Armed Constabulary Boat

in #esteem3 years ago

After bolting for the bush after his defeat at Te Pōrere, Te Kooti eluded government forces for two more years, staging sporadic guerrilla strikes before holing up in the King Country. Pardoned in 1883, he is now perhaps better known for founding the Ringatū Church. Although he posed less of a threat to colonial New Zealand than the rabbit plague, it did not seem so at the time to Lieutenant-Colonel J. L. Herrick and his troops. Ordered into the Ureweras in the winter of 1869 as part of a planned three-pronged assault, they were to attack across Lake Waikaremoana. Late in May Herrick started building two clinker-built whaleboats for the purpose. He was still finishing them when he learned that his quarry had fled westwards, to the relief of the new government, which ordered Herrick to withdraw.

Too big to cart back to Wairoa, the boats were scuttled, though not before the troopers vented their spleen on the politicians by naming them The New Ministry (a crack at the ministry of William Fox) and Sir Donald McLean (the Native Minister). The boatbuilding episode has been derided (and Herrick was criticised for being dilatory) but the craft would have been useful had Te Kooti fought in the vicinity.

The boats lay on the lakebed, defeating salvage attempts in 1870 and 1872. Occasionally shore gazers spotted their outlines, but they were safe from curio seekers until scuba equipment became common. Salvors raised one boat in pieces (some of which survive in poor condition) but the one in deeper water still rests in peace. DOC hopes to keep it that way, reminding us that wrecks are as much historic places as middens, pā or settler cottages.


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