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A terrible night of blood and fire

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In 1868 Turanganui, as Gisborne was then known, was a very small township. Eight kilometres inland was the settlement of Matawhero, a farming district where most of the prominent settlers, including the military officers, lived. Homesteads were scattered over a wide plain extending to the Waipaoa River. The combined population of Turanganui and Matawhero was about 150 settlers and about 500 Maori.

In the early hours of tomorrow morning it will be exactly 150 years since Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki led a raid of 100 men on Matawhero that was to leave 50 to 70 men, women and children dead.

The attack was targeted at those Te Kooti held grudges against over the loss of his land interests, the exile of he and 300 others to the Chatham Islands after the siege of Waerenga a Hika three years earlier, and the planned confiscation of all their land. He and his men sought out and killed European militiamen and their families, and suspected Maori collaborators and their families. They wielded guns, tomahawks, bayonets and clubs. They burned their victims’ homes.

These were........

© The Gisborne Herald