Unforseen problems encountered by the people of New Zealand during the Wars

Many problems were faced due to the wars, the main issue being that they simply had “no equitable solution”[i]. At the end of the day, the laws imposed by the Pakeha were what controlled Maori, not warfare.

The Maori did not have the ability to win the war either. This resulted in a stalemate which meant the war grew longer and longer with no clear end in sight.

As war began to draw on support from settlers faded; the British eventually began to see that complete success through warfare was impossible but had no choice than to attempt to finish what they had started. Some Pakeha even began to question all aspects of the wars:

  • If there was really any justice in fighting Wiremu Kingi
  • The competence of their military leaders (Settler Jane Maria Atkinson called Grey “a gigantic baby.”[ii])
  • Involvement of  Maori forces from outside of the area in the combat (they began to see British failure as a possibility)

They had grown tired and frustrated due to the length and cost of the war; began to question what it was all for[iii].

The results of combat also made the Pakeha afraid for New Plymouth and its settler inhabitants. So families, mainly women and children, were transported during August-September 1860 to safety in Nelson. Diseases (eg. Scarlet fever) in New Plymouth also killed approximately 120 settlers and soldiers in the period of mid to late 1860[iv]; managing and containing these became another major concern for the people of New Zealand during the Wars.

War damaged the Taranaki economy. 238 British soldiers were killed. 200 settler farms were destroyed with 200,000 pounds worth of damage done[v]. Emigration was also negatively affected. These factors further caused problems for the settlers and people of New Zealand, increasing the negative impact of the conflict.


“Hurirapa Pa: One of the few pa’s which survived the First Taranaki Wars”[vi]

Other problems were faced later in the Wars with General Pratt’s sap warfare seen as being increasingly difficult and slow moving for soldiers and settlers. Settlers were dying when all Pratt was seen to be doing was digging; with 51 settlers dying in this time.


“James Cowan: New Zealand historian who questioned the accuracy of the records involving the Taranaki Wars”[vii]

Another problem faced which affects New Zealand’s history was the misrepresentation of events through inaccurate Pakeha records and evidence.  James Cowan, a writer and historian, understood that the traditional interpretation of the outcome of the wars was inaccurate as, existing histories “dealt with events which came within the soldier-writers’ own experiences and tended to ignore the wider picture”[viii]. He claimed there was “a need for a better understanding of the Maori side of the story”[ix]. Cowan’s piece was written and published in 1922-23.


By Michael Chaplin


[i] “Crisis in Race Relations: Authority, Land and War New Zealand 1853-65” by Graham Langton

[ii]“The New Zealand Wars” Documentary Notes, 1998, James Belich, National Library of New Zealand

[iii] The Taranaki Herald” 28th April 1860

[v] Statistics on damages of the Wars from

[viii] “Crisis in Race Relations: Authority, Land and War New Zealand 1853-65” by Graham Langton

[ix] “Crisis in Race Relations: Authority, Land and War New Zealand 1853-65” by Graham Langton