Today a peaceful farm blending traditional hill country farming, forestry and environmental restoration, Battle Hill is named for fighting there in August 1846. That winter a war in the Hutt Valley ranged British settlers and their Maori allies against other local Maori and their relatives who disputed the sale of land to the New Zealand Company. The British eventually drove the ‘rebels’ out of the Hutt Valley, and on 1 August the Ngati Toa chief Te Rangihaeata abandoned his position at Pauatahanui (Matai-Taua).
Te Rangihaeata’s force moved north up the Horokiri Valley and dug in on the steep slopes of Battle Hill. Burdened by impractical uniforms, voluminous supplies and weapons that included mortars (small artillery pieces), their opponents followed slowly in incessant rain. On 6 August several soldiers were killed when the British unsuccessfully attacked Te Rangihaeata’s defences. Next day the mortars were dragged up the hill. When they also proved to be ineffective, the fighting tailed off. Te Rangihaeata’s people moved further north, to a swampy area on the lower Manawatu River where they remained undisturbed for some years. The Wellington War was over.
Traces of Te Rangihaeata’s position can still be seen on the hillside, a half-hour walk uphill from the carpark. Two of the British casualties are buried near the picnic area close to the road.
Image attribution: David Green.