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The New Zealand Wars by Philippa Werry

January 29, 2018

NZ WarsThe New Zealand Wars by Philippa Werry. Pub. New Holland, 2018.

When I was at school in the 1950’s and 60’s The New Zealand Wars were called the Maori Wars then the Land Wars and even today they are a sensitive issue in our social, racial and economic history. When you read this superbly organised, illustrated and accurate non fiction work it is easy to understand why. Philippa Werry who is a meticulous researcher and writer has in my opinion got it right but still has taken the safe option of putting a disclaimer in the front of the book to say that information was accurate at time of publication.

The book starts with an overview from the only South Island conflict between Maori and settlers at Wairau in 1843 through to the raid on Parihaka in 1881. Of course the conflict doesn’t end there with Whina Cooper’s hikoi in 1975, Bastion Point in 1978 and the announcement of a Commemorative Day in 2016.

The battles were often fought with some savagery with women and children involved on both sides. The death and injury toll of European soldiers and settlers is known but that of the Maori only estimated. The tactics of both sides are discussed, the trench warfare, even a gunboat raid halfway up the Waikato River. It is riveting reading.

The battles in the Far North with Hone Heke are legendary  especially Ruapekapeka. The Taranaki Wars and the Waikato Wars are superbly told and illustrated with paintings often done by the soldiers themselves and photographs. There is even the only image of Te Kooti. Gate Pa has always fascinated me and the sorry tale of Parihaka is a lesson in peaceful protest. The role of Maori and Settler women is inspirational.

Check this publication out for yourself as it is equally relevant in our homes as it is in the school library

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