Māhoetahi (November 1860). University of Waikato, accessed 24/02/2024, https://onehera.waikato.ac.nz/nodes/view/5290
From 'A change in tactics', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/taranaki-wars/change-in-tactics, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 2-Apr-2019
In early November, 150 Ngāti Hauā reinforcements led by Wetini Taiporutu arrived in Taranaki to ‘kill soldiers’. On the night of 5 November they camped on the old pā site of Māhoetahi, a ‘small volcanic hump’ between New Plymouth and Waitara. Next morning they were caught unawares by Pratt and a force of 1000 who by pure coincidence were planning to occupy the site. With their defences incomplete, Ngāti Hauā were quickly routed, with nearly a third of them killed.
Māhoetahi was not the decisive victory Pratt craved. More importantly, this was a Ngāti Hauā defeat – the Te Ātiawa force remained largely intact.
One newspaper summed up the significance of the battle by acknowledging that while there was ‘nothing connected with the engagement of which we can boast … we have, during the course of this war become so accustomed to ignominious defeats that even this small victory is welcome’.
Māhoetahi was of little strategic value. Pratt now decided that instead of sporadic assaults on Māori positions he would seek to bring continuous pressure to bear on the Māori cordon by embarking on siege warfare. A sap – a long, covered trench – would be dug along the rising ground west of the Waitara River, allowing men to advance without being exposed to direct fire. A series of redoubts covering the sap would either force the Māori back or tempt them into a risky attack.
Sapping was hard work. It was also too slow for the liking of many settlers. A sap might move forward at only 60 m a day – and in the meantime, attacks against settler property and lives continued unabated. Little was achieved in lifting the siege of New Plymouth and 51 settlers died of disease in the opening months of 1861.DateNovember 1860