The Wairau Affray 1843

A DigitalNZ Story by National Library of New Zealand Topics

This brief New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa affray was also known as the 'Wairau incident’ and earlier, 'Wairau Massacre'. The fatal fight between Māori and British settlers in Marlborough was the first after the signing of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. SCIS no. 1965908

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Wairau affray

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Site of Wairau affray

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Te Rauparaha’s Account of the Wairau Affray

The Prow: ngā kōrero o te tau ihu

The Wairau incident

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Missionary Samuel Ironside carried out a burial service for those Pakeha killed in the Wairau Affray. The dead were buried in a "large, deep grave...in sadness and tears".

Samuel Ironside

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Nelson Haven, November 1841

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William Wakefield

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Edward Gibbon Wakefield, 1823

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A brief biography of Robert FitzRoy

Story: FitzRoy, Robert -

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Captain Arthur Wakefield

Captain Arthur Wakefield was the New Zealand Company's Nelson agent. He was also the brother of Colonel William Wakefield, Principal Agent for the New Zealand Company. Shortly before Capt. Wakefield took part in the Wairau affray (where he was killed) he noted the following in a letter to his brother. "Te Eauparaha (Te Rauparaha) and Eangi (Te Hiko) have commenced operations on the Wairau, and have burned one of the surveyors' houses... Thompson, accompanied by myself, England, and a lot of constables, are off immediately in the Government brig to execute it. We shall muster about sixty, so I think we shall overcome these travelling bullies…"

Wairau affray: Arthur Wakefield

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

Governor Fitzroy

Arriving in New Zealand on 9 December 1843 the new Governor, Fitzroy wasted no time in determining the truth around the Wairau Affray (or massacre as it quickly became known). In early February 1844, he convened a one-man inquiry at Waikanae. At the hui, Fitzroy told Te Rauparaha. “Tell me your story, that I may compare it with the other, and know the whole truth.” Te Rauparaha then began a detailed account of the affray. "There was no evil intended in the commencement of this affray. Land is the foundation of all our troubles; the Europeans say that it is theirs, but who says so besides themselves. The Tory came to Port Nicholson, and that was the commencement of the evil.”

Robert Fitzroy

Kete New Plymouth

A plan for more land

It seems extraordinary but by 1843 settlers in Nelson were running out of flat arable land to take up as farm lots. However, Captain Arthur Wakefield had a solution. There was plenty of, fertile land at Wairau. Moreover, Wakefield had secured a deed to this land from whaler Captain Blenkinsop who had bought it from the Ngati Toa leader Te Rauparaha. There was just one catch, Te Rauparaha hadn’t been paid for the whenua. So, we can imagine Ngati Toa’s frustration and anger when surveying of the Wairau plain began. Te Rauparaha’s response was firm. He visited the surveyors and directed his Ngai Toa taua to burn down a raupo thatched hut then told the surveyors to head back to Nelson.

Saxton, John Waring 1806-1866 :The town and part of the harbour of Nelson in 1842, about a year after its first foundation / drawn by John Saxton E...

Alexander Turnbull Library

Utu

At Fitzroy’s Waikanae inquiry in 1844, the Ngati Toa leader, Te Rauparaha told Fitzroy. “It is not our custom in war to save the chiefs of our enemies. We do not consider our victory complete unless we kill the chiefs of our opponents.” Te Rauparaha was referring to the killing of Pakeha who had surrendered during the Wairau Affray. They were killed as utu for the death of Rangihaeta’s wife, Te Rongopamama. Utu does not simply mean payment, revenge killing or even revenge. It can also include good deeds (typified by feasts and whenua and gift exchange). For Māori, utu was reciprocity and a necessity that addressed concepts of mana, tapu and tikanga Māori.

Interview Between His Excellency the Governor and Rauparaha, the Principal Chief present at the Wairau Massacre. (Daily Southern Cross, 23 March ...

National Library of New Zealand

Captain Fitzroy leaves New Zealand

“No other man could have demolished a character and the remains of a colony, in so short a time as Captain Fitzroy has done. The prestige of a new Governor vanished in a fortnight, or rather prostration at the feet of filthy savages, was gazetted as the only road to preferment.” Hated by settlers (especially those in Nelson) over his decision on the Wairau Affray, an effigy of Fitzroy was burnt by Nelson settlers when the Governor was suddenly recalled to Britain in 1845. Ironically the appointment of Fitzroy was initially greeted with a “splendid bonfire” a “hogshead of good English Porter “ and repeated cheering.

New Zealand spectator, AND COOK'S STRAITS GUARDIAN. Saturday, October 11, 1845. (New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, 11 October 1845)

National Library of New Zealand

Wairau Plains

New Zealand governor, Robert Fitzroy, had a lot on his plate when he arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand late 1843. Barely 5 months earlier the Wairau Affray had left 22 Pakeha settlers dead. The new colony was shocked, and Nelson settlers enraged that Māori chiefs, Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata had not been captured and bought to trial. However, the Government did not take any punitive action over the affray. Fitzroy’s view was that the Ngāti Toa chiefs had been provoked by both the actions of the New Zealand Company (who persevered in surveying the Wairau when they hadn’t purchased it) and also the bellicose posse who travelled to Wairau to arrest Te Rauparaha on doubtful charges of arson.

Wairau Plain.

University of Otago

A sleepy settlement between Picton and Blenheim, Tuamarina was the site of bloody Wairau Affray in June 1843.

Trouble at Tuamarina – roadside stories

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Wairau Affray

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The most important event in New Zealand during Mr. Shortland’s administration was the Wairau Affray at Tuamarina

The Tua marina tragedy 1843

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Te Rangihaeata

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Te Rauparaha

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Wairau Incident

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Te Rauparaha

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage

New Zealand Company expedition

Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage