Tauranga is situated in the Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand the centre of the Bay of Plenty. Tauranga is the bustling, confident port city where pleasure craft jostle in the marinas and charter vessels operate fishing, scuba diving and dolphin-watching trips. There is no shortage of shopping and dining in Tauranga either. This, after all, is the centre of the Bay of Plenty, a region experiencing steady population growth.
A BAY WITH PLENTY TO OFFER
New Zealand Herald Article By Richard Moore
A year ago I stood on the deck of an ocean liner that was sailing off the Bay of Plenty from Wellington to Auckland. A great arc of bay greeted those of us leaning against the ship’s rail. At the southern end, a circle of mist hung over volcanic White Island. To the north, a sprinkle of islands floated under Mt Maunganui.
More than 220 years before, Captain Cook had sailed into these waters and named the area the Bay of Plenty. The explorer had come upon many diverse landforms during his epic voyages in the late 18th century, but his encounter with the central northeast coast of New Zealand must have pleased him well.
The name he gave to the sweep of ocean beaches, accommodating harbour and fertile hinterland has stuck with good reason. The Bay of Plenty is a popular holiday destination, offering beaches with pounding surf as well as scenic lakes further inland.
Tauranga is the bustling, confident port city where pleasure craft jostle in the marinas and charter vessels operate fishing, scuba diving and dolphin-watching trips. There is no shortage of shopping and dining in Tauranga either. This, after all, is the centre of the Bay of Plenty, a region experiencing steady population growth.
But it’s nearby Mt Maunganui that kick-starts the Bay of Plenty’s beachside flavour. It feels like a year-round holiday resort with long-boarders hitching up their shorts on their way to catch a wave. Most of the shops are geared to kitting you out for the beach or boat. The aroma of coffee beans swirls down the main street from a bevy of cafes. And looming over this leisurely scene like a sentinel is “The Mount”.
The choice of beaches adds to the feeling of abundance in the Bay. Separated from each other by small headlands, they stretch from the ocean and harbour beaches of the Mount to Papamoa Beach 15 minutes south. About the same drive-time south again, via the Whakatane highway, is Pukehina. My favourite. Here you can dig your toes into the cream-coloured sand without the growing population of permanent residents and statement-striving dwellings of the Mount and Papamoa peering over your shoulder.
Pukehina is still the realm of holiday houses where the itinerant owners covet the comparatively laid-back environment and two shops.
Some of the seaside homes are offered for weekend and holiday rent. So keep your eyes peeled in the baches-to-rent newspaper columns. And prepare yourself for the seaside mix of fishing, boating and blobbing out. When the weather cools off too much for swimming the locals head to Katikati for a soak in the hot springs. Katikati also has several vineyards and a handful of quirky cafes.
The Bay of Plenty offers a raft of holiday accommodation, either by the beach or in the countryside. Te Puke, about 15 minutes’ drive inland from Pukehina, is typical of the attractive rural towns of the region, as well as being the centre of a thriving orchard region. Nearby is Paengaroa, which supplements farming income with business nous. Rock up to the village of Paengaroa – not too fast or you’ll miss it – and you will find tourist excursion booking services for the Bay’s many attractions. Paengaroa’s honey centre is a tourist hive.
A long weekend is definitely needed if the southern end of the Bay of Plenty is to get a look-in. Whakatane, the visitor-friendly town anchoring the southeast, has charm, not to mention strategic proximity to White Island, the brooding spectacle that is a star attraction in the Bay.
So after you have admired the civic pride and hospitality, illustrated by the colourful flower beds and numerous cafes lining the city streets, and when you have explored the nearby beaches, there will come the temptation to get a closer look at White Island.
Walking on White Island is like walking on a moonscape. The ancient volcano lying 50km offshore from Whakatane is home to bright yellow and white sulphur crystals sparkling amid hissing and steaming vapour. Captain Cook, the first European to sight the island, noted in 1769: “We called it White for as such it always appeared to us.” He could have been referring to the dense steam that hangs over this constantly active volcano.
Long before Europeans discovered it, Maori were collecting sulphur from the island for garden manure and steam-cooking nesting birds. White Island passed to European ownership in the 1830s which led to a fever of sulphur mining. But its owners and the government declared White Island a private scenic reserve in 1953. The native birds are now protected and access to the still privately owned island is restricted in order to preserve its unique and fascinating landscape.
Only a third of White Island, estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000 years old, rises above the sea. The moody, restless volcano can work itself up from a simmer to a roar with plenty of rumbling and smoking in between. Therefore, the island remains under constant surveillance for scientific purposes and to ensure safe access.
The immense main crater lake is fired by jets steaming from earth’s inner cauldron. Close by are two more craters and the moonscape view of White Island below pulses with thermal energy – boiling pools and sulphurous steam. On their rocky promontories, gannet colonies add their own splashes of vibrant black, white and yellow. For a close encounter with White Island you have a choice of designated helicopter and boat tour operators. Scenic flights depart from Tauranga, Rotorua and Whakatane, the latter being the closest.
