Plays
The Southern Frontier
1. The Treaty of Waitangi

(1830-40) Hone Heke is the first chief to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, a village north of Auckland, where many Maori chiefs give their assent to British rule, with some apprehension. The often opposing views of British authority, the missionaries and the Maoris are aired.

2. The Wairau Massacre

(1840-43) The reality of British rule gets its first test down south when the settlers in the new colonies of Wellington and Nelson dispute land in Marlborough controlled by Te Rauparaha, a chief well known for his savagery and martial skill. When the Nelson settlers send an armed party to contest the ownership of land and assert British rule, and unwisely open fire on Te Rauparaha, the chief massacres them all. After much political turmoil, Governor Fitzroy finally adjudicates, and tells Te Rauparaha he will take no further action, partly because the Europeans behaved badly, but also because the Governor doesn't have the military strength to sanction Te Rauparaha. One European says that they can't kill off the Maoris like they were exterminating the Aborigines in Australia, because if they tried it in New Zealand, "The Maoris will kill us all!" The story explores themes of right of conquest, the power of the sword, and what justice really means.

3. The Flagpole Toppler

(1843-45) Hone Heke shows his displeasure at excessive taxes and custom duties imposed by the British by chopping down the British symbol of rule, the flagstaff flying the Union Jack. Heke tours the harbor in a canoe flying the American flag in celebration of the American Revolution's ideas of freedom. The British garrison the town, but Heke chops the flagstaff down four more times. The British send their army against him in what is known as the First Maori War but Heke fights them to a standstill. The British claim victory even though the flagpole is not re-erected until after Hone Heke's death in 1850. The story is based on contemporary accounts and newspaper stories. It explores themes of the clash of cultures and the inevitable misunderstandings that arise.

4. The Maori King

(1850s) The Maori tribes in the Waikato, south of Auckland in the North Island, gather together and acclaim a Maori King as a sign of their unity. They make a formidable group which the Europeans cannot destroy and fear to attack. The Maoris themselves do not attack the pakeha (white faces) but retain control of their land and rule over their own people without British interference. The Maori King movement endures to this day.

5. The Battle for Orakau Pa

The battle for Orakau Pa is the final major battle in New Zealand's second Maori War in 1864. It tells of the European's ravenous appetite for land and the Maori's attempt to control that appetite. In an ironic reversal of the American Western, 300 Maori men, women and children are barricaded inside a Maori pa (fort) outnumbered six to one by British and colonial troops. The Maoris fight for three days without food and water, then make a daring and successful escape. Although they lose the battle, they effectively achieve their aims because they stop the pakeha advance into Maori territory.

     The Battle for Orakau Pa excerpt
6. The Vengeance Seekers

(1860s) Te Kooti is wrongfully convicted and exiled to the Chatham Islands 200 miles off New Zealand's coast. When he is not released after two years, as his original sentence decreed, he takes over the garrison and a visiting ship and returns to New Zealand. There follows a series of battles, massacres and guerilla warfare, but he is not caught or brought to "justice". In one of the most shocking episodes one of his followers, Kereopa, swallows the eyeballs of a missionary he has just butchered. Te Kooti is eventually pardoned.

7. The Master General

(1868-69) The second front of the New Zealand Maori Wars of the 1860s was fought in Taranaki, in the lower part of the North Island. (The first front was in Waikato, see "Orakau" above.) A great Maori general, a self-taught master at both guerrilla warfare and siege warfare, first tries to make peace with the pakeha, but deceit and treachery destroy the gains he makes by his peaceful overtures. So he attacks, and pushes the Europeans back. It seems there is no stopping him, until, on the eve of a decisive battle, he and his forces mysteriously melt away and his mana (authority, social standing) is seriously diminished. The story is based on contemporary accounts. It explores themes of ambition, genius, arrogance and hubris, love and loyalty.

8. The Peace Makers

(1870s-80s) Te Whiti advocates a peaceful resistance policy that predates that of Mahatma Ghandi by a generation. He sets up a village on his land in Taranaki and resists the encroachment of the pakeha unilateral "confiscation" by peaceful means. The pakeha eventually assemble an overwhelming show of force, even though the Maoris are not armed and show no aggression in return. The British soldiers invade the village, destroying the houses and raping and expelling the occupants. Only the refusal of the Maoris to fight, as led by and exhorted by Te Whiti, saves a bloodbath. Te Whiti is arrested on specious grounds and taken away. Every time his court case comes up, the authorities ship him away to another district because they have no real case against him. Hundreds of other Maoris are arrested and shipped south to Dunedin where they serve hard labour, many of them dying because of the harsh conditions they are held in. Te Whiti is eventually released and allowed to go back to Taranaki after most of his land has come under pakeha control. He dies in 1907, but a small community at his village of Parihaka in Taranaki continues to honour his memory and beliefs to this day.

Copyright 2010 Samuel Buckley    Designed by Phoenix Story Productions llc