New Zealand Wars

Where can I find information about the New Zealand Wars during the 1840s to 1870s?

Entry last updated: 22/06/21


The New Zealand Wars (ngā pakanga o Aotearoa) were a series of battles and smaller conflicts that took place between the 1840s and the 1870s mainly in the North Island of New Zealand.

Despite the Treaty of Waitangi being signed in 1840, there was increasing pressure on Māori to sell their land to the growing numbers of European settlers. Many disputes were over land that had been taken over by settlers or the colonial government, or bought for very little by settlement organisations like the New Zealand Company.

These conflicts have also been known as The Māori Wars and The Land Wars.

Here is a list of when and where the major New Zealand Wars took place:

  • War in the North (1845 to 1846)
  • Central New Zealand: Wairau , Wellington & Whanganui (1843 to 1846)
  • War in Taranaki (1860 to 1861 & 1864 to 1866)
  • War in Tauranga (1864)
  • War in the Waikato (1863 to 1865)
  • The East Coast Wars (1865 to 1866)
  • Pai Mārire and the West Coast Campaigns (1864 to 1866)
  • The Story of Tītokowaru (1868 to 1869)
  • The Story of Te Kooti (1868 to 1872)

The wars

The New Zealand Wars were fought across different locations in the North Island, with one incident in Wairau in the South Island. Each war or battle had its own story that led to conflict. Of the few thousand people that died in the wars, most were Māori.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara gives a good introduction to all New Zealand related matters on history, society, culture, and environment.

In addition to a chapter on each war, you will find some information on the long-term impact of the wars, as well as some external links and other sources.


This is another great place for information about events in New Zealand history.

  • From the front page find the section on New Zealand at War, then look at New Zealand's internal wars.
  • The link New Zealand's 19th-century wars is a brief overview of all the internals wars fought.
  • The links on The Wairau incident, War in Taranaki 1860-63, War in Waikato etc covers all the other New Zealand Wars, including campaigns by Titokowaru and Te Kooti, and the religious movement called Pai Marire.
  • Remember to check out all the images, biographies, related content and further information of each of these pages to learn more about this topic.
Tips: These are excellent websites for questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. They both belong to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

New Zealand History Collection (BWB)

This is one of the EPIC resources and is great for in-depth information about the relationship between Māori and European settlers. You can find information by browsing some of the book titles.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Puke Ariki

This is the New Plymouth Library and Museum and is a good place to find local information on the Taranaki Wars which took place between 1860 and 1866.

Tips: Museums and libraries are great places to find out about local history and events.

Tauranga Memories

Tauranga Library has a similar resource focusing on the wars of that region.

Tips: This website has a message that a new website is coming soon. This means that how the website appears and content may change.

Radio New Zealand (RNZ)

Radio New Zealand is a trusted source of broadcasts, podcasts and series on news and current affairs. It also has some interesting programmes on New Zealand history.

The New Zealand Wars

This website about the New Zealand Wars belongs to Danny Keenan, a Māori writer and historian. It offers a Māori view on the wars fought between Māori and the Crown.

Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. The paragraph at the top of the page tells you why this website has been written. Also check Danny Keenan's Published Works to find a link to Writing this site which is about the author and what went into writing this site.

The people

We also suggest doing a search for information on the influential people on both sides of the conflicts.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

This is the part of Te Ara where you can find the stories of people who played a part in shaping New Zealand history.

  • Use the alphabetical letters to find the person's last name.
  • Have a look for information on Governor George Grey, Te Rauparaha and Rewi Maniapoto.
  • You can also use the search to find information on the different tribes involved in the wars.

Legacy of war

The New Zealand Wars have had a huge impact on the history of Aotearoa New Zealand. This can be seen in the official relationship between Māori and the government, as well as the level of trust between Māori and pākehā in New Zealand.

Māori Land Court - Te Kooti Whenua Māori

This court was set up by the government especially to deal with cases around Māori ownership of land - a role that looks very different now compared with when it was first formed as the Native Land Court in 1865.

  • Go to the section called About the Māori Land Court.
  • Select Our history.
  • This gives an overview of the court's function, history and current purpose.

Waitangi Tribunal - Te Rōpū Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi

The Waitangi Tribunal was set up by the New Zealand government to hear cases where Māori have not been treated fairly under the Treaty of Waitangi. Many of the claims are in relation to land that was unfairly taken from Māori during or after European settlement.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different websites.

  • Try searching for 'New Zealand Wars' and different combinations of search words.
  • Results are organised by type, including images, audio, video, articles and research papers.
  • Look through the video results to find clips from the well-known documentary called 'The New Zealand Wars', presented by historian James Belich.
  • We also recommend a look at Stories to view a collection of items on War in the Waikato (1863 - 1865), Matawhero - 10 Novemebr 1868 and others on this topic.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. It's good try to different keywords about your topic, especially if you know there are other names for what you are looking for, like 'New Zealand Wars, Māori Wars or Land Wars'.

Australia / New Zealand Reference Centre

Another EPIC resource, this site is a great place to find newspaper and magazine articles from New Zealand and Australia.

  • Try a general search for 'New Zealand Wars', or pick a particular war to search for, like 'Battle of Gate Pā'.
  • Tick the Full Text box on the side of the search results to see articles you can read online.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Primary sources

Primary sources are things like letters, images, diaries, and other documents created during that period of history or soon after by people who were there.

New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (NZETC)

NZETC is part of the Victoria University of Wellington Library. It has lots of digital versions of old books and other historical information about New Zealand.

Papers Past

This site has digitized versions of a number of early New Zealand newspapers and is a good place to look for primary sources.

  • Select Newspapers.
  • Remember to change the search options, for example narrow the date range and look at North Island papers.
  • Early on, the wars were known as 'The Maori Wars', rather than 'The New Zealand Wars', so keep that in mind when you search and look through results.
  • You can also use Papers Past to check through Magazines and Journals, Letters and Diaries and Parliamentary Papers of the time.

Topic Explorer

This is an online tool from the National Library of New Zealand. The resources have been selected from reliable national and international sources.

  • Search for 'New Zealand Wars' in the Filter by topic search bar.
  • You will find an entry on the The New Zealand Wars with information in various formats.
  • Remember to explore Related topics from the column on the right.
  • Select 'Primary sources' in each of the topics to find articles and images from the Alexander Turnbull Library.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us .


The following are just a selection of books published about the New Zealand wars. Check with your school or public library for others.

Many of the books relevant to this topic will be publications which often can't be borrowed. Try using the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre above to find full-text versions of many older New Zealand history books.

SCIS no: 1839709

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