You are currently viewing Takapūneke, Akaroa | The South Islands Waitangi Grounds.
Takapūneke otherwise known as Red House Bay, near Akaroa.

Takapūneke, Akaroa | The South Islands Waitangi Grounds.

Takapūneke in Akaroa is as important as the Waitangi Grounds. The site of the Brig Elizabeth Te Rauparaha Massacre that was a blood thirsty start to a nation and ultimately led to the Treaty of Waitangi.

One of the best places to explore Maori history and Maori culture in the South Island. With the newest Akaroa attraction which is a true hidden gem of Akaroa.

Takapuneke The Seventh Generation
Takapūneke Reserve is located at the southern end of Akaroa on Beach Road past the lighthouse and ’The Glen’.

Takapūneke Reserve is at the southern end of Akaroa township, still known to most locals as ‘Red House Bay’ for it’s red house that sits on the waterfront. It is a gentle 15-20 minute walk along Beach Road, past the Akaroa Lighthouse and Britomart Monument that leads you to the site of the Akaroa massacre.

Te PātakaoRākaihautū/Banks Peninsula is incredibly rich in history, with waves of settlement and already extensively named prior to European settlement.

It is little known (perhaps especially by locals) that Takapūneke is one of the most important historic sites in New Zealand. 

Together with other historic sites within Akaroa harbour historian Harry Evison states that Akaroa provides an even richer ‘set of narratives around the Nations identity than Waitangi’, amazingly this doesn’t even include Akaroa French settlement site.

In the 2005 document Takapūneke – the other Waitangi historian John Wilson states that Takapūneke and Akaroa constitutes the ’missing link in the story of the Treaty of Waitangi.’ Onuku Chair Rik Tainui said at the opening ceremony that it should be the “Waitangi of Te Wai Pounamu”, ”I can see this site taking its rightful place as one of the most significant landmarks of Aotearoa”.

Maori Celebration Matariki Takapuneke Pou and Onuku Chair
On Matariki 2022 the Takapuneke Pou was unveiled, here Onuku Chair Rik Tainui speaks with Tuhiraki (Mt Bossu) behind.

So, what happened at Takapūneke?

In the 1820’s Takapuneke was a key flax trading anchorage and village, with around 200 people living there. Te Maiharanui was the Ngāi Tahu upoko ariki (paramount chief) at the time. 

Te Rauparaha was the Ngati Toa paramount chief based on the ‘keystone’ island of Kapiti at the edge of the Cook Straight, then known as ‘Entry Island’. Te Rauparaha had been stockpiling muskets and had attacked northern South Island pā (fortifications). 

Te Maiharanui paramount chief of Ngai Tahu at Onuku Marae
Te Maiharanui at Ōnuku Marae near Akaroa.

What caused the Takapūneke massacre?

At the Kaiapoi pā in 1829 Te Rauparaha’s favourite uncle and warrior Te Pēhi and other leading warriors were killed. Out of utu or revenge he returned to Kapiti Island and convinced a European captain, Captain Stewart to transport his war party south in disguise.  

The Brig Elizabeth 

Captain Stewart had the 400 tonne Brig Elizebeth, they called into Takapūneke in early November 1830 and Captain Stewart called Te Maiharanui out onto his ship to trade flax. Te Maiharanui was away and it took him several days to return, when he did so he was welcomed out on to the ship and took with him his wife and daughter. 

Brig Elizabeth Takapuneke
Brig Elizabeth by artist Heagren

When was the Takapūneke massacre?

The Takapūneke massacre date is thought to be the 6 November 1830

After Te Maiharanui was welcomed aboard the ship he was captured by Te Rauparaha

As night fell Te Rauparaha and his warriors attacked the village and murdered almost everyone who was there. 

Captain Steward eventually received only some of the flax he was promised and returned to Sydney where he traded it and was captured by the magistrate of NSW. Stewart was eventually released. 

Why is Takapūneke important in New Zealand’s history? 

Takapūneke is considered to be the first involvement of a European directly in inter-tribal warfare, and a role that was played with devastating results. 

This incident lead to the first discussions of European laws for Europeans in New Zealand and as a direct result in 1833 the first British resident to New Zealand, James Busby, was sent out to the Bay of Islands. (Ref: Te Wai Pounamu: The Greenstone Island, Harry C. Evison Pg 56)

In 1835 James Busby had 34 chiefs sign He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tirene: the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand

This was the document that was used to call up the chiefs again in 1840 to sign the Te Tiriti o Waitangi – The Treaty of Waitangi.

Flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand
Takapuneke led to the Declaration of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the first flag which gave tribes the ability and right to trade across international waters.

The Importance of Akaroa in New Zealand’s History

Akaroa is incredibly important in New Zealand’s bicultural/multicultural history. Akaroa has historic sites that explain all the steps that led up to the Treaty of Waitangi, British Sovereignty and the imperial race for New Zealand. Really it’s quite remarkable.

