Bay of Islands & Northland

Ruapekapeka Pa

The struggle between British troops and Maori in Northland led to the creation of this ingenious pa (fort).

Fourteen kilometres south east of Kawakawa, Ruapekapeka is one of the largest and most complex Maori pa in New Zealand. It was the site of Northland’s last great battle between British troops and Nga Puhi forces led by Hone Heke and Kawiti. The final assault on the pa took place in January 1846.

The pa was the brainchild of Te Ruki Kawiti, who adapted traditional pa designs to address the overwhelming firepower of the British. It was an ingenious nest of tunnels, rifle pits and trenches surrounded by a mighty palisade. The pa successfully withstood siege and bombardment for several weeks before Kawiti made a tactical withdrawal, luring some of the British troops into a complex ambush behind the pa.

The ditch and bank defences of the pa are still visible, along with one of Kawiti's cannons and the well that supplied water to the defenders. The earthen defences of the advanced British position are also still visible.