Boat tours leave from Tauranga and Whakatane and take about 80 minutes. You can land on the island with these companies, all of whom carry safety equipment. Tours include one to two hour walks around the island. Boat trips are sometimes accompanied by pods of dolphins. TAURANGA HISTORY
The earliest known settlers arrived from the Takitimu and Mataatua waka in the 12th century. It was named “Tauranga”, meaning “landing place”.
Traders in flax were active in the Bay of Plenty during the 1830s; some were transient, others married local women and settled permanently. The first permanent trader was James Farrow, who traveled to Tauranga in 1829, obtaining flax fibre for Australian merchants in exchange for muskets and gunpowder. Farrow acquired half an acre of land on 10 January 1838 at Otumoetai Pa- from the chiefs Tupaea, Tangimoana and Te Omanu, the earliest authenticated land purchase in the Bay of Plenty.
During the 1820s, missionaries from the Bay of Islands visited the Tauranga district to obtain supplies of potatoes, pigs and flax. In 1840, a Catholic mission station was established. Bishop Pompallier was given land within the palisades of Otumoetai Pa- for a church and a presbytery. The mission station closed in 1863 due to land wars in the Waikato district.
The Tauranga Campaign took place in and around Tauranga, from 21 January 1864 to 21 June 1864, during the Ma-ori Wars. The Battle of Gate Pa is the most well-known. Origins
This campaign started as a side show to the Invasion of the Waikato, where British Imperial Troops, on behalf of the New Zealand Colonial Government, were fighting a confederation of Ma-ori tribes known as the King Movement. The Kingites were receiving assistance, both materials and recruits, from many of the tribes in the North Island. In an effort to curb this flow of support the British sent an expedition to Tauranga, a major harbour in the Bay of Plenty, some 100 km east of the conflict in the Waikato.
Their intention was merely to establish a base and adopt a defensive posture. However the local Ma-ori, Ngai Te Rangi, could not afford to assume that this would always be the case. They responded with threats, insults, abuse, a programme of increasing provocation and then began raiding the British camp. Finally they built a strong Pa-, a fortress or defensive position only 5km from the British camp.
The British commander, Colonel Greer, could not ignore this. Not only did it restrict his freedom of movement but it also limited his control of Tauranga Harbour. He applied to Auckland for reinforcements so he could go on the offensive. His request arrived in Auckland just as the active conflict in Waikato ended. The British commander, General Duncan Cameron, had just returned to Auckland where he had been experiencing a lot of criticism from the press and the Colonial government, who saw the Waikato Campaign as a failure. True, they had conquered and annexed a lot of territory but this had always been only the unspoken objective. The ostensible reason for invading the Waikato had been decisively to beat the Ma-ori in battle and draw an end to the King Movement. It is reasonable to assume that Cameron saw Tauranga as a chance to achieve a decisive victory. Whatever the reasons, he immediately sailed for Tauranga with his entire reserve, bringing the garrison up to 1700 men.
Meanwhile fighting had already broken out nearby. A large contingent of East Coast Ma-ori, possibly as many as 700 warriors, were making their way towards the conflict at Waikato. Their route took them through the territory of another tribe which saw themselves as allies of the Pa-keha-, the Arawa tribe based around Rotorua. Forewarned of this, the Arawa chiefs called back their tribesmen, many of whom were working in Auckland or further north. Pausing only in Tauranga to borrow guns from the British, they hastened onward to Rotorua. Four hundred warriors of the tribe were mobilized and they met and held the East Coast Ma-ori on 7 April in a two day battle on the shores of Lake Rotoiti.
The invaders fell back towards Maketu, a small settlement on the coast south east of Tauranga. A contingent of British troops and Colonial Militia hastily occupied the area and built a substantial redoubt on a nearby hilltop. In the event the enemy did not arrive for two weeks, until 27 April by which time a pair of field guns had also been installed. When they eventually arrived the East Coast Ma-ori surrounded the redoubt and began digging trenches. The rest of the day was spent in desultory gun fire that achieved very little.
The following day reinforcements for the defenders arrived in the form of 300 Te Arawa warriors and two British naval steamships, one of them a heavily armed corvette. These were able to anchor close in to shore and bombard the attackers at will. The East Coast Ma-ori soon found their position untenable and had to retreat. They tried to dig in further down the coast but were promptly attacked by the militia, the New Zealand Forest Rangers led by Captain Thomas McDonnell. A running fight through the sand dunes ensued and continued until dusk and was then resumed in the morning with the Arawa Ma-ori lending enthusiastic assistance. Meanwhile the two naval ships kept pace with the fighting and any of the enemy Ma-ori coming too close to the shore line was met with cannon fire.
Eventually the East Coast Ma-ori dispersed into the swamps and returned home.
