The bloody history of sacred Kaiapoi Pa¯
Around 1828, Te Rauparaha, the Ma¯ori rangatira and war leader of the Nga¯ti Toa tribe, had attacked Kaikoura and came further south to trade.
However, Nga¯ti Toa warriors desecrated a grave at Tuahiwi and traded muskets without firing pins. In response Nga¯i Tahu attacked. Te Rauparaha escaped but returned for revenge.
In 1830 he attacked Akaroa and then came south again at the close of 1831 with a force of 600 warriors to Kaiapoi.
Outgunned, Nga¯i Tahu dug in and the siege of the pa¯ lasted over three months. With winter looming and Te Rauparaha on the verge of heading home, his forces had begun piling manuka bundles against the palisades.
Nga¯i Tahu lit the fire first to clear away the threat only for the wind to change. With the 100-yearold palisades burning down, Te Rauparaha’s forces swarmed the pa¯ and it was the fall of Kaiapoi.
Of the thousand men, women and children in the pa¯, a few hundred escaped in through the swap in the smokescreen.
Te Rauparaha laid waste to the pa¯ site and several ka¯inga within marching distance before he returned home.
Nga¯i Tahu’s southern relations came to their aid, trading musket and Nga¯i Tahu then ambushed Te Rauparaha at Ka¯para-te-hau (Lake Grassmere), claiming a victory but Te Rauparaha escaped.
In 1839 the Nga¯i Tahu and Nga¯ti Toa reached a peace.
With Kaiapoi Pa¯ destroyed, Nga¯i Tahu relocated firstly to Tioriori before re-establishing at Tuahiwi - which had been decimated by Te Rauparaha following the fall of Kaiapoi.
Rev. Canon J. W. Stack, who’s church drew the Nga¯i Tahu people back to Tuahiwi, erected a memorial on the site of the Kaiapoi Pa¯ in 1898.
A century later, the tiki feature at the top of the tower fell down in the Canterbury earthquakes.
‘‘It is yet to be restored. Once we get our trustees in place again the repairs will be dealt with,’’ Tau said.
‘‘All of our trustees passed away over the past decade so we take time to reappoint them. These things take time.’’
While the Kaiapoi Pa¯ site is a vastly different setting 180 years since its downfall, an eerie vacant grassland still boasting geographical features of the pa¯ defenses, it still holds a sacred place in the history of local Ma¯ori.