175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka commemorated in Northland

It's 175 years since the Battle of Ruapekapeka which marked the end of the Northern Wars between Maori and settlers and the start of the New Zealand Land Wars.

The last day of commemorations were held on Sunday on the heritage site at the battleground near Kawakawa in Northland.

The grass has grown over the trenches of the pa, a once-fortified village. In the mid-1840s it was guarded by two iwi - Ngapuhi and Ngati Hine. Today, their descendants acknowledged their sacrifice.

"Important that we reflect on our tupuna - the tupuna on both sides," Minister for Maori-Crown Relations Kelvin Davis says.

Chief Te Ruki Kawiti adapted the walls of the pa to defend against European attack, making timber palisades reinforced with flax to soften the impact of musket fire.

He also dug tunnels, rifle pits and trenches - a sophisticated strategy for its time that's been described as the invention of trench warfare.

The iwi were outnumbered by around 1300 British troops and 400 Maori who advanced on the pa in December 1845.

"It's the history and the coping with the ebb and flow of colonisation, globalisation that gives us a distinctive feature," National deputy leader Dr Shane Reti says.

On January 9, 1846 Chief Kawiti was joined by Hone Heke, combining warrior forces to become 500-strong.

But the next day a full-scale bombardment by the British created three breaches in the palisade.

The British, led by Governor Grey, claimed a brilliant success.

But the iwi had emptied the pa of all ammunition and had moved the children and women in the days before an organised withdrawal.

Ruapekapeka marked the start of the New Zealand Land Wars and its significance is still felt today.