The Battle of Gate Pa
Gate Pa- is the name given to a fortress the Ma-ori built only 5km from the main British base at Tauranga. The name comes from its appearance, the palisade looked liked a picket fence while a higher part in the middle resembled a gate. By the end of April the British were ready to attack. They had 1700 men and were opposed by merely 230 Ma-ori, it looked like a good opportunity to score a decisive victory.
A heavy bombardment began at daybreak on 29 April 1864 and continued for eight hours. The British had 15 artillery pieces, including one of 110 pounds (50 kg). By mid afternoon the Pa- looked as if it had been demolished and there was a large breach in the centre of the palisade. At 4 p.m. the barrage was lifted and 300 troops were sent up to capture and secure the position.
Within ten minutes well over a hundred of them were dead or wounded. There was no second assault. During the night the Ma-ori gave assistance to the wounded and collected their weapons, by day break they had abandoned the position.
Gate Pa- was the single most devastating defeat suffered by the British military in the whole of the Ma-ori Wars.
General Cameron was an able commander of the Imperial forces; in his past experiences, he witnessed the cost of making a frontal assault on a defended Pa- and he was concerned with the safety of his troops. Nevertheless, he ordered such an assault on Gate Pa-. It seems likely that he believed the bombardment had been long and intense enough to extinguish all resistance from within the Pa. One historian calculated that Gate Pa- absorbed in eight hours a greater weight of explosives per square metre than did the German trenches in the week long bombardment leading up to the Battle of the Somme in World War I. If true then Cameron’s assumption seems to have been a reasonable one.
But Gate Pa- wasn’t quite what it appeared to be. From the British positions it looked like a fairly large strongpoint occupying the entire hill top. In fact it was much smaller, being two low redoubts on either side of the ridge joined by a deep trench about forty metres long and the whole shielded by a strong wooden palisade. It seems likely that British concentrated their barrage towards the centre, that is where the palisade had collapsed and that is where the attack went in. Meanwhile the two redoubts had been very strongly built with deep and effective bombproof shelters. The Ma-ori may have been deafened by the bombardment, but as soon as it ended they were able to unleash a devastating ambush.
To contemporaries Gate Pa- was seen as a shattering defeat. Indeed it was. The perception was that 1700 elite British troops had been defeated by 230 half naked savages. The arrogance of the settlers and the hubris of the British Empire took a serious blow. Governor George Grey came down to Tauranga and began peace negotiations. Cameron returned to Auckland leaving Colonel Greer in command, with orders to patrol aggressively and, if he found Maori digging in or attempting to create a pa, to attack immediately and disrupt the work.
The Battle of Te Ranga
The Tauranga campaign seemed to be over and then suddenly balance swung once again. Colonel Greer was conducting patrols around his base, in strength, i.e. with 600 men. On 21 June he came upon a force of about 500 Ma-ori building a new Pa- at Te Ranga, some seven kilometres from his base. They had done little more than dig a few shallow trenches. However Greer had sufficient respect for his enemy that he immediately called for reinforcements. This was the opportunity Cameron had always been looking for, to be able to meet the Ma-ori in the open. The Ma-ori fought desperately but they were overwhelmed by the British soldiery. They only broke and fled when their commander, Rawiri, was killed.
The success at Te Ranga was hailed as a great British victory, one that wiped out the shame of the defeat at Gate Pa. It certainly did a great deal to restore British morale particularly for the 43rd Regiment which was involved in both engagements and had lost many men at Gate Pa.
Peace negotiations were resumed but the Pa-keha- were negotiating on equitable terms and were not in a position to insist on an unconditional surrender. A few firearms were surrendered, mostly old and rusty muskets. Some land was confiscated but very little compared with what was happening in the Waikato. Also the Government agreed to supply the Ma-ori with food and seed until they got their crops re-established.
At the time it was said that the Ma-ori achieved this favourable settlement only because Governor Grey had a Ngai Te Rangi girlfriend. Possibly, although it might have been because General Cameron withdrew the British Imperial Troops from Tauranga and would allow them no further involvement.
Furthermore they were needed in the Wanganui area. By now the Second Taranaki War was well underway and the New Zealand government was fighting on two fronts.
The Battle of Te Ranga, 21 June 1864 was the last serious engagement of the Tauranga campaign. Insofar as the Tauranga Campaign was a sideshow of the Waikato War it also marks the tacit end of that conflict. There was no real peace treaty or truce, the two sides just stopped fighting each other.
Tauranga is a fast growing city in New Zealand, meaning that the city has tripled in size in a little over 25 years. The population increase is due mostly to retirees settling in the city, and sun and surf seekers. It is also a popular lifestyle city. Although the population has increased dramatically, the city is proportionally underrepresented in businesses other than retail which is over-saturated, and the CBD reflects a city of less than half the population as that of Tauranga. This is mainly because of many outer suburb areas having shopping centres including Fraser Cove, Fashion Island and Palm Beach Plaza spreading retail dollars thin in the area as property values and rents are very high.