Managing the Site

It takes a lot of effort to keep Ruapekapeka in a tidy state. There is grass to mow, vegetation to trim, tracks to maintain and plantings to tend. Maintenance work is carried out by the Department of Conservation, Te Ruapekapeka Trust, contractors and volunteers from a range of backgrounds.

View photos of the work carried out managing Ruapekapeka Pā in the Photo Gallery at the end of this section.

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Management History

Ruapekapeka has suffered a history of neglect interspersed with occasional tidy-ups. Against the odds, the earthworks have survived in remarkably good condition. The British had set the pā on fire after the battle, but the trenches, pits and tunnels were left intact. Some of the palisades were still standing in 1899, and cannon balls were lying about the place.

Around the turn of the century, cattle belonging to local settlers were becoming a problem. The cows trampled the earthen embankments, and the ditches and tunnel entrances proved hazardous. The farmers responded by filling in some of the earthworks. Fires and ploughing caused further damage and it was apparent that the pā was heading towards obliteration.

In 1914 the pā was taken under the Public Works Act for a Scenic Reserve. A sum of £20 pounds was proposed to compensate the Māori owners. Conditions were stipulated: the pā was to be fenced, cleared of scrub and kept in good order.

Ruapekapeka Pā became a popular visitor site in the 1920s after it was cleared of vegetation and sewn in pasture. The well-maintained state did not last. In the absence of grazing, weeds and ferns grew to obscure the earthworks. The vegetation was cleared again in the late 1930s, but again it was not maintained. The pā remained in a neglected state for the next 30 years.

The late 1960 saw a burst of activity when a proposal was put forward to develop the site for visitors. Over the subsequent decade, extra land was added to the reserve including the sites of the British Forward Position and Main Camp. The British lines were united with Ruapekapeka Pā in 1979 when the bush-covered valley in between was added to the reserve. The visitor development project stalled.

A New Era

Several different government agencies have been responsible for managing Ruapekapeka Pā and Battlefield over the years. The Department of Conservation (DOC) was created in 1987 and assumed responsibility for the reserve. By this time, it had become obvious that the successful management of Ruapekapeka depended upon building a good relationship with iwi. The descendents of the warriors who defended the pā and of the original Māori land owners were asserting their right to have a say. Te Ruapekapeka Trust was formed in 1994 after a series of hui at local marae.  A new partnership between the Crown and the hapu was forged.

The mahi (work) to do at Ruapekapeka is not over, and it never will be. DOC and Te Ruapekapeka Trust are looking forward, finding new ways to protect and promote the site for future generations.

Photo Gallery

View photos of the work carried out managing Ruapekapeka Pā.

Planting creeping rata to stabilise the sides of the pits.

Planting creeping rata to stabilise the sides of the pits. With regular trimming, this species grows in a dense mat which helps to prevent erosion of the earthworks. 

Photo: Department of Conservation

DOC ranger filling a bait station for rabbit control.

Rabbits can be a problem at Ruapekapeka, because they dig into earthworks of the pā and the British positions. Maria Butcher, Department of Conservation ranger is filling a bait station with a toxin to control the rabbits. 

Photo: Department of Conservation

A tidy path.

Keeping everything this tidy takes a lot of effort.

Photo: Department of Conservation

Planting seedlings.

Literally thousands of seedlings have been planted at Ruapekapeka since the 2003 development - many were planted by volunteers such as Jeanie Poutai (in the photo).  

Photo: Department of Conservation

DOC ranger with trimmer.

DOC staff spend a lot of time trimming the vegetation in the pits and trenches. 

Photo: Department of Conservation

TRT Trustee Allan Halliday discussing matters on site with DOC staff.

TRT Trustee Allan Halliday discussing matters on site with DOC staff.

Photo: Department of Conservation

A meeting of the Ruapekapeka Pa Management Trust (renamed Te Ruapekapeka Trust).

A meeting of the Ruapekapeka Pa Management Trust (renamed Te Ruapekapeka Trust). From left: Allan Halliday, Pita Hereora, Ripeka Taipari, Raumoa Kawiti)

Photo: Department of Conservation

Getting ready for a community planting day back in 2005.

Getting ready for a community planting day back in 2005. 

Photo: Department of Conservation

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