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Battle of Te Ranga poetry competition winner: ‘It’s important to know the history of your land’

Riria Dalton-Reedy

Battle of Te Ranga poetry winner announced

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A local student is using poetry to encapsulate one of Aotearoa’s most deadly battles.

Aquinas College student Sahara Hutchesson, 15, has won first prize in the Battle of Te Ranga poetry competition.

The annual contest commemorates the 1864 battle of the same name. More than 100 Māori and a dozen British soldiers lost their lives in the massacre.

Hutchesson’s poem, titled Te Ranga Gate Pā, gives a vivid depiction of the event from a soldier’s point of view.

“I tried to pretend I was in battle,” she said.

She said what started off as a passion for poetry resulted in a deeper understanding of the country’s history.

“I definitely learned more when I was writing and looked more into the history and what actually happened.”

Hutchesson agreed it was important for fellow students to focus on the event, as Aquinas College is located just a few metres from the battle site.

“I just tried to give perspective on that, because not many people know about that even [though] like, as a school, we’re right next door.

“It’s really important to remember them and their family and what they went through… it’s important to know the history of your land.”

Her prize was presented on Friday by historian and local kaumātua Buddy Mikaere (Ngāi Tamarāwaho).

Mikaere has sponsored the competition for the past four years. He said being the closest school to the battle site allowed students of Aquinas College to gain a deeper understanding of the historic battle.

“I’m always amazed every year [that] the students who enter the competition come up with fresh perspectives on what happened.”

Buddy Mikaere presents winner Sahara Hutchesson with her prize. Photo / Riria Dalton-Reedy

Mikaere said the impetus for creating the competition came from the Government’s decision to put more emphasis on teaching New Zealand history.

“So the curriculum has changed to meet that demand.

“I also think it’s helped raise the level of understanding about our own history.”

The competition coincided with battle commemorations each June.

At the award presentation, Mikaere told students: ”You have to learn about the past so you can understand why things are as they are now.”

Mikaere also highlighted the significance of this particular battle.

”It’s that event that paved the way for the creation of the city of Tauranga.

”Where we live is a result of what happened that day. And so understanding that, I think, is a way of linking you into the community.”

Extract from Sahara Hutchesson’s winning poem, Te Ranga Gate Pā

“The brave who battled shall always be remembered,

As we hold up our flag to mourn and pray,

For the soldiers who died in the trenches,

For the brave who gave their lives on that fateful day.

Commemorate this day with respect and aroha.

The gut-wrenching battle of Te Ranga Gate Pā.”

Hero Image: Aquinas College student Sahara Hutchesson won first prize in the Battle of Te Ranga poetry competition. Photo / Riria Dalton-Reedy

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