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Source: New Zealand Government

The Provincial Growth Fund is investing $8.75 million to restore significant historic sites at Ōhaeawai in the Far North, upgrade marae and fund fencing and riparian planting.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones made the announcements following a service at the historic St Michael’s Anglican Church at Ōhaeawai today. 

Just over $1.7 million will go the Ōhaeawai Community Cultural Centre to restore and rejuvenate sites on Te Haara farm connected to the 1845 Battle of Ōhaeawai at what is now Ngawha.

The actual pa at the centre of the battle belonged to the Ngati Rangi chief Pene Taui and was fortified by the Ngati Hine chief Te Ruki Kawiti. In the 1870s St Michael’s Anglican church was erected on the pa site and the graveyard contains the remains of many of the British soldiers who died during the Battle of Ōhaeawai.

“This battle was seen as the first serious challenge to the Crown in the years following the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the design of the ‘gunfighter pa’ was copied by other iwi,” Shane Jones said.

The battle, part of the Flagstaff War, involved the pa being besieged by a British and allied Māori force said to be six times stronger than that inside the pa.

“Despite an onslaught by British forces, the attack was repelled, with the flax fortifications, trenches and a series of palisades instrumental in the defence. The British forces suffered heavy losses in the assault on the pa.”

By the time the British were able to enter the pa they found it empty, abandoned by its occupants under cover of night.

“This restoration work is an opportunity for the descendants of those who fought in the battle, both Māori and non-Māori, to share the battle stories and learn about the important place Ōhaeawai has in our country’s history.”

The sites to be restored are St Michael’s Anglican Church, the Ōhaeawai battle area and the Ngāwhā Native School site. St Michael’s is listed as a Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand Heritage List.

The church will be upgraded and will get power and water finally connected.

Paths, seating and information boards will be installed throughout the farm, and bathrooms built.

A website will also be developed to educate people about the area.

“The restorations will help attract more visitors to Ōhaeawai and Ngawha and the surrounding area. Around 10 jobs will be created for the work, and further long-term jobs should result through increased visitor numbers,” Shane Jones said.

In other funding announced today, $1.67 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will go to four local marae to renovate and repair their buildings. The work includes roofing, sprinkler system installation, and repairs to sewerage, kitchens and dining rooms. The four Far North marae receiving funding are Taheke, Parawhenua, Te Rito and Tuhirangi. 

“Marae are important centres for Māori culture and identity, not to mention acting as community hubs and meeting places for all. It is critical that these community facilities are maintained,” Shane Jones said.

This work will create 33 jobs for local tradespeople and contractors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also through the PGF, Ngāti Rangi Ahuwhenua Trust will receive $2.25 million as a grant and loan to establish a mānuka plantation and harvest wild plants on Māori-owned land for a planned mānuka oil distillery at Ngawha.

Shane Jones also announced funding for a Far North project from the Government’s worker redeployment package to help workers displaced by COVID-19 into jobs.

“The Reconnecting Northland Trust will receive $3.2 million for fencing waterways and riparian planting in the region.

“This will create immediate jobs for workers displaced by COVID-19 while supporting freshwater quality outcomes, maintaining regional assets, and reducing the environmental impacts on whenua,” Shane Jones said.