$8.5m for Ruapekapeka PGF projects

  • Hon Shane Jones
Regional Economic Development

The Government will invest $8.5 million to restore a historic reserve at Ruapekapeka Pā in the Far North and seal 4.7km of road between State Highway 1 and the pā, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has announced.

“Te Ruapekapeka Pā is a site of national historical importance, particularly to Māori. The pā site at Ruapekapeka Historical Reserve, at Towai, is the location of the Battle of Ruapekapeka that ended what was known as the Northern War.

“Through the Provincial Growth Fund, the trustees of Te Ruapekapeka Trust will receive $2 million to make improvements to reserve ahead of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Te Ruapekapeka in February 2021,” Shane Jones said.

Five years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, disagreement over its interpretation turned into an armed uprising. The conflict between British colonial forces and northern Māori in 1845 and 1846 culminated in the battle of Ruapekapeka Pā.

Some 400 Māori warriors fought against 1600 British soldiers and their Māori allies. The pā was built by Te Ruki Kawiti and had intricate tunnels, rifle pits, trenches and formidable palisades that were later adapted to European warfare methods.

“Today Ruapekapeka has New Zealand’s best preserved battlefield. Ditches and bank defences, a cast iron cannon and earthen defences are still visible,” Shane Jones said.

In 2017 the communal grave of 12 British soldiers killed on January 1846 during the final assault on Ruapekapeka Pā, was uncovered at the site. The soldiers will be commemorated with a memorial at the anniversary event in February. 

“Today’s funding provides an opportunity to present a balanced understanding of the battle. Hapu have the opportunity to research the involvement of their ancestors in the conflict and to better understand both the Māori and British accounts of the battle at Ruapekapeka,” Shane Jones said.

“The stories will be gathered and the sites where battles and skirmishes took place will be digitally linked. Viewing platforms will be built to allow views across the pā.”

The funding includes the installation of a pou next to State Highway 1 to attract visitors to the pā and tūpuna (ancestral) pou for the pathway leading up to the pā. Local carvers will be employed to carry out the carving work,” Shane Jones said.

Te Ruapekapeka Trust’s vision is to ensure the pā and battlefield is a place of reverence, authenticity and belonging. The long-term aim is for the trust to become economically self-sustaining and create employment opportunities for local people. Up to 16 people are expected to be employed at the pā during the development work. 

“This work should encourage visitors to travel to other historical sites of the Northern War, which includes the Ōhaeawai where the British were first defeated. Ōhaeawai Battlefield received $1.7 million in PGF funding in August to restore the site,” Shane Jones said.

Other funding announced today is $6.5 million for Far North District Council to upgrade and seal part of Ruapekapeka Rd from State Highway 1 at Towai to Ruapekapeka Pā.

Ruapekapeka Rd is the main route to Ruapekapeka Pā. It is also a vital link to areas of extensive agriculture and plantation forests and acts as an alternate route when State Highway 1 is closed.

The road works will include drainage and corners improvements, shape correction, road widening and sealing and strengthening or replacing a single lane bridge at the southern end of the road.

Work on the road will start within the next six months. Around 50 people will be directly employed on the project over the two years of construction.