Public Ownership for Site of National Significance

27 June 2016

A significant New Zealand historical site has come into public ownership for the first time, with the purchase of Te Kohia Pa.

 The site, which is also known as the L-pa due to its shape, was where the first shots were fired at in the First Taranaki War in 1860.

New Plymouth District Council has bought the 4ha Brixton property from a private owner and intends to work with Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa on a development plan that could include memorials, heritage/cultural tourism and educational developments.

Mayor Andrew Judd says it was the opportunity of a lifetime to bring a site of national significance into public ownership.

“My vision is for this to be a place for Maori and Pakeha to come together to learn and better understand each other, and to heal,” says the Mayor.

“I see this as an extension of Puke Ariki, where we could have an education centre that discusses not only what happened there at the Peka Peka Block but which tells the wider New Zealand story during the wars.”

Otaraua Hapu Chairman Rawiri Doorbar says the significance of the site cannot be overstated.

“This was the flash-point of a forgotten war – a fire in which this country was forged – and where every tangible sign that it ever happened has nearly all been erased by farming and industry,” he says.

“This is big, this is hugely significant to us. The Council should be congratulated for including tangata whenua in this meaningful relationship, and for its foresight in actively seeking to secure our history for the benefit of our collective future.”

The Council will take possession of the site in August and it remains private property until then. The cost of the site’s purchase will be met by the sale of surplus property, leasing some of the land for grazing and from debt.

Te Kohia Pa is on Devon Road between Waitara Road and Big Jim’s Hill. The site has been identified through a review of the district’s waahi tapu and archaeological sites by archaeological firm Geometria Ltd, with additional confirmation by hapu and historians. The pa’s exact location will be determined by archaeological investigations once the house has been relocated.

The pa was known for its innovative covered trenches – a feature first used at Ruapekapeka in the Northern War of the 1840s then refined at Te Kohia. These trenches were replicated by other iwi in their pa designs during the New Zealand Wars.

Mayor Judd says any remnants of the pa’s structure would be a key part of any educational function that is developed.

“At the time of the first shots in the Taranaki War, after Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke and his men abandoned the pa, the English took detailed drawings of its design because they were so impressed with its complexity,” he says.

  • In February 1860 the surveying of the disputed Waitara block was interrupted by supporters of Paramount Te Atiawa Chief Wiremu Kīngi Te Rangitāke. The British Army based in New Plymouth occupied the land and a blockhouse was erected. Te Atiawa responded by building Te Kohia Pa on a ridge overlooking the British position. On 17 March 1860, Colonel Charles Gold ordered an attack upon the pa, marking the start of the First Taranaki War.