The Britomart Monument is one of the best places in New Zealand to discuss the Treaty of Waitangi and the bicultural history of New Zealand. The engraved text states ‘Subscribed for by the British, French and Maori Peninsula Residents’.

Akaroa has five of the most important historic sites in New Zealand all so close together they tell a full bicultural narrative that is richer than Waitangi. Three of these sites sit inside the bay of Takapuneke.

Bicultural History New Zealand

Who was Captain Stewart? 

Captain John Stewart came from Southtown in Suffolk, and was the commander and one of the owners of the “Elizabeth” a brig of 236 tons. 

After the release of Te Maiharanui Stewart returned to Syndey and was imprisoned, statements were taken from his and his crew, but Stewart was released. There are varying accounts of what happened to him, some say drowned at sea, another that he died going around the Cape of Good Hope and his body was thrown overboard. 

Witness statements of the crew of the Brig Elizabeth

Cowell the Coward

Raised in the Bay of Islands John Vittoria Cowell became fluent in Te Reo Maori as a child, in 1830 he was the interpreter and trading master for Captain John Stewart on the Brig Elizabeth. Cowell translated between Te Rauparaha and Stewart.

Ōnawe Peninsula

It is often incorrectly believed that the Te Rauparaha attack on Te Maiharanui and Ngāi Tahu was at Ōnawe Peninsula, where it was in fact at the Takapūneke village. 

However, in 1831 and 1832 Te Rauparaha returned again to attack Ngāi Tahu, as well as several other attacks on lesser known pā sites around Banks Peninsula. 

Ōnawe was a well built double fenced fortification and on a prominatory point that allowed inhabitants to have advanced warning and preparation for any attack. There is a fabulous model of the Ōnawe Pā at the Akaroa Museum.

Banks Peninsula Geopark TE PĀTAKA O RĀKAIHAUTŪ Geopark
Volcanic origins of Onawe Peninsula

Ōnuku Marae 

The survivors of Takapūneke and Ōnawe established Ōnuku and this was the main settlement when Europeans started to whale and settle on Banks Peninsula in the late 1830’s. 

It was here at Ōnuku that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed in the South Island on the 30 May 1840. 

Akaroa Private Tours
Ōnuku Marae as seen today.

From Taking Akaroa’s Waste to Becoming a Nationally Important Site

Takapūneke was the first place in Canterbury, and perhaps the South Island where cattle were landed in 1839. The bones of those killed at Takapūneke were gathered and burned and the land was used for farming and growing potatoes. 

The place was wahi tapu for local Ngai Tahu, and the story not shared. As the ultimate insult the bay was used for the Akaroa rubbish dump and waste water treatment plant and in 1992 there were plans for subdivision for housing.

Takapūneke was registered in 2002 as a wahi tapu (sacred) site with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT). 

In 2018 the Takapūneke Reserve Management Plan was adopted and a co-governance group, including members of Ōnuku Rūnanga and representatives of Christchurch City Council, was formed to implement the Reserve concept master plan.

The restoration plan is underway in joint management with CCC and Onuku Runanga, to restore the mana and mauri to the land and to the people. The design is founded upon kaupapa Māori concepts with significant pou Pou tu te Raki o Te Maiharanui, which was unveiled on the first Matariki public holiday in 2022.

Watch the moving dawn ceremony for Onuku whanau and guests HERE.

Maori Celebration Matariki Takapuneke official opening
Takapuneke opening with a good crowd at the official opening

Read the CCC Takapūneke Conservation Report and the CCC Takapuneke Conservation Report 2012

The Indigenous Seventh Generation Principle in the Māori Worldview. 

“Imagine standing on a continuum between your past and your future – you stand firmly in the present and yet forever thinking and making decisions on behalf of your tapuna and your unborn mokopuna (grandchild).”

The timescale of thinking over several generations gives a much deeper and longer connection to the world around you, place and people. 

The acknowledge purpose of restoring Takapuneke is: 

  1. Acknowledging and remembering ancestors, stories that are embedded in our cultural landscapes and events that have shaped our past, present and will continue to shape our future; 
  2. Strengthen Ngai Tahu identity, pride and sense of belonging. 

The timescale of thinking over several generations gives a much deeper and longer connection to the world around you, place and people. 

School History in Akaroa
Akaroa children learning about the natural history of Akaroa at Takapuneke.
About Marie Haley The Seventh Generation
The Seventh Generation – Natural and Cultural History Tours.

Marie Haley

I am your guide, Marie Haley, I was born and raised on Banks Peninsula. The seventh generation direct decedent of Akaroa’s very first French settler. I grew up on the family farm following in the footsteps of my Grandfather, and his Grandfather before.