Onawe Peninsula - History and Facts | History Hit

Onawe Peninsula

Barrys Bay, Canterbury, New Zealand

Site of a Maori fort (Pa) on a narrow neck of land, jutting out into a beautiful harbour. Scene of a massacre in the intertribal wars of 1832.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About Onawe Peninsula

Onawe Peninsula is a narrow band of land, that sits out in Akaroa Harbour, looking like an exclamation mark. Akaroa Harbour is a beautiful flooded ancient volcanic crater located about 80km from Christchurch. It was the scene of a massacre in the intertribal wars of 1832.

Onawe Peninsula history

At the shallow head of the harbour between Barry’s Bay and Duvauchelle lies the once fortified Ngāi Tahu pā, Ōnawe.

The Onawe Peninsula was the site of a bloody massacre when it was invaded by the Ngāti Toa chief, Te Rauparaha in 1832 following the sacking of Kaiapoi in 1831.

Maori chief, Te Rauparaha, sailed with warriors from his tribe from the North Island, down to the South Island in order to exact revenge and to conquer.

Situated on a peninsula the pā was surrounded by the sea at high tide and Te Rauparaha established his warriors on both sides of the peninsula prior to the Battle.

The peninsula had 3 defensive areas: an outer wall at the neck and two main citadels higher up the crest. This formed the main defensive area defended by ditch, bank and palisade. Two long protected trenches ran to springs on the western side of the pā for water supply, with canoes also utilised to store additional water.

The Onawe Peninsula was defended by 400 people, but stood little chance against the power of Te Rauparaha and there were up to 1200 people massacred. Few Ngāi Tahu survived the day, only the young and strong were taken for slavery, the rest were slain on the flax flats at Barry’s Bay and the Head of the Bay.

Onawe Peninsula today

The Onawe Peninsula is the plug of the ancient volcano and is sacred land to the Ngai Tahu tribe. Visitors can enjoy the wonderful views and walk around but are asked to refrain from eating on site in respect for its tapu status.

Getting to Onawe Peninsula

To drive to Onawe Peninsula, take Highway 75 between Christchurch and Akaroa, and turn off on Onawe Flat Road, which loops around the near end of the peninsula. The Onawe Peninsula can be accessed at low tide only and walking time is approximately 1 hour return.

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