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Manaia Redoubt – The Twilight of the New Zealand Wars

The Manaia Redoubt known as ‘the watchtower of the plains’ was erected by the New Zealand Constabulary Field Force in 1880-81 as part of the military strategy to contain the pacifist Māori settlement at Parihaka. Colonial Settlers had become increasingly nervous about the growing non-violent resistance to the confiscation of Māori lands.

To assert continued Māori ownership of ‘confiscated’ land ploughmen from Parihaka moved out across Taranaki to cultivate land. The government responded with laws targeting the Parihaka protesters and imprisoned several hundred ploughmen without trial. When men from Parihaka began rebuilding their fences on their land they were arrested too. Some died in prison.

When most prisoners were released in early 1881 they began ploughing again. The New Zealand Premier John Hall decided to move against Parihaka while the Queen Victoria’s Representative – Governor Sir Arthur Gordon was out of the country. The Government made a proclamation on 19th October giving the ‘Parihaka natives’ 14 days to accept the reserve land offered or face the consequences.

On 5 November 1881, a 1600 strong force of settler volunteers and Constabulary Field Force troops marched on Parihaka. They found several thousand Māori including singing children. There was no resistance. The column was led by Native Minister John Bryce. He had fought in the earlier Taranaki wars and viewed Parihaka as a ‘headquarters of fanaticism and disaffection’. Bryce ordered the arrest of Parihaka’s leaders, the destruction of most of the village and the expulsion of its inhabitants. The press were banned from covering the expedition. At a commission of inquiry 30 years later it was revealed that some Māori women were raped by troops and some bore children as a result.

Armed Constabulary posing for a photo within Parihaka – November 1881

The military conflict that was the New Zealand War’s ebbed and flowed between 1845-1872. The invasion of Parihaka by Government forces against unarmed Māori in 1881 provided the final twilight against a backdrop of increasing dominance and land possession throughout the mid-19th Century.

The remains of the Manaia Redoubt today are located within the present-day Manaia golf course. The earthworks and blockhouses are original, and the concrete tower was built in 1910 as a replacement for the original wooden structure that had collapsed in a storm. The ‘watchtower of the plains’ is now overshadowed by the mature trees that line the fairways of the Manaia Golf Course.

Corner Blockhouse with firing loopholes provides front-facing fire and cover for the ditches on two sides of the redoubt

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