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Gate Pā was the name of a Māori or fortress built in 1864 only 5 km (3 miles) from the main British base of Camp Te Papa at Taurangamarker, during the Tauranga Campaign of the New Zealand Land Wars. The name pā comes from its appearance, the palisade looked like a picket fence while a higher part in the middle resembled a gate.

The pā was built at the instigation of Chief Rawiri Puhirake of Ngai Te Rangi, on the edge of land owned by Māori, where missionaries had erected a gate between the Māori and colonial settlers. Puhirake believed British reprisal for his support of the King Movement during the Waikato War was inevitable, so he constructed Gate Pa for protection. This failed to rouse the British so he began sending taunts, declaring he had built a road from the British camp to the pā, "so that the British would not be too tired to fight".

General Duncan Cameron, whose Invasion of the Waikato had ground to a halt, determined to attack the pā with the majority of his forces to destroy the King Movement's allies. By the end of April the British were ready to attack, with 1,700 men, opposed by 230 Māori.

A heavy bombardment was begun at daybreak on 29 April 1864 and continued for eight hours. The British had 15 artillery pieces including one of 110 pounds (50 kg). By mid afternoon the pā looked as if it had been demolished and there was a large breach in the center of the palisade. At 4 pm the barrage was lifted and 300 troops were sent up to capture and secure the position.

The British forces suffered severe losses and retreated. There was no second assault. During the night the Māori gave assistance to the wounded and collected their weapons, and by day break they had abandoned the position. Gate Pā was the single most devastating defeat suffered by the British military in the whole of the New Zealand land wars, with 111 casualities and deaths.

Gate Pā was not quite what it appeared to be. From the British positions it looked like fairly large strongpoint occupying the entire hill top. In fact it was much smaller being two low redoubts on either side of the ridge joined by a deep trench about 40 m long and the whole shielded by a strong wooden palisade. It seems likely that British concentrated their barrage towards the centre, where the palisade collapsed and where the assault was made. Meanwhile the two redoubts had been built very strongly with deep and effective bomb proof shelters. The Māori may have been deafened by the bombardment but as soon as it ended they were able to ambush the British troops.

In the aftermath, Governor George Grey went to Tauranga and began peace negotiations. Cameron returned to Aucklandmarker leaving Colonel Greer in command, strictly on the defensive.


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