Rawene is a small town situated on the northern shores of the Hokianga Harbour in Northland.
In 1899, Māori living at Rawene, Waima and Taheke took strong objection to the levying of dog taxes on Māori by the Hokianga County Council. Māori were also aggrieved at the continuing loss of land and the imposition of Pākehā authority.
Under the leadership of tohunga Hone Toia of the Mahurehure tribe, Hokianga Māori announced that the dog tax was unfair and continuing land losses were iniquitous. Māori were now preparing for armed revolt, declared Hone Toai, and demonstrations against Rawene were threatened.
Alarmed by this, the government sent a contingent of 120 armed police to Rawene, along with two field guns and two machine guns, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Newall. Newall had seen action against Māori earlier in the Armed Constabulary which had since been disbanded. A small gunboat was also sent north and was soon anchored off Rawene.
As the police marched in across the hills of the Waima Valley on 5 May 1899, shots were heard coming from the surrounding fern and bracken. The police quickly took cover, expecting ‘a storm of lead’ to descend from the bush, but no further shots were fired. Instead, Māori withdrew from the ‘fray’ under orders from Hone Toia himself who had been persuaded by the local Māori MP, Hone Heke Ngapua, to desist from his ‘suicidal folly’.
That evening, Heke convened a gathering of local disaffected Māori and, after a night of heated exchanges, Hone Toia was persuaded to end the ‘rebellion’ and give himself up, which he did. He was taken to Auckland and imprisoned for treason for ten months.
Thereafter, peace once again returned to the north.
Further reading: James Cowan, The New Zealand Wars Volume II (1923), pp. 499-502.