Episode Five: The Explosive Frontier 1852-1884
This episode tells the story of the terrible war that raged across the North Island 140 years ago. It pitted Maori against Pakeha and Maori against Maori, as land and control was seized by the settler government along "the explosive frontier."
In the early 1850s, the economy was booming. Maori were successful entrepreneurs, selling foodstuffs to the immigrants flooding into the new towns of the North Island. The settlers, however, wanted more and more land and Maori were reluctant to sell.
We see how government pressure led to an innovative Maori response, as the visionary Maori leader, Rewi Maniapoto, convinced the tribes of the Waikato and elsewhere to support a Maori king.
But settler land hunger would not go away, and in the Taranaki village of Waitara it was the spark that led to war. Fighting spread to the Waikato and the brilliant but ruthless governor, George Grey, decided to bring down the Maori king. We watch as the British soldiers defeat, by fair means and foul, the Maori forces in the Waikato.
Fighting then flared across the central North Island. We see Maori turning to religion, to prophets of peace and war. The most famous, the charismatic but cruel Te Kooti, carried a four year reign of terror from coast to coast.
But the settler government and its armies would eventually win. Laws were passed to take land from Maori and the Native Land Court was established to speed up this process. As the Chief Judge of today's court, Joe Williams, says, "this is the grubby detail of colonization".
By the 1880s Maori had lost much of their land. Maori New Zealand was fast becoming a ragged patchwork in a Pakeha quilt.
In Taranaki, however, one spark of independence remained. We watch as the Parihaka prophets, Te Whiti and Tohu, lead their people in a campaign of passive resistance and see why they remain an example to all New Zealanders today.