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Photo by Kelly McNicholl

Year 13 History class visit to Akaroa

Mrs Turner —

Our Year 13 History class were lucky enough to visit Akaroa for the day.

The class had been learning about Canterbury history. Bank's Peninsula is a significant part of our local histories as the area saw the first permanent European settlers in the Canterbury region with the Whaling stations. It is a unique place in New Zealand because of the French, British, and Ngāi Tahu interests in the region. Akaroa is a significant place in New Zealand for many reasons. By the 1820's and 1830's whaling vessels from several nations were anchored in the Peninsula. The shore whaling station that George Hempelmann established at Peraki was where the first permanent European settlers resided in Canterbury.

It is also significant as a key incident occurred at a little bay further along from the Akaroa township called Takapūneke. A British trader called Captain Stewart and his ship the Elizabeth became involved in inter tribal affairs between Ngāti Toa and Ngāi Tahu. The Ngāti Toa leader Te Rauparaha led a war party of one hundred warriors from his base in Kāpiti to the Banks Peninsula to seek utu (revenge) from a previous conflict between the tribes in Kaiapoi, where many Ngāti Toa chiefs were killed and eaten as the ultimate insult. In retaliation Te Rauparaha wanted to surprise his Ngāi Tahu enemies by using a trading ship as a disguise. Captain Stewart agreed to carrying below deck on his ship the Elizabeth warriors in exchange for a cargo full of flax.  The arrival of the trading ship did not surprise anyone or raise any alarm for Ngāi Tahu. Captain Stewart lured the Ngāi Tahu chief Te Maiharanui aboard by offering to trade. Once they were aboard Te Rauparaha and his men seized the chief, his wife and daughter. Ngāti Toa warriors attacked and destroyed the entire settlement, several hundred were killed and enslaved. The bodies of the dead were taken back up to Kapati in flax baskets to be eaten by the widows of the Ngāti Toa wives who lost their husbands, alongside some greens and whale oil. This event was a key incident in the British decision to acquire sovereignty over New Zealand and so one of the main events leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. We are very lucky to have such an interesting place like Akaroa right on our doorstep.

Students were taken on a historical tour of the area by a local Historian and guide, and Mrs Turner. The students had the opportunity to visit tapu grounds where the Elizabeth Incident occurred at Takapūneke and to other various places of significance to the region and New Zealand’s history.

The students gained a lot from this special experience and will hopefully go back to Akaroa in the years to come with whānau and explain to them how and why this area is so unique and special for Canterbury and New Zealand.

Mrs Turner