno
  4. Mercer
  5. Whangamarino
  6. Rangiriri
  7. Te Wheoro’s Redoubt
  8. Ngaruawahia
  9. Paterangi
  10. Rangiaowhia
  11. Kihikihi
  12. Orakau
  13. Pirongia/Alexandra Redoubt.
The best way of understanding what happened at these places is to go there... (Nigel Prickett)


The downloadable resources we have provided will make your exploration of the Waikato War come alive: