The Wairau Affray

In June 1843 the first major clash of arms between Māori and Pākehā colonists occurred in a dispute over the Wairau, between the settlers of Nelson and Te Rauparaha. Before the dispute could be settled legally by the Land Commissioner, the settlers of Nelson attempted to survey the Wairau, but Te Rauparaha and Ngāti Toa took out their survey pegs, burned some huts, and returned the surveyors to Nelson unharmed. The founder of Nelson, Captain Arthur Wakefield, and the town’s hot-headed Police Magistrate, Henry Thompson, raised a small group of ‘special constables’ and travelled to Tuamarina, between Blenheim and Picton to confront Te Rauparaha. The negotiations did not go well, in this watershed moment for race relations in Aotearoa.