Topic: Namu Road (TDN 11/09/2021)

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Namu Road street sign

Namu Road in Opunake was named after the historic fortress of Te Namu pā.

The pā was located on the western bank of the Otahi stream, on a triangular headland just north of Opunake. The rocky promontory was ideal for defence and very difficult to attack – the only way into the pā was by ladder from the river side. The inhabitants of Te Namu planted crops and built whare and food storage pits but also constructed palisades and a watch tower, gathering vast quantities of stones from the beach to use as missiles in case of attack.

The attack came in the winter of 1833, when Waikato raids into Taranaki succeeded in capturing Mikotahi pā near the Sugar Loaves. A war party of some 800 invaders continued south to Te Namu, which was held by less than 100 Taranaki warriors and their families. Armed with muskets, the Waikato besieged Te Namu for weeks, held off by the defenders who had just one gun but plenty of spears and stones, capable of killing when hurled down from a height. Ngāti Haumiti chief Wiremu Kīngi Moki Te Matakātea acted as a sniper from the watch tower, picking off Waikato men with Te Namu’s single musket.

The Waikato made six unsuccessful attempts to take Te Namu and the surrounding village was burnt as part of their scorched earth tactics. The final attack, made when they were running low on food, ended with a Waikato retreat. This turned into a rout when the Taranaki defenders at last left the pā and pursued their enemies, burning the bodies of the 68 dead Waikato. The victorious Taranaki hapū held a great feast to celebrate then left the area, travelling south to Hāwera, where they eventually took on Waikato again and won, a triumph which finally led to peace.

In 1834 a British navy ship called the HMS Alligator found Te Namu pā deserted and members of the 50th Regiment who were on board destroyed what was left of its mighty palisades.

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