Early European settlement at Tataraimaka and the Land Wars

The following is an extract from If walls could talk … Succession.

Ngā Mahanga sells 3500 acres of Tataraimaka, May 1847

Seven years after the New Zealand company purchased the Ngamotu block, now known as New Plymouth, many European settlers had arrived with over 2000 acres under cultivation between both Māori or European.

The new Governor, Sir George Grey, started negotiations to acquire more land for the increasing numbers of European immigrants and turned his endeavours to the south west of New Plymouth, This land belonged to the Taranaki iwi. Two blocks were purchased, the Omata block which was adjacent to the newly evolving New Plymouth town and 3560 acres at Tataraimaka which was sold by Ngā Mahanga, a hapū of Taranaki.

The land at Tataraimaka had largely been deserted by Ngā Mahanga since the musket wars and the devastating invasion from the northern tribes 29 years earlier.

It was described as “beautiful shrubbery” as the majority of it up until the 1818 invasion from the northerners had been extensively cultivated for kūmara and taro. The land had reverted to small scrub but was not in heavy bush as other areas were.

The Tataraimaka block was isolated from New Plymouth with no roads or access other than crossing Māori lands.

Negotiations appeared favourable to both sides with good land suitable for agriculture for the settlers and cash for Ngā Mahanga to aid development of their own land and people with the new technologies and opportunities that arrived with the settlers.

The following is taken from the book Tataraimaka 1847 – 1993, The 1st 146 years composed by Larry Charteris & Anne Marie Ngan.

Sir George Gray, in his first term of office as Governor, visited New Plymouth in February 1847 and started negotiations for acquiring more land, much to the relief of the harassed settlers. In May 1847 Mr MacLean, the Land Commissioner, and Mr Wicksteed for the New Zealand Company, were able to negotiate the purchase of 3,560 acres (500 being added later) of the Tataraimaka Block. Negotiations with 150 members of the Nga Mahanga, the local hapu of the Taranaki tribe, took place daily for a whole week and were finally sealed for 150 pounds when Mr MacLean presented brightly-coloured blankets and other gifts to the leading chief, receiving a Maori spear and a Kaitaka (a bordered mat) in return. These gifts from the chief were the Maori form of surrendering their right to the land sold.

It was stated at the time that government officers had been scrupulous in obtaining the consent of every individual concerned, with the title deeds in Maori signed by men, women and even children. In fact, the conveyance of the block was dated May 11th 1848.

First cattle run holder at Tataraimaka, 1848

George Cutfield was employed by the New Zealand company on their first ship that sailed to Ngamotu, the William Bryant. He was the Immigration Officer and store keeper and effectively the leader of the settlers and was involved with Dicky Barrett in allocating the raupo huts and make shift accommodation that Barrett had built. This was in March 1841. In the years to come, Cutfield had many leadership roles including, Superintendent of the Provincial Council, (similar to the role of a mayor), 1857 to 1861.

The following is taken from an early newspaper in May 1848:

The frequent occurrence of arrears in payment of Government salaries and other monies in this settlement is again the cause of great inconvenience and disappointment to nearly all classes. And as respects the natives, it is to say the least unlucky, for the period limited in the deed for payment of the second instalment on the land at Tataraimaka now occupied by Mr. Cutfield, J. P., as a cattle run, is past.

Papers Past, May 15, 1848

It would appear that the Crown was slow in paying for the Tataraimaka block due to cashflow, although other publications imply that the slow payment was to ensure the payment went to the correct owners. Full payment however was eventually made.

Tataraimaka and the Taranaki Land Wars

At the start of the land wars, 1860, George Cutfield was farming and living on his property at Tataraimaka. Cutfield, like the other settlers, had to move off their land for their own safety with their houses burnt in their absence.

In a court reports newspaper article “Taranaki Herald 4th July 1858”, It was proven that some Tataraimaka settlers had shot a heifer belonging to Māori.

Wild cattle lived in the bush around Tataraimaka. They had been introduced to Tataraimaka by Captain Henry King and Cutfield soon after the Tataraimaka land sale was secured. Captain King had imported cattle from Sydney to New Plymouth in July 1842, and along with the cattle that Dicky Barrett had help drove up from Wellington meant the cattle population had bred up both in the domestic herd and the wild escapees by 1858. The wild cattle at Tataraimaka, and indeed all about New Plymouth created problems for the farmers, both Māori and Pakeha, who were attempting to grow crops and did not need wild cattle helping themselves to the potatoes.

This court case between Māori and the settlers was civil and mature according to the article.

The rebel Māori land reoccupation of Tataraimaka was part of the wider political scene during the land wars and was not a localised Ngā Mahanga / Settlers argument.

Robert Greenwood, land owner at Tataraimaka, 1850 – 1869

Robert Greenwood purchased his first block of land on Timaru Road, exact date unknown, but directly from the New Zealand Company. He added more land when he purchased some of his neighbours, the Morgans in 1853. His obituary can be read here.

Greenwood was 53 when he arrived in New Plymouth to take up land at Tataraimaka. Nineteen years later, at the age of 72, he was forced by the mortgagee to auction his 442 acre Tataraimaka farm. It must be presumed that the financial burden resulting from the Māori land wars in the early 1860s had some part of the forced mortgagee sale. The purchaser would be James Honeyfield.

Some events from Robert Greenwood’s time at Tataraimaka

April 19, 1857

Robert Greenwood was elected to represent the Omata / Tataraimaka district on the New Plymouth Provincial Council. (equivalent to the New Plymouth District council in 2019). Fellow Tataraimaka farmer George Cutfield JP, was Superintendent of the Provincial Council.

October 1858

The schooner Martha anchored off Tataraimaka and 18 local farmers, including R Greenwood, and T Oxenham, loaded potatoes directly to the vessel instead of the awkward task of transporting the potatoes to New Plymouth with no suitable roading (Papers Past, October 1858).

Oxenham had bought the remaining Morgan land by the river mouth and was Greenwoods brother-in-law.

March 11, 1859

Tataraimaka district of the Taranaki Volunteer Rifle Co had training drills at R Greenwoods farm every Tuesday at 10.00am. Greenwood was an inaugural member of the volunteers.

March 28, 1860

Battle of Waireka where settlers and soldiers fought against rebel Māori from the Taranaki iwi and Ngāti Ruanui, who came from further south. By this date all the Tataraimaka settlers had deserted their farms for the refuge and presumed safety of New Plymouth.

April 6, 1860

The following is an account after the arrival of the Rev. Mr. Riemenschneider and family, from Warea, as given in The Herald. They were escorted safely to New Plymouth by armed Maori from Warea, nine days after the battle of Waireka.

The destruction of property on the Tataraimaka block is immense; Mr. Greenwood’s house is described as being sacked, and the sides pulled down. Cattle, sheep, and pigs have been shot indiscriminately. All kinds of household property have been carried away chiefly by the Ngatiruanui, who not content with the plunder from the settlers, sacked every Taranaki pa on their way home. The Taranakis [sic] say they cannot quarrel with Ngatiruanui at present, as they will be important allies either in the great struggle they expect to have with the Government or in another expedition to the town. After annihilating us they will have a tone to pick with Ngatiruanui. Both tribes are busy erecting pas.

April 24, 1860

Four weeks after the Battle of Waireka, troops from the 65th regiment marched to Tataraimaka to harvest R Greenwood’s wheat and potatoes. This helped secure food for the sieged New Plymouth, instead of leaving the crops for the rebel Māori (Papers Past).

June 27, 1860

Taken from “The Herald”

A large force of artillery started early this morning to take up position at Omata, to check the onward movement of the rebels. They were seen last night at Wairau, on the beach this side of Tataraimaka, and are believed to be 1000 strong — including women and children who have accompanied this expedition to attack New Plymouth. No less than 10 pas are erected on the Tataraimaka block, 1 on Oxenhams farm and 9 on Greenwood’s farm. These pas are to be occupied in case of retreat, and each is capable of holding 100 men — the pas are all near each other.

Oxenhams farm is the land closest to the Timaru Stream mouth that was formerly half the Morgan land.

September 19, 1860

Troops deployed south. At Tataraimaka they destroy eight of the rebels makeshift pa on Robert Greenwoods farm (Papers Past).

October 22, 1860

Fires were seen coming from R Greenwoods farm. In all, 30 Tataraimaka houses were burnt to the ground by the rebel Māori.


Although short lived, a peace treaty was signed and some settlers returned temporarily.

The following is taken from memories of the Pierce family.
(Where the cemetery is with the farmland owned in 2019 by the Brophy family)

As a young boy John went with the women and children to Nelson for a few months during the Māori uprising in 1860. Back home in 1861 and still amidst troubled times, John as an 11 year old, had the duty to hold a gun while his older sister milked the cow. This was to protect her should Māori come out of the dense bush.

Memories of Hilda

January 1862

The Māori, who have regained occupancy of Tataraimaka, and have claimed it by conquest, have cut out of seeding pasture, a race track on R Greenwoods property. They have invited Europeans to race their horses should they dare (Papers Past). The authorities strongly advise not to trust the Māori or encourage engagement with a race meeting that would imply acceptance of Māori ownership of the land.

January 1863

Robert Greenwood was an advocate for government support to help the farmers rebuild their lives. He appeared to of received some funds earlier than he should have as the conflict in Tataraimaka was not yet over. Scotch thistles had become a major problem weed and the governor had set up a thistle fund to combat it. Whilst settlers were still fighting over the land with the rebel natives, (not all the natives), the scotch thistle was invading the land the settlers had already ploughed. The joke was that the government had paid Greenwood funds to reduce the thistle population but the settlers could not because the rebel Māori still had control of the land, Tataraimaka had in fact become a large scotch thistle nursery funded by the government (Papers Past).

110 years later, on the same land, Kevin Honeyfield can recall grubbing 300 thistles to the acre, no laughing matter.

June 4, 1863

Battle of Katikara, this was a major defeat for the rebel Māori. Troops had positioned themselves at the crows nest and with naval canon support defeated the rebels on “Johnnys Flat”. This is the flat land west of the Katikara river that the Lawn family own in 2019.

March 1864

The Kaitake Pa was stormed and captured. This Pa was a major stronghold that had prevented safe, easy passage from New Plymouth to Tataraimaka.


Progressively the settlers returned to their land in Tataraimaka to rebuild houses and to restock their farms.

January 23, 1869

At a mortgagee sale, Robert Greenwood sells his farm, including a new house, to James Charles Honeyfield.

It is worth noting the impact of war on the financial fortunes of different settlers.

  • Robert Greenwood had his buildings burnt, stock stolen or slaughtered and no farm income for many years with debt to service. Bankruptcy followed.
  • James Charles Honeyfield had fought in the same battle ground on the same side as Robert Greenwood.
  • James Charles Honeyfield was a farmer and a butcher in New Plymouth. He had the use of the Barrett legacy land. Up to 2000 troops needed feeding over many years. The suppliers to the army reaped the financial benefits.


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