Troops to Tauranga
In January 1864, Governor George Grey ordered several British units to go to Tauranga in order to impede the flow of arms and men of Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Ranginui to the Waikato. Upon hearing that British troops had arrived in Tauranga, these men, led by Rāwiri Tuaia Puhirake, immediately returned home. By April 1864 Puhirake had assembled 250 Māori at Pukehinahina (Gate Pā), determined to resist further British encroachment.
On 29 April Lieutenant-General Duncan Cameron ordered an attack upon Pukehinahina, commencing with an artillery barrage. Once shelling was seen to have breached the front palisade, an infantry assault followed. British assault parties broke through the palisades, engaging with concealed Māori who fired from a network of underground trenches. The British attackers suffered heavy casualties and soon retreated. A follow-up assault was equally unsuccessful.
During the night, British soldiers lying wounded in the field were tended by Māori, notably Hēni Te Kiri Karamū, a young woman from the pā. Most of the Māori escaped during the night. When the British resumed their assault next day, they found that the pā had been abandoned. Thirty-five British regulars died during the engagement and 75 were wounded.
The Māori who escaped from Pukehinahina decided to build another defensive pā and engage with the British once again. Construction began on a new fortification at Te Ranga. However, on 21 June 1864, Māori were caught unawares and ill-prepared for battle by a British contingent, leading to an almost total defeat. Among more than 100 Māori killed at Te Ranga was Rāwiri Puhirake.